Interview: Erwin Blasé
Luca Curci talks with Erwin Blasé during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Erwin Blase has more than 30 years of experience as a photographer. After starting out in his own studio for still-life photography, he went on to follow the calling of international advertising agencies in New York, Paris, London and Barcelona for 15 years. He worked as a brand strategist for noteworthy global corporations including Gillette, Audi, Henkel, Hyatt and Delta Air Lines. At the end of the 90s, he decided to resume self‐employment and develop his passion for photography on a professional level. The development of Erwin Blase’s own, individual and personal concept, visual style and photographic perspective has been at the focus of his career. Masterclasses with Magnum photographers in Brussels and Oslo, as well as workshops with renowned photographers such as Tim Richmond in the UK, Alan Ross in Yosemite (USA) and Greg Gorman (USA), Mark Fearnley (UK) have influenced his visual perception and conceptual view of things. The focus of Erwin Blase’s work is reflecting the daily life in different situations and influences in an artistic and also documentary way.
Luca Curci – When you take photos, are you usually inspired by the situation or do you find inspiration in yourself?
Erwin Blasé – I find inspiration very often in the table books of great photographers such as Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton, Greg Gorman, Gregory Crewdson, and other greats from the past and present. However, it is not about copying existing styles, but about reproducing the perception. Photography is an uninterrupted process of constantly questioning and improving the way you see and perceive yourself. As I constantly travel the world, my interest is focusing more and more on the streets and its people living there. When you have learned not to observe life as a viewer from the outer line, but to consciously enter the scene yourself, you receive direct inspiration. With patience, you develop a feeling for what can happen in the scene in which you are moving.
LC – How much is the editing process important? How is yours?
EB – All my knowledge and experience come from analogue large format studio photography. In these complex work processes, you learn to push the shutter button when you think that is the perfect picture. Back then the material was quite expensive resulting in a maximum of maybe 2-4 pictures of one motif. The focus was on photography. Editing was only a correcting tool, not a stylistic device. In 2006 I turned to digital photography. That was like learning to walk again, experiencing that digital photos are limitless with hundreds of photos made in few moments. Still, there is one thing I have never changed: to get the perfect picture with the first and only release. I see no point in taking endless series shots and spending hours monitoring thousands of images that are all the same just to find the one for editing. In this respect, editing is also an important process for me, but within a very reasonable time frame. I also try to limit post-processing in Photoshop to avoid the complete change of the original as suddenly the photo becomes a composing. This is a great artistic approach but not my world.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
EB – My work in the exhibition represents a specific theme, but in general, I do not think in clusters or themes. There are also no real long-term projects either, but occasionally I build on previous work, such as the one I did in Venice. But that is just a coincidence because I am traveling regularly to the city and then I check back to certain places to see if something has changed. Here I mean changes in terms of attitude to life, mood or emotions and smells. Venice can fascinate all senses.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
EB – Surely some artists have a certain intention expressed with their work. But photography is rather a marginal phenomenon in the art market when it comes to recognition as an art form. Most of them derive from the fashion industry and only a few make it to the top with edgy creations such as Andreas Gursky. Peter Lindbergh once said in an interview that you should not always do what people expect you to do or what is today’s mainstream – no, do exactly what you enjoy doing. I gladly accepted that and try to implement it that way, even with the risk that I find less recognition on Instagram for example. I do not want to express anything specific with my pictures, but I want to give the viewer the option to find a story in them. This causes a personal relation and positive feedback on both sides.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
EB – When you must make a living upon art, it is one of the toughest jobs ever. There are so many incredibly talented artists, burning for their passion, but are never seen. And one day they must give up pursuing a “normal” job. Art can be very fulfilling, but when fewer and fewer people can live from their art and therefore no longer produce art, our world loses more and more of its imagination, creativity, and a certain magic. I am in an incredibly lucky position to have the freedom and space to develop my passion and creativity.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
EB – Daily city life has changed dramatically. Now it is no longer the human being shaping life and society, but a virus. Venice was massively shaken by the pandemic and yet got the unexpected opportunity to show a completely new face. Without mass tourism alongside environmental destruction, Venice was able to show its real beauty again for a certain time. Venetian and the tourists were only supporting actors thrown back on themselves.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
EB – At first sight, you can see that I placed pictures in colour and black and white next to each other. The colours showing the nightlife, while the black and white pictures showing daily life in the city. The night pictures in particular show how the virus has made fragments of our society. The buzzing life in the streets gives way to distance and loneliness. Many people seem to be preoccupied with their thoughts and hardly notice the environment. Even during the day, the hustle and bustle are hardly noticeable. Even businesspeople seek a quiet place for themselves and seem to avoid contact as much as possible. In this series of pictures, I wanted to show what social distance and loneliness can mean for society and at the same time, I wanted to embed the moments in beauty to spread optimism.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
EB – My experience with ITSLIQUID is quite limited for the time being as COVID rules have caused disturbances making it impossible to sample a “normal” experience.