I was ten years old when I held a camera in my hands for the first time. Looking into the viewfinder of the Tin Box I saw another world, and I understood that a world aside from the one I was living in was possible. I will never forget the view of the black armed cherry tree in full blossom made so small by pieces of glass. Even my own figure reflected on the surface of the viewfinder. The tree was more black than in reality; the blossoms merged into white clouds—a tree bearing a cloud. The blue sky was greyish. The green grass was brownish. The longer I looked into the glassy eye, the bigger and more detailed it became, until finally the glass eye was demandingly looking at me. I had fallen into this world of glass.
Years later I understood that having a camera enabled me to conquer the girl I was dreaming of. But alas I was not, and still am not, interested in taking pictures of people. It’s not that I don’t like or indeed love people, quite the opposite. I was more interested in taking pictures of beings that are no longer there. For example when I was a youngster I took photographs of animal traces or traces of boots worn by some unknown person. I took those pictures with enough empty space so that in the print I was able to envision the person or the animal. That’s when the second stage of enchantment in photography began. Those who looked at my pictures which I was so proud of, gave me all sorts of bewildered comments about getting some decent education other than photography, because obviously I was just taking pictures of nothing, of voids.
The third stage of enchantment happened when I studied polyfocal architectual drawing with Yadegar Asisi at the Art Academy in Berlin. To draw a room again and again made me understand space. I still find it a challenge to transport, with as little loss as possible, three-dimensional space into the flat world of photography.
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~ Werner Zellien
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