This weekend marks the arrival of Berlin Gallery Weekend, the anticipated annual event which sees the German capital’s diverse array of galleries showcase exciting artworks from both well-known and up-and-coming creatives. The 2017 edition marks the inaugural show of a new photography project titled Unexpectations, masterminded by art direction duo Jayme Miller and Vincent Mank, and shedding light on six talented image-makers. For the first in what will be an ongoing series of exhibitions, Miller and Mank have invited the photographers to submit brand new work of their own choosing, based around a loose theme – this time it’s “Wunder Gibt Es Immer Wieder” (“wonders always happen”).
The aim is “to create an ephemeral encounter amongst both young and established artists,” the duo explains, and to liberate the exhibitors from the stylistic, conceptual or commercial constraints so often imposed by the creative industries. The show will take place in a corporate event space, owned by company Potsdamer Platz – adding to the notion of “unexpectation” – and the images will be published in an accompanying magazine, designed by Timo Schmitt, which will see them “compiled in the same unrestricted manner [of] the whole exhibition series”. Here, ahead of the project’s opening, we meet the show’s skilled contributors alongside an exclusive preview of their imagery.
Vicente Monedero (above)
London-based photographer Vicente Monedero captures striking, pared back fashion portraits, which subtly evoke the work of Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, two of his favourite imagemakers. Mondero came to photography “quite late in life” but soon made up for it, first assisting a number of influential image-makers, including for Mario Testino, before embarking on his own path. His aim as a photographer, he tells us, is “to express something that is significant to me, but at the same time isn’t easy to decipher.” He describes music as his biggest inspiration, and has recently been immersing himself in funk and cult 80s albums – an obsession that gave way to his new series for Unexpectations, centred on a brightly lit, silk bodice-clad bottom set against stark white backdrop. “I am fascinated with the aesthetics of album covers by artists like Grace Jones,” he says of the sensual four-part series, which gloriously celebrates female curvature in complementary crops.
Canadian-born, Berlin-based photographer Hudson Hayden seeks to reveal the beauty in everyday life – be it a handwritten sign stuck to a shop window, a still life of fruit arranged on a counter or a cat stretched languidly on a crimson sofa. He is inspired by “themes found in advertising; a sort of intersection of artificiality and earnest sentimentality”, his work defined by a crisp clarity and tonality, and frequently inviting narrative interpretation by way of presentation. “I really love sequencing,” he expands. “Exploring how images take on different meanings depending on how they’re grouped.” For the show, Hayden has compiled a monochrome set of domestic still lifes – “these elevated little mundanities you often see in photography” – ranging from a dog roaming in the sunshine to a coat hanging on a banister to a white bust of a male head. “I didn’t want to be too naive in my approach, so the images are actually all kind of sombre,” he reflects on his selection. “It’s an unusual grouping for me but it works.”
Photographer Piotr Niepsuj moved to Milan from his native Poland over ten years ago to study architecture. He began taking photographs and posting them on a blog to depict his new life abroad for family and friends back home. The blog was discovered by the founders of PIG magazine, who were so impressed by his candid, diary-like approach that they sent him a camera and invited him to undertake various assignments. Suffice to say he hasn’t looked back: “since then I’ve been the guy who carries a camera everywhere he goes,” he says. Niepsuj continues to take photographs that are “pretty much autobiographical” – “things I see that feel relevant to me; that I like or feel attracted to, or that describe the world I’m living in” – and cites Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller as his biggest influences. For the show he has selected six works, taken on his phone, which offer “a keyhole insight into my world and all the little ‘wonders’ that happen in front of my eyes.” The evocative pictures span a crowded underground station, a towel-strewn bathroom and a wooden-floored interior peeped through a pair of crossed legs.
German image-maker Valeria Herklotz studied photography in Berlin before relocating to London, where she now lives and works. Her pictures span intimate portraits, characterful fashion stories, and dreamy snapshots of her day-to-day encounters, from a shoe cast into shadow on a sunlit bed to a cracked tarmac road. “I am most inspired when looking at the people around me,” she decrees. And indeed, a quick glance at her Instagram feed shows her preference for models with unique features; faces which serve to tell a story.
Of her five works selected for the show, two are colour portraits of a sleepy-eyed man in a red T-shirt, seemingly lost in reverie. In another shot we see the same model decked in a string of round, glistening beads, thereafter presented to us in a textured still life. The final shot sees a wall-mounted speaker, camera and light fitting lensed from below – perhaps the setting for the shoot? It’s up to us to decide. “These images are about wondering about things and being curious,” Herklotz says, simply.
An elegant minimalism characterises the work of Berlin-based fashion photographer and portraitist Volker Conradus. He distills his subjects to their very essence, be it a shapely pear as part of a still life jewellery shoot or a frank close-up of a sumptuously lit face. “I’m drawn to a more direct approach to whatever I’m photographing,” he explains. “I’d rather let things and people be what they are and add only small things.” Conradus began experimenting with photography in the early 00s, when he purchased his first digital camera. “I was hooked by the possibility of shooting over a hundred pictures without carrying round extra film rolls, and started documenting my surroundings,” he explains. “I still carry a small camera with me at all times.” Unexpectations will feature two of Conradus’ portraits of the same, delicately freckled model, rendered in a typically reduced colour palette and doused in a beautifully natural light. “I was setting up my lights before a shoot and asked my model to relax while I figured it out,” he says. “This was before hair and makeup, and felt pretty honest in a way. I like the the idea of her head almost floating.”
Paris-based photographer Marie Déhé has always been fascinated by the world of images. She studied art history at university before pursuing a career in fashion, spending three years assisting stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington. But after a number of “inspiring personal and professional encounters”, she found herself increasingly drawn to photography, eventually opting to pursue it full-time. Her light-infused, analogue work varies in subject matter, spanning street scenes and portraiture, as well as architectural and sculptural details, and boasts a strong focus on composition and line. For Unexpectations she will present seven photographs exploring the theme of femininity – from cropped-in sections of the female form, reminiscent of Irving Penn’s iconic nudes, to a striking plaster cast of a chest, lying on its side against a textured wall. “I’m fascinated by the lines and the shapes of the female body,” she tells us. “In an abstract way, as if it exists on its own; something very pure and organic, simple and poetic, which has nothing to do with objectification.”