“I merely drift around amongst the street creating peripatetic postcards.”
Do you consider yourself as a “street” photographer or a portrait photographer who works on the streets?
Offhand, I would say neither.
I am especially interested in documenting the totality of the experience of being human. Essentially the “lives of humans”. I would like to show with my photographs how they really live. I am interested in telling the personal stories of my subjects with sympathy and understanding.
When I first came to La Gomera, to live and work, I was mainly interested in documenting the natural surroundings of the amazing Canary Islands. Gradually I moved away from scenic natural photography to the photography of the lives of humans.
Well, so actually I’m a portrait photographer of the human condition. On the streets, in the personal environment and in the larger landscape. I am a documenter of people.
How do you decide on locations & subjects?
And what kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
As a general rule, I merely drift around amongst the street creating peripatetic postcards. Images don’t come to me at a hectic pace or in a rush. Photography is not actually at the forefront of my consciousness; rather it’s about engaging with other humans. The image through the viewfinder creates a sense of eagerness in me, as well as a sense of relaxation at the same time. Everything comes down to a single moment.
Since 2002, I’ve pursued photography seriously. The “street photography” has arisen through my creating different cycles. It comes to life through spontaneity through feeling and through the recognition of moods and situations. You never know what will happen next. The key is to quickly to grasp the moment and shoot, before the moment is lost.
If the subject moves me, I am inspired to speak through photography. I concentrate upon the motifs that interest me personally.
I seek the feelings, the environments that expose the core of the individual, making my image only when the precise moment has come.
I have chosen to limit the influence of other photographers on my work. . By placing such limits I am more successful at fulfilling my own vision.
I am intrigued by your Matanza “story”. Can you talk me through the process of this ritual.
The ritual of slaughtering a pig (Matanza) was once of great importance for the rural populations of Spain. This annual event would ensure the larder was stocked with meat for the coming year, and that the calories needed to carry out all that hard manual farm work were at hand.
Taking place in winter when the cooler weather allows for less haste and less bacteria, the Matanza is a family event with everyone coming together to work and feast together over a number of days. Neighbors will also join together, helping each other out in return for an armful of chorizo or morcilla. The men are responsible for killing and butchering the pig, whilst the women take care of all the preparation.
The animal is killed in a humane way. When the Matanza is dead, the hair is removed with a gas-powered paint remover. Every part of the animal is carefully collected and used, nothing goes to waste. Wooden fires are started up, and huge kettles of water at set upon them to boil. With around 10 people the whole process takes around 5-6 hours. And the reward to all the people who helped is a grand meal.
As a long time resident of La Gomera, I have made many good friends and have formed strong relationships with my neighbors. . At least once a year it is customary to slaughter a pig. All the people in the photographs are both my neighbors and good friends.
I feel a great sense of connection with the simple and honest lives of the people here. It’s my great pleasure to share through my photographs, the humility and inherent goodness of the people who live in the mountains of La Gomera. Following the work of the pig slaughter, there is music and dance and much drinking of wine
together. I enjoy this time with my friends. I hope to convey through my photographs this close connection to tradition and celebration.
In all your work you are very “close” to the people you take photos of. Not only in a technical way but also almost as a friend, a part of the group, how do you do this, do you speak Spanish, Arabic, Russian?
Again, I merely drift around amongst the street creating photographic postcards.
I speak Spanish quite well in addition to German, English and Italian. But often it’s merely camera and movement. What I want to say is, some situations demand interaction and time and others are merely reaction.
Looking through my view-finder I am filled with an eagerness to create, as well as the clarity that comes from being “in the moment”. Capturing that moment perfectly creates something special. My photos reveal the deep insights that come from within the small stories of human lives.
I don’t feel like an intruder or an outsider. My compassion for my subjects seems to put the individual at ease. Photography is the universal language. This ability to transcend language barriers is a large part of why I am so passionate about photography. My photography is extremely important to me and I happily spend most of my time engaging in my art.
I shoot photographs because of the final image, because of what I see, and how I feel. I am fascinated to discover what motivates people and how they interact within the street environment and natural environment.
We all have people that influence us, what are yours? I know cliché
question but still….
Well, this is a very difficult question. There are a lot of photographers who have inspired me.
I occasionally feature photographers on my blog whose work I admire.
Most of them are young photographers. Young photographers often have a similar aesthetic and point of view as me.
Recently I have featured work from: Lorenzo Moscia, Christopher Anderson or W. Eugene Smith.
Another excellent photographer is Andy Spyra and his powerful work about Kashmir. And I love the “Country Doctor Story” by W. Eugene Smith. I’m also a doctor and I have a lot of fun with these wonderful pictures.
And of course I’m inspired by the photographers on “Magnum”. Here I find the greatest photographers of our time, like a Robert Capa und also many young photographers as Martin Parr.
I really don’t like talking about gear, but can you tell us what camera’s lenses and film you use. And do you do all your own darkroom work?
35 mm: My big love is my “Konica Hexar” and my little new love is an “Exakta” from Dresden in Germany. Or I take photos with a “Canon 1”.
6×4, 5: Usually with my “Fuji GA 645 Pro”
6×6: My new love is here one “Praktisix” also from Dresden.
Films: Kodak TRIX (BW) and Fujicolor Reala (Color)
My favorite lens is a 35 mm focal length.
I make all my prints here in my own darkroom, (my prestigious “loo” darkroom). Photography is a visual language that speaks to every person, everywhere. This makes it valuable as well as inimitable and this is why I love it in such a way.
I take a great deal of time for photography. I am very serious about it. Primarily analogue with different cameras, sometimes in black-and-white or also in color.
The analogue process is obviously more time consuming than digital. This time informs my art and allows me greater objectivity.
A successful photograph lies not superficially in controlling the photography method, but through process. Experimentation through the application of the recording device is important to my growth as an artist.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
As an amateur photographer and “autodidact” , photography is my passion, an addiction of which I pursue very seriously when my occupation as a doctor gives the time for it. I intend to continue pursuing photography as a passion and engaging hobby.
My vocation as a physician and my passion for photography are a dream combination. There is nothing better than connecting work and hobby. For me personally, there is no end goal. I am content as long as I have ideas in my head and the power to implement the ideas.
Photography has become my elixir of life. It gives me strength, feeds my personal happiness and allows me to share this joy with the world.
My first calling is medicine. I often photograph my patients and their families when I am making house calls here on Gomera. My patients have become my friends and my work has melded with my art.
Several major projects are planned for this year. I’ll make one project on Qatar. I intend to publish a new book. And I will present two exhibitions with my “lives of human’s” photographs.
Thank you for your time talking to me Oliver.
Oliver Weber is from Germany but lives and work on La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain.
Through his 2007 exhibition “Humans” (Galerie Foto 21) in Bredevoort, Netherlands, Oliver Weber became more broadly accessible to an international audience. This occasion also saw the publication by Kulturbuch Verlag of his first book of photographs which was nominated for the German Photo Book Award.
Since 2008 he has been concentrating mainly on traditional analogue photography, a technical approach which has been used to create his current portraits of Brinsley Forde, Peninsula, Marrakech and La Matanza.
Hessischer Rundfunk (11th February 2008) reviews the photographer and his work:
“What characterises all of Oliver Weber´s work is the incredible calm and serenity captured in his photographs and in how he takes them. They communicate affection, dedication, and, most of all, a sense of time. (…) His pictures tell stories revealing deep insights into individual human lives, in different situations, and capturing an essence which unfolds in one´s viewing. This is exactly what good photography can and should achieve and for which Oliver Weber has a penetrating eye.”