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Private interview with Bernhard Hartmann


Full of melancholy lyricism, the works of Bernhard Hartmann bear witness to the power of the lens to inventory and capture heritage. In his disparate series on New York, Cuban, or European architecture, the photographer transcends the paradigm of documentary precision in order to bring a critical touch with a hint of poetry to these places, symbols of our historical and cultural heritage.

                In this conversation, Bernhard Hartmann shares the primary intention of his photographs, available in numbered limited edition at your local YellowKorner gallery and on yellowkorner.com.



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BERNHARD HARTMANN : « Let it shine »

How was your passion for photography born? In my childhood, cameras were expensive. One of my old friends was a young apprentice in a black-and-white laboratory in my home village. On a visit to the darkroom I was able to see in the red light the magic of the development process of photography on a piece of photographic paper. From that day forth – I was about 10 or 12 years old – my greatest desire was to own a camera. The following Christmas, I found an Agfa Silette camera under the tree. My passion for freezing time into a moment was born, with a small optical instrument to express my imagination.

One sentence to describe your camera? My camera represents a fascinating tool for seeing the world in a different way, far from the everyday routine. I can create a world full of miracles, a world full of beauty, and, in a more technical way, I can create what painters are capable of doing with their brushes and palette. Photography give me the chance to explore not only my surroundings, but also my country, or the whole world, with curious eyes, but also awaken my first impressions each time I press the shutter. 

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“I love what is beautiful. The serenity of a beautiful garden and the grave of an architectural monument must provoke the same emotion for the viewer. They must be enchanted through their emotions.”

What is the most beautiful place you have visited? It was an abandoned site overlooking a lake. It is a place that remained secret in order to preserve its mystical charm. It’s the place where I shot my Forgotten Garden series. 

What would you like to photograph for your next series?
My favourite painters will inspire my next series. Caspar David Friedrich is the one I admire the most but others will follow. I’m not going to copy their paintings in a photographic way but I’m going to transform them to give them new meaning.

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NEW YORK: ”This city gleams each day, each month, each year”

What attracts you about New York architecture? The vibrant contrast between the modern skyscrapers, the surrounding woods, the classic buildings such as Grand Central Station or the Empire State Building and the melting pot of nations represented by people.

You love to photograph NYC by night, what meaning or aesthetic effect do the lights and neons of New York by night evoke for you? At night, NYC shows its own unique character: a megalopolis full of neons and lights that give an impression of energy and change. This city gleams each day, each month, each year.

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“There is a huge connection between music and photography. Like a song, a photo must evoke a mood. Both can stimulate memory or inspiration.”

Where does your inspiration come from? My inspiration is stimulated by the paintings, by the photographs and the films, and of course, by music. My love for music guided me towards the beauty of Baroque Operas.

For example, my concept, that consists of photographing big cities like New York, Shanghai, or Chicago was inspired by the soundtrack by Vangelis for Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmers for Batman: The Dark Knight. Sometimes I find the inspiration even in a poem, a short story, or a novel. These words can evoke interior visions for me and thus wind up in my photographic projects.

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Why represent desert landscapes? What symbol would you like to share? In my imaginations, the opera houses, bookstores, or classic monuments emptied of human presence show with greater intensity what we admire these days about this architecture.

It might be the magnificence of the baroque Lyric Theatre or the fantastic Art Nouveau style of the Cuban architecture of the pre-revolutionary decades. But it might also be materialised in the pure aesthetic of the modern monuments like bookstores: an architecture motivated by basic functionality. Representing these empty places has a stronger impact on the spectator.  

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Your favourite photographer at YellowKorner? I admire the Kodak Colorama collection; I know that famous West Coast photographers like Ansel Adams took some of those photographs. I also love the cinematographic style of Formento + Formento, the way Franck Bohbot sees New York, and the medieval portraits with offbeat allusions by Romina Ressia.

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