Thomas Gauck and His Landscapes at the Crossroads of Times
Today we welcome at our blog the German photographer with a unique photography manner and original artistic vision, Thomas Gauck. Describing my personal impressions and feelings about the style of this photo artist, I can say that some works appealed to me immediately, and I can stare at them for hours, some works seem too difficult to understand, others don’t leave any echo in my soul at all. But one thing here is clear — there is something special about Gauck’s photography. I like how smoothly and curiously modernity and antiquity interweave in his works, I would even describe some images as frescoes of the XXI century. No doubt, this is an unconventional, yet controversial genre. However, I want to point out that no matter what impression the photography of Thomas Gauck leaves on you, do read the interview with him — the talk of such an intelligent, dedicated person with a unique vision and certainty about implementing it in art, is always precious, so don’t miss it!
Please tell us a few words about yourself. How did you get started in the photography? What role does it play in your life now?
I took my first photographs at the age of about five with a small compact camera in the Zoo. Then I was taking friends and the close environment in my childish understanding of the world. Since that time photography became a matter of my life. In my teens already I spent all my money on equipment, films and prints. At this time I won some unimportant regional prizes with b/w-pictures of park benches covered with foliage, overclouded skies and landscapes of southern Italy. Some years later then I stopped my photography because of more important things, later on I started again with my own laboratory.
Today photography takes the greatest attention of my life than ever before, but I’ve learned to relativize. Nowadays I know that photography at the same time shouldn’t end in itself.
I think your work is somewhere on the border of photography and digital graphic art. How would you describe your photographic style and how did you come to it?
The shortest definition of my photographic intention I like: Producing of Devotional rural images on a photographic basis. When I was I child my great-grandmother, at whose place I lived in the daytime had some small print copies of strange calming nature paintings. Salving rural paintings in kind of Giovanni Segantini, for example. These old-fashioned still life pictures had a great influence on me. Later on, when I focused the art of Giovanni Segantini I remembered all the pacifying sceneries at my grandmother’s walls. Still today these paintings affect me with their calm and their nature distinction, offering an intact role of human being in a positive misty-eyed world — imaginations of the utopian Golden Age. Some aspects of the spiritual characters are also reflected by the pre-raphaelites John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, James Collinson and some others. Generally I would like to say, my intention more and more is to create landscape, rural restaged scenes and human portraits in the pre-raphaelitic style, combined with my own technical adaption.
What sort of equipment do you use (camera+lens)? Would you like to expand your photography gear? If so, what would it be and what goals will it help you achieve?
Actually I am working with a Nikon D200, that it is still doing a reliable good job, and with a range of five Nikon lenses; for the kind the pictures I do, equipment issues are not so important, but for the selection of locations, textures. Next acquirement could be a new Nikon body one day, if the old one won’t work anymore. I built on my own a Nodal Point Adaptor for a better quality in panoramic photographs; it works but it is quite scrawly. Maybe I will invest in an established one for producing more qualitative panos and interactive 360° panos. — Never again will I spend money on half-baked large format printers and on Asiatic companies selling ink at prices of fluid gold for reasons of top-selling quotes.
Post processing is surely an important part of your work. Could you tell us more about your technique? What about all these amazing textures – do you use premade patterns or create each texture by yourself?
Indeed I use textures and I have a great library of my own different textures, mostly paper, leather surfaces and self-painted acryl structures. Beyond that I use lightings and reflections, clouds and skies that I am implementing into pictures here or there. Yes, I feel free to manipulate if it helps to get more harmonious pictures, and my explanatory statement is quite simple: I am not a documentary or press photographer, often I try to interpret an idealized situation, my landscape pictures are even not more idealized than people photography you can find in every cheap TV magazine, but in a different way. But my rural scenes are made for loving and respecting nature and not because of any personal intentions. With the use of textures, lightings and other elements I try to make visible the deeper emanation and expression of locations that sometimes and somewhere is only felt not seen. Somebody said, my pictures are a manual for a more intensive reckoning. I love this explanation quite well.
My next question is about inspiration. Although it’s the core of any creative initiative, it has a different meaning for every artist, in my opinion. What is inspiration to you? What state of your mind and soul urges you on taking your camera and going for a shoot?
The main part of inspiration comes from listening to music. I am a great fan of north Indian classical music and every Raga has a number of meanings differently from listening to listening. I play the Sitar; unfortunately not well enough to create my worlds of feelings as I want. Another part of inspiration I get from films and from voices, finally, from speech. I like female voices both of singers and narrators especially in foreign languages. My head is full of inspiration and ideas, I am suffering to know that I cannot realize them all. Of course I obtain inspirations from other photographers too.
Inspiration for me is like an inner calling. A calling to do something, to follow. Extending inspiration generally is a play with one’s own creativity; the more you are working creatively the more inspiration you get. This is why every human can be an artist. Expressing the call of inspiration is then artificial. It doesn’t play a role whether you are a designer, a singer, a painter, a poet or a carpenter — it’s simply always the same game: Answering the call of awaking. I am not thinking about inspiration during the shoot — just try to get as much and best as I can. Post production is quite different. Here I stop my work until I get the best ideas and components, like textures. I have a list with good candidates of photos but I wait until their time has come.
Do you agree with the statement of Thomas Edison «Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration»? Do you consider yourself a talented photographer?
Even if you are mixing one percent inspiration, forty-nine percent perspiration and fifty percent passion, you still need a good portion of luck to become successful. Generally it can work without a lot of perspiration, but never without at least a small dosage of passion. Works without passion are not even good handcraft. I don’t think I am a talented photographer. I am talented to have imagination, to be capable of detection and appreciation. Often I fail because of my “untalent” in conversion. It all depends on how to convert «a yellow spot into the sun». If you are trying to copy techniques from others don’t forget, there is only one sun.
Do you associate your photography with some traditional art directions (or maybe music)?
Not really. My photography is a brand-new mix of a very old imagination.
What if you could travel in time with your camera? Where would you go?
Well, normally I really try to carry viewers in other times. My standard is to create pictures without any hint of infrastructure, of concrete time area, without any rush. If I could I would like to make portraits of beautiful lucky women and men living in virgin areas somewhere in the Middle East in ancient times.
Who are your influences? Do you attend/conduct any workshops or seminars?
I am an autodidact, creating photo compositions because of the lack of ability to paint. I have conducted a couple of individual single photoshop trainings within the last few years.
How do you promote/advertise your name? Is Internet activity important for a photographer?
Yes, I think so. Internet galleries, social apps and personal presentations are a great possibility to make your own work public. Not for selling, but to earn interest and attention. I learned that after a well done exhibition follows the next interesting project automatically. In this sense I do not promote or advertise my work. Some pictures are available at Whitewall, the rest by order by me.
Could you single out a couple of photos that appeal to you most of all? What memories do you connect with them?
Most of all I like my tree-pictures, the great oaks, which grow near the Limes border in Bavaria and some other tree portraits of old solitaire trees. One of them has been cut down last month — I don’t know why people don’t let famous trees die in dignity. In this case, the photos are irrecoverable like a portrait of a lost friend.
Besides fine art nature and landscape photography, you have a collection of beautiful portraits in your portfolio.What other genres do you shoot in and which are your favorites? Why?
Some friends objected, you are producing interesting rurals and landscapes but human beings are missed in a certain way… This brought me to creating personal portraits as well. I started with a serial called «Die Hüterin des Goldenen Zeitalters» that means «The female guardian of the Golden Age». I had a lot of prejudices against portrait and I was very nervous — more than the model. I told her — she has incredible long red hair — about my idea to portrait an ancient woman who is living and acting in accordance with her environment, the seasons, the animals around. She agreed and without extensive preps we had a great shooting outside during a heavy summer thunderstorm. She was exactly the right choice for this project.
What type of creative personalities do you belong to: those who prefer to stick to the direction they once found themselves in, or those who always seek for something new?
I am open to accept new influences, techniques and medias if they challenge me. Maybe my art discharges in making movies one day. I admire people like the Italian Artist Franco Battiato e.g., who has been successful in many disciplines like singing, composing, film-producing, publishing and painting for nearly fifty years. Always an open mind.
Has your photography inspired any commercial interest? Do you have anyone to help you organize the business?
No, not really. I am working as a lone fighter — but infinite thanks at this point to my wife for her great patience and trust in me.
What are your photography plans for the nearest future? Any new style you’d like to try yourself in?
The series «The female guardian of the Golden Age» was a great success and motivated me to continue. But I am also attracted by city scenery; I’ve already started with sessions at night and in city light environment. I’ll work on with several portraits in this direction. Next will be a portrait serial of a female flamenco dancer; here all my plans are quite ready to convert. I am just looking for an interesting model. Further I am going to create a 360° Fine Art Composing in an oak forest. I am working on plans to realize guided photo tours outside here in Bavaria to my locations followed by different post process tutorials. And yes, of course I am also interested to exhibit in galleries in Russia.
What would you advise to budding photographers?
Don’t dissipate your energy in theory and shoptalk but in doing. Photography — at least here in Germany — has the nimbus of artisanry. This comes from the endless discussions about new cameras and brand-new equipment, yearly again and again. The hardware and also the software have been fully developed lately. Discussions whether digital or not, this or that program, lens or reflector are useless. Greatest photographs are made by 16-year-old teenagers in Romania with busted cameras or mobile cams. Leave discussions and shoptalk to the industrial audience of photo fairs. I cannot imagine that famous painters stick together discussing brushes, canvas or colors. Spend money not on exaggerated software tools or gimmicks but on a high-quality set of lenses, body and tripod. After that comes a long time with no more need for new invest. I still use a 40-year-old stable tripod from my grandfather. Listen to yourself, follow your satisfaction. If you are satisfied photographing squirrels, motorbikes, nudes — ok — but please remember that a camera was made to fix irrecoverable and unique moments. Praise life, not death.
Thomas, thank you for taking time to participate in our project. We wish you good luck and inspiration in all your projects!
Don’t miss a chance to get to know more about the art of Thomas Gauck:
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