May 18, 2024

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Built General Tough

Photograph like in 1851 | Salzwedel

Jan Vogtschmidt has lived in the Hanseatic city for three years.

© Zähringer, Arno

New life has moved into Altperverstraße in Salzwedel: Jan Vogtschmidt is currently unpacking his boxes and boxes in the former rooms of the Hansenbande, which is now located in Burgstraße. The trained photographer would like to set up a studio there.

Salzwedel – Vogtschmidt, who was born in the Osnabrück district, has not yet decided what exactly it will look like. “First of all, I have to see what is possible at all,” says Vogtschmidt, who suffers from a rare nervous disease and is therefore limited in mobility. What is certain, however, is that he will be showing his works at the Kunsthaus Salzwedel from Friday, July 23rd. This is a first for the Kunsthaus, as no photo exhibition has yet been presented there.

Jan Vogtschmidt has been on the road a lot in his life so far. After training as a photographer (“I even have a journeyman’s certificate,” he says with a smile), he went to Paris for four years. He spent an eventful time there, working for the weekly L’Express, at that time one of the oldest and highest-circulation French news magazines.

Paris – a nice start

“That was a nice start,” he says in an interview with the Altmark newspaper. However, it was not easy, after all, there are “of course a few good photographers” in the French metropolis, says Jan Vogtschmidt with a wink. “I photographed the Parc de la Villette and the Tuileries Gardens – at the Louvre – in several reports on behalf of the respective administration. I was also involved in many photo productions in Paris as an employee of a large photo studio (studios pin up) – in fashion and advertising, ”reports the photographer. In Parc de la Villette, the largest park and second largest green space in Paris, portraits, still lifes and oversized landscapes were taken.

Another turning point in his photographic development and direction was his one-year stay in New York. “There was already a lot going on,” says Vogtschmidt, looking back on his time in the most populous city in the United States.

Later, back in Berlin, he worked for Helmut Newton and his wife June for a few days. At that time Newton was one of the most sought-after and expensive fashion, advertising, portrait and nude photographers in the world.

About ten years ago, Vogtschmidt became enthusiastic about the wet collodion process, which was developed in 1851 when photography was first emerging. Above all, he liked the aesthetics of the photos, also because the reality is alienated a bit. In 2019, for example, Vogtschmidt took photos with his plate camera at Wagen & Winnen and showed some works across from the Marienkirche. He developed the resulting portraits in a mobile photo laboratory he brought with him.

On the collodion technique: The use of black glass plates results in very attractive direct positive images. Shortly before the exposure, a collodion layer is poured onto a glass plate, which then immediately, while still wet, has to be sensitized, exposed and developed. After fixing, soaking and drying, the sensitive image is coated with a varnish (quick-drying protective coating). Because some steps have to be carried out in the dark, a darkroom (or dark tent) is also essential for outdoor shots.

Why wet plate? Primarily, reports Vogtschmidt, because of the interesting results. But the extensive preparation and manual work are also part of it. The way the photographer takes each step has an immediate impact. Small mistakes in handling leave traces that are perpetuated in the picture. “That’s why good craftsmanship is very important.”

The photographer came to Salzwedel almost three years ago. For private reasons, but also because Salzwedel “is a beautiful city” and lies between Berlin and Hamburg. On the other hand, the show in the capital Berlin under the title “The Heroes of Work” was bigger. Vogtschmidt is looking forward to his exhibition in the Kunsthaus. He is currently in the process of putting the exhibits together. They come from the areas of mushrooms, portraits, snow, nudes and collodions.