Artist’s Statement from Oliver Stegmann
Already as a child, I have been a visual person and I have loved the beauty of things. And I have always had a passion to observe people. I guess that is why on almost all of my pictures, human beings are visible. Their expressions, their interactions, their activities or their personal moments inspire me. To photograph people is a way of communicating with them, to participate maybe in just a fraction of their lifetime.
A photo can capture a unique situation that might never come back and as such preserve a moment in time. Great masters of street and documentary photography like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene W. Smith, Robert Frank or Josef Koudelka have very much inspired my way of taking pictures.
When I photograph, I wander around a lot, always on the lookout. If a magical, exciting, funny situation unfolds, my challenge is to capture it with fresh eyes and my own artistic intuition. If a great photo turns out, it is truly a gift of the moment.
I prefer black & white photography because taking away the colors from how we usually see the world leads your eye to what in my view makes an excellent image: an interesting scene, a clear composition that distinguishes main subject(s) and background and ideally the play of light and shadow and its fascinating contrasts. To me, a good photo simply is a strong, powerful image that does not require any further explanation. Also in a photo essay, each single image should work by itself.
I was born in the city of Basel, Switzerland, in 1970. At the age of 18, I took my first serious pictures. Photography became a key medium for me to express myself. I studied economics and graduated with a Master degree. For several years now, I have been working in the automotive industry in leadership positions. I am married and a father of two lovely daughters.
Meanwhile, I have always passionately pursued photography. The focus of my work is documentary and street photography. In 1997, I changed to Black & White photography and I have hardly ever shot in color since. On many trips to various locations on five continents I have continuously worked on improving my skills as a photographer. I also attended different workshops by well known photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Anders Petersen, David Alan Harvey, Ernesto Bazan or Peter Turnley.
In the past, I have practiced the traditional wet darkroom techniques a lot, I used to develop all films by myself and to enlarge the pictures in my own darkroom in the basement. I used both 35 mm cameras and medium format. In 2005, I began to scan the negatives, edit them in Photoshop and make archival digital fine art prints. Two years later, I started using digital cameras. Nonetheless, I still love to shoot with one of my old film cameras every once in a while.
I have also photographed musicians and concert performances for more than 10 years. Currently, I am working on a long-term project to document the Swiss Circus scene. Since a few years, I am following the renowned Swiss clown Dimitri – on stage as well as in his more private moments. In 2008, I did a reportage on Bello Nock from the Swiss Nock Circus dynasty - “America’s Best Clown” (Time Magazine) - during his show at Ringling Brothers Circus.
My photos were shown at different exhibitions in Switzerland such as the Photo07 and Photo08. The images of “La Famiglia Dimitri” were published in the program of this unique clownesque show. Several of my images were also published in renowned photo magazines such as “The Photopaper”, “Foto Magazin” and “Photographie”.
Two of my images were selected as winners in the 5th and 7th Black & White Spider Awards (Honorable Mention) and my circus photos were awarded in the 2009 Circus Photography Contest of the Fédération Mondiale du Cirque. Recently, a series of pictures from the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico has been selected for an Excellence Award in the Black & White Portfolio Contest 2013 and were published as a 4-page spread in the Special Issue #98 of Black & White magazine (one of only 15 winners out of a total of 1008 portfolios).
Attached a little extract of prizes I won in contests and other publications of my work:
The program of the "La Famiglia Dimitri" show:
Everybody can look, but they don’t necessarily see.