The concept of exploring hidden spaces emerged simultaneous with my initiation as a photographer. To execute some elementary experiments on space and light, I set up a camera in the crawl-space underneath my studio. While the lens of the camera was opened, I painted light onto the space by waving a flashlight through the open space.
When I showed the first results to some visitors in the studio, they asked me where the photographs were taken. The images reminded them of ancient archeological sites they had seen in Turkey. I explained that the space in the photographs was located directly underneath the floor and that they were literarily standing on top of the photographed space. A sudden gaze of confusion but wonderment appeared on their faces: how could a space that looked so strange and exotic actually be directly connected to the space we were in? I realized that their response to the photographs showed the way I had to go.
When a person is viewing a photograph of a hidden space of a familiar building, the viewer’s mind will automatically add this image to all the collected impressions and knowledge of that site. The interaction between the photograph and the viewer’s perception of the building becomes most immediate and effective when the image of the hidden space is presented inside the building where the photograph is taken. This makes the photograph “site-specific.”
Many photographs are still considered to (re)present the truth; documents that show “how it is” and “what is there.” This observation in particular plays an important role for the photographs of the hidden spaces. If the viewer cannot trust his eyes—that which he sees is real—the photograph inevitably loses all meaning. An utmost neutral and descriptive photograph of a hidden space will bear no visual interest; moreover, it will destroy every mystery. With my photographs I earnestly aim to show what is actually there, without adding or altering any elements of a given space. Simultaneously, I try to suggest and prove that the building is much larger than it seems, and a complete world is waiting behind the walls to be explored. The “proof” lies in the credibility of the photograph itself.
The main tool that I use to reach my goal is the distribution of light. Even when no additional light is added, one can make use of the specific color atmospheres of the different light sources. To put it simply: fluorescent lights turn green, halogen lights turn yellow, regular light bulbs emanate redder light, and daylight is blue. In essence, these colors cover the total spectrum of light, and in most instances a multitude of sources can be available. Even when the scene is without colors, the mixture of different light sources creates a distribution of color on the photograph, which helps to highlight particular spatial aspects.
The hidden spaces I explored in Chicago are located in many different buildings, but in my perception they are all connected as parts of the same structure, which is the city of Chicago. Since then I have explored many spatial themes where the separation or interaction of spaces carry a motif. When the transition between private space and the public domain is explored, I am dealing with two tangible spaces, namely inner and outer spaces. Photographs of prison cells in detention centers are related to the freedom of the mind, which is visible in drawings on the cell walls.
Last fall I visited the densely populated metropolis of Tokyo. Within the city, every square inch has its purpose, and everything is consciously placed in the available space. Thus, all spaces are related to each other: the cup on the tray, the tray on the table, the table in the room, the room in the house, the house in the street, etc. This implies that ultimately all the spaces in the world are connected in a strange way. My task is to explore and visualize this ever-expanding myriad of interconnected spatial structures.