Interview with Thomas Weidenhaupt
You work with analog photography and instant cameras. In your opinion and experience, how do you feel like analog photography affects your work? What are the benefits/limitations to taking photos with analog technology versus digital?
For me, the biggest advantage of working with analogue cameras, is the more full-fledged result, once the film is developed and properly scanned. While I don’t mind retouching photos a little bit, for example things like straightening lines or retouching skin blemishes, the task of editing and retouching dozens of digital images is tedious for me. Sometimes it’s a challenge to finally decide on which camera and film to use, but that’s simultaneously also a bit of enjoyment, while preparing a photo shoot. When I need to work with digital photos, due to a tight schedule, I often find it overwhelming to finally settle on a look and how to edit the photo, because there are countless possibilities.
One specialty of using Polaroid films in my work, is that retouching is almost completely redundant and coincidences are even more likely to happen. Of course this can also lead to disappointments, but once you get to know the cameras you use over time, it’s still mostly very rewarding.
The biggest limitation of analogue photography is not being as flexible when it comes to adjusting to very different situations during a shooting. Modern digital cameras deliver exceptional quality, even when you set the film-speed setting very high. I wouldn’t say it’s almost possible to shoot in complete darkness, but the image quality has improved amazingly over the years. Being able to switch from shooting outdoors during the day to a dark indoor setting within seconds is obviously very valuable!
Either social, political or individual and intimate, what kind of tool is art for you? What’s its purpose for you if we should admit that art has some purposes?
First and foremost I see art as an aesthetic tool. Any social and political means come second, at least for me and most my work. Art surely communicates these ideas as well, but for me it’s mostly about aesthetics since currently I mainly focus on portrait works and these are mainly about building a certain level of intimacy with my subjects, even if I never met that person before. While I am very interested in political art as a spectator, I don’t think I am ready to step over to that genre, although I wouldn’t rule out a more political tone in future works.
What do you think about today's art world? How does an ideal art world look like for you?
In an ideal art world, your gender, race, sexual orientation or family background shouldn’t make an impact on your approval and acceptance. While in my surroundings this is already mostly the case, I think that quite a few major institutions still lack diversity when it comes to shows, but also amongst their curators and staffing.
Although their work might be exceptional, a lot of the upcoming female and queer artists I know sometimes have a hard time making it into bigger shows and collections, because collectors and curators may be into their work, but don’t want to surge ahead and support them from the beginning. They wait until other collectors approve the artist as well, so they don’t take that much of a risk when working with said artists or buying their works.
How do you select the subjects for your photographs? What made you decide on taking artist portraits?
Most of the time the selection stemmed from pure coincidence. I started taking Polaroids of artists I like after concerts I attended about seven years ago. Sometimes I sent people a message on Instagram or Facebook a couple of days before a show, quite often I simply approached them after a concert, if possible. After a while I noticed that some of the artists I asked for a photo had already seen my work online, which coincidentally led to even bigger circulation of my photos. Eventually artists and bands sent me messages or approached me personally to get photographed and while I never really chose deliberately to focus on portraying artists, I find the work very rewarding and inspiring.
You have presented your work in publications as well as in galleries. How do you prepare for each exhibition method? Are there any differences in preparing work for a publication and a gallery exhibition?
The biggest challenge when preparing an exhibition was always choosing the photos I wanted to show and how I wanted them to be printed. So far I’ve never been part of an exhibition with a special theme or guidelines and even when I was part of group shows, I always could choose freely which pictures I wanted to present and was just limited by the space I was given.
When I prepared work for publications, it was always about a special series of photos or I was given a theme to work with, for example self portraits for European Photography a couple of years ago. That makes it a little bit easier for me sometimes, since that narrows down the photos I can possibly use a lot.
This interview is a part of our Public Support section, dedicated to our Kickstarter supporters.