Please introduce yourself: What is your name, where are you from, what do you do?
My Name is Andreas Gehrke, I was born and raised in Berlin. I’m a photographer and I am publisher at «Drittel Books».
What is your relationship with photography? How did you get into it?
I started very early. I was first exposed to it through my father, who taught me some skills in the dark room and how to process b/w films. Later as a teenager I joined an artist group here in Berlin before I finished my self-taught education as a photographer’s assistant in Hamburg.
What do you think triggers you to photograph in a certain moment? Is it planned or solely driven by intuition?
It’s a mix of intuition and the need to react to what I see in society, maybe to process the grievances and absurdities too.
What is the story you want your pictures to tell?
As most of my pictures are free of narrative aspects, I’d say they should give you a bigger picture — a different view on reality. In the sense of aesthetic perception, not misconstruing reality through sensationalism.
Which city would you like to visit the most and why?
If I had a time machine it would definitely be Istanbul in the 50’s or Beirut before the war. But right now I’m happy to go anywhere and I’ll find my personal highlights.
Tell me about your project «Neighborhood Conversations».What was your intention, and how did you come up with the Idea?
I started photographing the New York neighborhoods 2007, it was not my first visit but for the first time I had my 4x5″ camera with me. Since then the series has been continued on any occasion to be in NYC.
I like the challenge to photograph such an iconic city, and NYC is maybe the most iconic city in the world. Though I had never much interest in Manhattan, actually I needed to force myself to photograph this borough for the reason of completeness. It would have been a mistake to avoid it.
Another driving force is my sentimental relationship with the city. I always been listing to a lot of Rap-Music, and as a teenager actually nothing else: strictly Rap and Jazz. In those days in the early 90’s Hip-Hop culture was different, it was less mainstream, especially in Germany. Less mainstream demands more dedication and more interest in the music history and where it is coming from. Hip-Hop culture is very urban and what I do in my work can be seen as urban anthropology in photography.
Which project did you never finish?
My series SEE is still unfinished. This long-time documentary is about the permanently shifting landscape of a former coal mining area in the south-east of Germany. But it’s about time for a new trip to see what has changed.
What is that one place you have never managed to photograph at and which is now forever gone?
I wish I had photographed Berlin in the early 90’s but I was too young and had no interest in my hometown. It took me another 25 years to be ready for such a documentary – now, when it’s almost too late.
If you could travel back/ forth in time, what advice would you give your younger/ older self?
Right now maybe my advice would be: «find a real job!» I think professional photography — and art photography too — suffer heavily because our images have become less valued by society. The framing methods and copy-paste culture of the internet changed the market and in my opinion reached a critical point.
What do you prefer saying: to take a photograph or to make a photograph and why?
I’m German, so I tend to say «I make a photograph» ☻︎ But actually it depends what kind of picture I’m working on.
Asking you to single it out, what was the most interesting experience you have had while photographing?
Sometimes the act of photographing calms me down and excites me at the same time.
If it wasn’t for photography, what would you be interested in doing instead?
I honestly have no idea!
Please, describe one of your pictures to a blind person.
If you imagine a landscape or cityscape which is so still and quiet, it’s rather a long stretched moment than a decisive moment. And you don’t know if something is going to happen or something has just happened. That could be one of my images.
What are you currently working on, and — if there is — what is your next project/ journey?
For more than three years I have been working on a Berlin documentary and it should soon be finished.
It’s a mixture of historical references, urban anonymity and my artistic definition of Berlin’s architectural character. The challenge is for me to look close while the city obviously is at a turning point of loosing it‘s identity.
Thank you very much, Andreas!
© Andreas Gehrke