“It fascinates me how the photographic image rejects the noise and speed craze of today. Perhaps, that’s why I like it so!”
Robert Rutöd. Born 1959 in Vienna (Austria), Robert Rutöd is a photographer and filmmaker. He has made numerous short feature films with screenings worldwide. His photographic work has been exhibited throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. Robert Rutöd is “Winner of the New York Photo Award 2012” in the category Fine Art. Among his book publications are: “Less Is More” (2009), “Grayscales. Early B&W Photographs” (2010), and “Right Time Right Place” (2012).
“I feel more affinity to anarchy and contradiction than to reason and sense. For that hundredth of a second, the protagonists in my photographs are my comrades-in-arms.”
Interview with Robert Rutöd
Robert, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
A fashion show for undertakers: Four men in uniform, carrying a coffin, march in step on the catwalk, accompanied by two perky blonds, while the track “Mambo no. 5” by Lou Bega plays in the background. Truly an inspiring moment, quite to my taste!
Why did you become a photographer?
Actually, I wanted to be a painter at first, but then I was a photographer and film-maker for 10 years from then, followed by several years on hiatus from artistic work. For almost 10 years since then, I continued my work as a photographer, and I have been presenting my work to a wider public for some years now.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
It fascinates me how the photographic image rejects the noise and speed craze of today. Perhaps, that’s why I like it so!
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Actually, it was not a photographer who inspired me into taking up photography. It was the photos of the Belgian painter, René Magritte and the writer Paul Nougé, whom I came across at the age of 16 or 17. The poetry and subversive power in these images electrified me immediately. It was only years later that I started to get interested in the history of photography and its exponents.
What is your favorite photography quote?
When I take a photograph of a man at a bus stop waiting for the bus, more than just a man waiting for a bus must be seen on the photo. Arno Fischer
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
Keep it simple!
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language?
There is no recipe for uniqueness! It is much more important than esthetic criteria to follow one’s path uncompromisingly in ideological terms. This results in something similar to one’s own visual language more or less by itself. If you shoot with the meticulousness of a monument conservator industrial buildings or libraries for decades, you may achieve a high value of recognition, but also renders utter boredom. I hope life is more exciting!
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I have never been particularly interested in technical issues, it is probably because of my training as a mechanical engineer. Conceptually, I am content with the realization that the world cannot be explained. I am very pleased with how regularly I can confirm this fact in my work.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
A good photographer needs to take good pictures, a successful photographer should be able to do a thousand other things.
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.
It must have originated from honest, but not speculative intention. It must create the effect from its visual power, and not from an attached interpretation manual. The photo of a dish of spaghetti alla puttanesca does not appeal when I read in its image description that this was the last meal of Al Capone, son of Neapolitan immigrants and nicknamed Scarface before he died of pneumonia in the presence of his family. Such an empathy forced to the observer increasingly degrades the medium of photography for illustration of threadbare concepts.
Many great photos are also created by unknown people without artistic intention.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
On the spot…
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Nothing special: A digital reflex camera and a good lens. In my opinion, the camera is no more than a tool; it is not a fashion accessory that you hang around your neck to initiate a conversation. World literature is written with quill pen and ink as good as with my notebook.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Besides Facebook, where I am very well-connected, I have little time to keep me updated with current affairs. Lenscratch by Aline Smithson and La Journal de la Photographie are always worth a visit.
What photography book would you recommend?
“European Fields” by Hans van der Meer. Something that was photographed so often, so surprising and refreshing to show differently, away from all the cheering stars and flying goalies, that’s really impressive. You might think: Hans van der Meer has reinvented the football game.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
To see what others don’t see.