• Kay Von Aspern, street photographer, art, photographie
  • Kay Von Aspern
  • Kay Von Aspern
Street Art

    Zip Interview; Kay Von Aspern - `Nothing To Declare`

    27 November 2012

    by Sophia Czerny

    In May, the street photographer has „nothing to declare“ and considers 99 percent of his own pictures boring.

    Artists often talk about a certain magical moment in which they discovered their hidden passion for art, or about how their creativity quite suddenly revealed itself.  Usually there are stories where the photographer tells of a key incident that has left an impression on him to this day. Many a time it was childhood or adolescence that served as the pivotal inspiration, as in „I grew up in an artist’s studio.“ Many artists, on the other hand, simply learned their craft from scratch.

    But none of this really applies to Kay von Aspern. His name may sound like a stage name, a nom de plume—but it’s not. The Itzehoe-born German, who also lived in Hamburg for a few yers, has never experienced that special moment, but has been taking pictures just about forever. An autodidact, he has never had professional training in photography. The passion grabbed him about seven or eight years ago, but here too there was no known catalyst.  So: a simple career without a lot of fuss. And it’s precisely this simplicity that characterizes the nearly-fifty-year-old’s work: In his current exhibit, „nothing to declare,“ the street photographer Kay von Aspern isn’t presenting any deep messages or artsy falderal—just everyday moments tht everyone knows but no one records. The torn posters, the play of shadows, and other things the artist has captured on the street have „nothing to declare.“ Yet it’s precisely these everyday scenes that generate energetic images that, flooded with information we rarely perceive any longer. „nothing to declare“ is on view at Foxhouse (Westbahnstraße 11-13, 1070 Vienna) from May 9-19.

    Sophia Czerny: Your current exhibit in Vienna is called „nothing to declare,“ for which all the pictures were taken with your cell phone camera. How did you come up with the idea of shooting photos with your cell phone that have „nothing to declare“?

    Kay von Aspern: Actually, the exhibit presents pictures that are rather untypical of my photography. For one thing, it’s not really about street photography; for another, I took the pictures, as you said, with a cell phone. There are two reasons for this: I always have my cell phone with me, and cell phone photos have a certain style that you just don’t get with a normal camera. I’m not saying it’s better to take photographs with a cell phone, just that it’s different. Eventually I realized that I was taking all these seemingly abstract, surreal photos in an urban environment, and began to assemble them. But I never thought about showing these pictures until Foxhouse approached me about the exhibit.

    S.C.: What exactly do you want to convey with the pictures?

    K.A.: In general, my photos aren’t really tied into any kind of concrete or profound messages. What I’m showing are everyday things, everyday moments that everyone can see, but not everyone can capture with a camera. Preserved, they can become something special. The specialness of the everyday.

    S.C.: Have you always „only“ taken pictures on the street or have you also done studio and assignment photography?

    K.A.: Actually, right from the beginning I always preferred doing my photography in public space. I did, however, set up a studio for myself in Hamburg, where I also did some assignment work. I’ve been living in Vienna for five years now.  Unfortunately, the opportunities for working professionally as a photographer in Austria are extremely regulated. This is why I ask everyone to sign the Declaration of Support for the Deregulation of the Photography Industry.

    S.C.: What can street photography do that a regular shoot can’t?

    K.A.: What’s fascinating to me about street photography is that its very direct, unmediated. Photography in public space can’t be planned or controlled. I like that. It’s probably the most primal form of photography. It captures reality. Life as it is. A shoot shows life, objects, and reality from the perspective of whoever commissioned the shoot.

    S.C.: Do you find posed pictures boring?

    K.A.: Overall? No.  On the other hand, I think 99 percent of the photos that are termed „street photography“ are boring. And I don’t exclude myself. I find a few of my photos, initially, to be „quite good. After a little while, I may still think, „Well, it’s okay,“ but after a few month it’s „boring.“ In the course of a year there are a handful of photos at the most that I would consider real pictures.

    S.C.: What was the best or the most significant street scene you ever shot?  

    K.A.: Unfortunately I’ve never photographed the best scenes.

    S.C.: And which scene so far has been the most bizarre ?

    K.A.: I can’t really answer that. I’ve certainly made some bizarre photos. But I don’t linger over individual shots.

    S.C.: What is it that gets you to pull out the camera?

    K.A.: Whenever something catches my eye; when something makes me curious; or when something moves me in some kind of way. Usually it’s not some big or important thing, no set stories or anything like that. Often it’s the very tiny details that make a good picture.

    S.C.: How much informative power does a picture have to have for you?

    K.A.: As I’ve already said, I find at least 99 percent of all so-called street photos boring. I’m not so sure whether a photography necessarily has to convey information—except for contract work.

    S.C.: So you mean you don’t wait until an exciting image presents itself?

    K.A.: No, normally I find my images myself. As a rule, I’m very aware when I‘m taking pictures, and observe my surroundings very carefully.

    S.C.: In some of your pictures there are people, in others not. Do you think that having people in a picture gives it more feeling?

    K.A.: Yes, I think that, absolutely. Feeling always comes about when people are involved.

    S.C.: Also, some of the pictures and black and white, others color. What can color, or lack of color, show or convey differently?

    K.A.: For me, one isn’t better than the other—the two are pretty much the same to me. Black and white reduces the range of  information a bit. Sometimes that’s nice, because the gaze is directed toward what’s essential. At the same time, of course, black and white also abstracts. There’s hardly anything more unrealistic than seeing something in black and white. Color, however, is reality, life.

    S.C.: The pictures in the exhibit were all shot in Vienna. Which city offers the best material for you?

    K.A.: For me, it’s wherever I’m living at the time. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a city. That’s when I do—to me—the best pictures.

    S.C.: Are you already working on a new series?

    K.A.: I have a few series that are devised as longer-term, „ongoing projects.“ But what I actually love are individual photos, pleasing to the eye.

    S.C: Thank you very much for the interview!

     K.A.: You´re welcome.



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