“The older I get, the more I believe that you can’t “develop” a photographic voice. It’s something that is already inside you – and photography is just a means of transportation, a vehicle that helps you to express your inner reality.”
Alexander Binder (born in 1976) is a contemporary photographer currently based in Stuttgart (Germany).
He’s a totally self-taught photographer. Alexander Binder never attended a photo class in his life. He is represented by Lookout Gallery (Warsaw/Poland).
“I have a strong passion for the spiritual, the surreal and the occult. My whole work is about opening the doors of perception and showing the mystic aspects of our existence.”
Interview with Alexander Binder
Alexander, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
There were many memorable moments. But one situation really burned into my mind:
It was on Iceland several years ago where I discovered a truly magic waterfall in the middle of nowhere. The spume of the waterfall mixed with the bright sunlight and created the most impressive rainbow that I have ever seen. The whole situation felt so unreal and majestic that I will hardly ever forget it.
Why did you become a photographer?
Because I didn’t have the patience to become a painter.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
My photography is inspired by the “Memento Mori” idea, which was quite popular in the Middle Ages. “Memento Mori” is a Latin phrase and means “Remember you must die”.
All artistic creations at that time had the purpose to remind people of their own mortality. Painters like Hans Memling contrasted earthly vanity with death & hell. For me it’s not about divine judgment in a Christian sense but about the duality of life and death, the strong contrast of good and evil, beauty and death. I try to transfer this idea on a visual level by the combination of gloomy black-and-white photos with colorful rainbow-images.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
To be honest, I draw most of my inspiration from painters.
I guess the strongest influence on my work had the Symbolist art movement with painters like Arnold Boecklin, Odilon Redon – but also the paintings of Edvard Munch and not to forget the amazing Theodor Kittelsen.
“For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art.”
What’s your favorite photography quote?
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
Surreal, kitschy, amateurish and chaotic.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language?
The older I get, the more I believe that you can’t “develop” a photographic voice. It’s something that is already inside you – and photography is just a means of transportation, a vehicle that helps you to express your inner reality.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
Strong contrasts, psychedelic rainbow effects, blur and all things mystic and occult.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need? And what does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
I don’t believe in checklists for a good photo, a good photographer, a good photobook etc. I always read the same generic and meaningless answers in interviews – and at the end of the day it’s still an unexplainable phenomena. I mean there are 99 photos that may fulfill certain criteria for a “good photo” and then comes another photo that does exactly the opposite, but it is even more interesting. As for myself, I stopped this whole “explanation-mania” years ago and I try to focus my energy on mindfulness and the pure perception of things.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Like I have mentioned before, the Symbolists but also the Romantic art period play an important role for me. Very often I listen to music in order to get into the right mood and the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler is one of my all-time favorites: Late-Romantic sadness and melancholy at its best.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I am working with a D-SLR and a growing number of vintage lenses, self-made lenses and optical toys. My whole equipment is rather simple and pragmatic; I am not addicted to expensive camera gear.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
I really love the “Library of Congress” website (www.loc.gov) with its photo collections from the past.
What photography book would you recommend?
One photobook that touched my heart is Chiro Love Death by Nobuyoshi Araki. You can literally feel the strong emotional connection between the photographer and his beloved cat. It’s a book about the last days in the life of Chiro – and a very honest Memento Mori moment.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
Work hard every day, be modest and don’t believe the hype.
More about Alexander Binder