Katrin Korfmann in New York

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday March 7, 2018

Artist Katrin Korfmann grew up in Berlin, but has lived and worked in Amsterdam since beginning her studies at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 1995. Her work in photography reveals a new perspective on social dynamics, presenting an abstraction of human interaction framed by the grid of everyday life.

This week, Kopeikin Gallery of Los Angeles is presenting her newest work, Back Stages, at Volta/New York, These large-scale prints defy analysis, zooming in and out of the activities depicted to form a mysterious reality that comes from thousands of discrete images seamlessly stitched together. Photographed in art production locations from the Netherlands, [a ballet school] to Morocco [a leather tanning works], to China [a granite carving site], these immersive images explore seldom considered aspects of artistic and cultural legacies. The series is being seen here for the first time in the US.

Katrin answered this Q&A for DART on her way here from her show that recently opened at Bau-Xi Gallery in Toronto:

Peggy Roalf: What is there about the aerial perspective that works for you in creating these super-dense images of people at ordinary activities? 

Katrin Korfmann: Using a bird’s-eye view, I can exclude the surroundings and all architecture so you have no reference to the location but can focus on the people and the event. In addition it creates a suggestion of distance and closeness at the same time. By simultaneously zooming in and out, I want to depict mysterious realities, which neither the eye, nor my camera could have grasped.

PR: The unusually grid-like backgrounds are one of the things that make these images so mesmerizing. How do you do your location scouting?

KK: I do a lot of research online, and often I am in contact with an assistant at the spot who is investigating the location and conditions. But it also happens that I just see a spot that is fascinating that I want to capture.

PR: Do you have the ability to perceive a place you’re seeing for the first time, at ground level, as it would be when seen from above? Do you carry a small camera drone around for quick previews?

KK: I have been shooting from this perspective for years, so yes, I am constantly scanning the ground of locations or look for high vantage points in order to see the place from another perspective. However I am not using a drone—that would make to much noise, and disturb the people from their activities, and then everyone would look up! I prefer to be a silent observer, so I use a high tripod, a crane, or a remote-controlled helicam.

PR: Are most of your photographs based on found activity—or do you sometimes orchestrate the action, with costuming and props, for example?

KK: Yes, sometimes, and it varies from asking pedestrians to walk through the image in a certain way to fully staging images with a dance company or a school class.

PR: Do you choose locations and activities to align with some specific ideas about human activity—or are you looking for something universal about human behavior?

KK: I usually work in series. Count for Nothing was focusing on street life in different cities. For Ensembles assembled, I photographed collective rituals in various places around the world: events sustained by individual euphoria in which colour—or colourful garments—dissolves individuality. For the new project Back Stages (in collaboration with Jens Pfeifer) we are presenting a visual manifest of the artistic and cultural creation process by emphasizing values placed on the production and handling of artistic goods. 

PR: In post-production, do you edit from the gut or do you sometimes find a theme that requires a different approach?

KK: Good question. The editing is the creative part that is most intuitive. I start with a lot of sketches, and different approaches, until I feel that the image is ready. This is subjective of course and often a certain theme naturally finds it's own visual language.

PR: What place would you most like to photograph that so far has been out of reach, and why?

KK: Pictures of people in space! I imagine the perspective out there would be unexpectedly challenging—and what it might look like as a photograph?

Katrin Korfmann | Back Stages. Kopeikin Gallery at Volta/NY, March 7-11. Pier 90, 12th Avenue at West 50th Street, NY, NY Info Hours/Direction Kopeikin Gallery