Jan 29, 2019
Katrin is a German photographer currently based in Australia who creates visual narratives that are close to her emotions and the people that surrounds her. In her series "Pott", Katrin captures with devotion and care scenes of her hometown, which illustrate the state of a post-industrial community in Germany with all its struggles, challenges and new opportunities. In her images we can see the affection and longing that she has for this place and at the same time the vision of an outsider, acquired by living abroad. And it is precisely this desire of living elsewhere that she also recalls in her photographs, stating that in her hometown this feeling is part of their identity.
am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?
KK - Hi, my name is Katrin and I come from Bochum in the German Ruhr area. I like kindness, fire, music, dancing and photography among other things. Hm…ok seriously now; that’s where I’m from. I relocated to Brisbane, Australia in 2003 and went on to study photography at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Now I live in Melbourne. I spend a lot of time teaching, both in Australia and overseas as well as online with PH Museum. Teaching is very important to me and fulfills me to an equal part as the making of work. Otherwise I’m busy working on my own things or freelancing. Right now I’m working on a few group shows and two upcoming solos and I am also scanning my way through a very large amount of new work. Oh yes, and getting my head around a book.
am - How did you start in photography?
KK - Photography rushed into my life with great force and tenderness when my oldest friend Tobias, whom I’d grown up with, died in a plane crash above Iceland just weeks after we graduated from high school. He wanted to be a pilot, but his other big passion was photography. Inheriting his old Minolta, I left for Iceland to be closer to the loss. There I worked in remote greenhouses for three months, in winter’s deepest. None of the pictures were good as I had no idea what I was doing, but the very act of walking in snow and silence with the camera in my hand or against my body, mostly in the night, became the thing that would make me feel ok. His Minolta was the thing that let me draw closer – to my pain, to his absence, to his former presence and also to the world (that same world that had taken on a different kind of urgency through the death of him). So that’s how photography came to me.
am - What is “Pott” about?
KK - 'Pott' continues to document my place of birth and home in Germany.
Once at the heart of industry and economic miracle, and following decades of structural crisis and industrial diversification, the region diverges with poverty and advancement alike. In the work, I am exploring the social, cultural and economic implications of history and change in this transitioning, post-industrial community and its landscape. Making the pictures also reconnects me to personal histories, memories, and the place itself. The work goes as long back as my absence from there, and as everything else shifts through time. I always have a dream to return sometime with actual outside funding, and to make a kind of intimate sub-narrative with a handful of people that will also include a sound work. The 'Pott' is a place where collective identity is embedded very much in its industrial history as well as in a thing a little bit less tangible; this idea that everyone forever wishes oneself away to other places. You walk through the streets and you can feel this kind of yearning for sun, for sea, for a sky that is deep. I mean perhaps that’s something you can find anywhere, maybe inherent in our nature, I’m not sure. But I always find it particularly distinct here, so as if it belongs to belonging to this place. The work tries to carry these notions across – a ‘loyalty’ if you wish to one’s inherited place-narrative, and the longing for elsewhere. They’re probably not even a dichotomy; there can only be the desire to leave if one stays.
am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?
KK - A lot more than I can mention. Some influences stay the same, and many others shift and change with time. Some of my very early favourites were Koudelka, Joel Sternfeld, Trent Parke, Mary-Ellen Mark, Nan Goldin, Robert Frank… First photobook I ever bought was Storylines (Steidl), R. Frank. I am reading him a lot again at the moment, along with Lionel Wendt.
am - If you could travel and stay in a place for one year, where would you choose to go?
KK - Right now, I would go back to Kathmandu and Kolkata where I am making some works, where I have dear friends, and where I love to be. Other than that, I would go to the Arctic, and the Danakil Depression (the hottest place on Earth).
am - Do you have any rituals or practices that help you get into the creative zone?
KK - Music, walking, swimming.
am - What’s your favourite movie?
KK - Ouffff that’s impossible to say! In this very moment I am thinking all the time about 'Call me by your Name' by Luca Guadagnino.
am - Could you recommend us a photo book?
KK - Recent publication? Sohrab Hura’s 'Look it’s getting sunny outside!'.
am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.
All images © Katrin Koenning