Following Zoogestalten and Animal Stars, Alexander von Reiswitz has most recently led spirited racehorses before the camera in his new series Alte Meister. The animals are breeding studs with excellent pedigrees, which have won many prizes. Names such as Electric Beat and Doyen hint at their quick pulse and spirited character. As former heroes of the racetrack, they have since become much sought after stallions. Once again, Reiswitz proves that a good animal portrait does not come along by chance. To capture the personality of an animal in photography, a quick, skilled eye is just as important as patience and careful action. A fine sense for detail, light, and color also come in to play. In this case, the colored material bestows the stallions with especial luster and proximity. At the same time, they seem to have been pulled directly out of the glaring spotlight of the race – they are strongly charismatic, but also private. This tension between temperament, private character, and one’s knowledge of the animal’s fame makes the portraits into something extraordinary.
The ancient Greek Minotaur – the epitome of guile and strength – could be the godfather of its modern likeness, which Alexander von Reiswitz has portrayed up close and in color. The myth and the popularity of the steer and bullfighting trace back to ancient Mediterranean cult traditions. Under brilliant, individually adjusted studio lighting, the photographer draws out the main features of the selected purebred steers. These characteristic busts embody the beast’s irrepressible strength and respectable pride.
Images of animals possess an important place and long tradition within the history of photography. It is nonetheless rare to find a photographer who is able to break through the obvious façade of the beauty of the animal world and reach out to the actual being of each individual creature; the ability to capture its essence and thus let us fall silent with amazement in front of its portrait. This Spanish-born artist (1965 in Malaga), who now lives and works in Berlin, Germany, has already been the cause for sensation at LUMAS with his collection of animal portraits from the Berlin Zoo.
For his newest series “Animal Stars,” Alexander von Reiswitz has managed to take his project of unusual animal imagery one step further: he has set off on a journey to create nine dramatic portraits of animals who may seem familiar from either film or television. The majority of these photographs were taken in animal training schools across Germany, where animals such as monkeys or lions are trained for their appearances in both television and movies. For example with the famous bear-trainer Dieter Kraml who works with and looks after she-bear Nora. It is important to notice that each and every one of von Reiswitz’s “celebrities” carries a name; a symbol of his deep respect and admiration for his subjects. So, we are pleased to present: Bonnie the eagle, Theo the owl, the lions Massai and Borani, Mogwai the serval, the tiger Dschandra, Odin the lynx, and Jeany the baboon.
Forgoing use of a telephoto lens, these animals placed in front of a paper backdrop gaze back; yet barely take notice of us, almost as if they can see through us. At times we hold their attention for a few brief moments, at other times they appear almost melancholic and sometimes surprisingly serious, as if passing judgement . We find ourselves suddenly caught up in a dialogue, almost forgetting that we are human and they are animals; a dialogue opened to us by Alexander von Reiswitz – a photographer of the soul.
Alexander von Reiswitz, born 1965 in Málaga studied art history before switching over to architecture and photography. His knowledge of the long tradition of portraiture and his feel for portraits come together with precision and relevance in his black and white photos, making his studies seem like a seminal detour to his photography. Architecture and portraiture were and are still his domain, but Reiswitz proves that portrait photography does not have to limit itself to people. In the middle of the German capital, he chose a quarter, which is dramatically different from all other parts of the city. With its 14,000 residents, it is the most multi-cultural neighborhood in Berlin. Characteres with names like Tanja, “Klapperkopp (Flapper Head)”, Mzima, Pang Phad or Bulette (Hamburger) who live there are ogled daily and are endlessly photographed. Reiswitz adopted another tactic, and managed to create a respectful portrait series of their animal personalities, some of which have been calling this area home for generations. There aren’t any photos like those that sightseeing animal lovers capture with their digicams, and no degrading snapshots of the cutest, most colorful or most whimsical exotic creatures, but instead striking portraits that you could use for a resume or a passport. They could be photographs of stars and heroes since, for Berliners, they have been prominent Zoo residents for over a decade whose lives you could read about in the newspaper as if they were a part of High Society: “Effie is pregnant again” or something along those lines. Knowing these animals “is part of Berlin culture and is general knowledge. It has something to do with the long confinement” the photographer conjectures. “Berlin was like a zoo. And the real zoo had a certain status as the wall was still standing. People enjoyed going there to enjoy a bit of freedom.” In order to create the same conditions as one would have in a session with a human model, Alexander von Reiswitz built his improvisational studio in the animal enclosures, an adventurous undertaking that in many regards necessitated extreme concentration. For some he tried to get as close as possible to his models with direct eye contact, for others he had to be quick on his toes to escape the airs and graces of many a thick-skinned diva with a quick jump out of their cages. It was a sensitive and explosive dialogue for the portraitist as well: “The decision to portray animals in the same space and light conditions as people is similar to the attempt to photograph people, who were just shaken by an earthquake in a closed studio,” Reiswitz writes. “In extreme situations, people show more of themselves than under normal conditions.”
Dr. Boris von Brauchitsch
|1965||Born in Málaga, Spain|
|1982-1986||Studied Art History at Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany|
|1987-1994||Studied Architecture at the Ecole d'Architecture de Paris-La Villette, France|
|Lives and works in Berlin, Germany|
|1988||1st Prize, 7ème Salon de la photographie, Bessancourt, Paris, France|
|2005||Solo exhibition of the photo series ZOOGESTALTEN in conjunction with the umbrella exhibit "Deutschland in Japan" 2005/2006, Gallery B u. C, Konica Minolta Plaza, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan |
|2004||Group exhibition "German Photography Academy’s Annual Meeting for Photojournalism," Alter Rathaus Musberg, Stuttgart |
|2003||"ZOOGESTALTEN, Glamour und Dösen", Kulturbüro Charlottenburg, Schloss Charlottenburg,Berlin |
|Group exhibition, Galerie Tammen und Busch, Berlin |
|2002 ||Group exhibition, Künstlerhof Buch der Akademie der Künste Berlin in coordination with the 3rd Sculptors’ Symposium "Stones without Borders"|
|2001||Group exhibition im Künstlerhof Buch der Akademie der Künste Berlin in conjunction with the 1st and 2nd Sculptors’ Symposium "Stones without Boarders" |
|2000||Art Fair Exhibition Foto-Bild-Berlin, 1st Art Fair for Contemporary Photography, Stilwerk Berlin |
|1998-1999||Exhibition "Between inside and out": Documentary Photography (Portraits) of chronically ill residences in a Berliner psychiatry, in coordination with art therapy by Julie Sandberg, Galerie in der Alten Schule Adlershof, Berlin |
|1998||Photography exhibition in ATELIER A: Celebrity portraits, Architectural Photography, Reportage Portraits by Ute Lemper, Ben Becker, Max Raabe, Coco Schumann, Aki Kaurismäki, Bente Kahan, and many others|
|1986-1988||Exhibition in Galerie européenne du chat, Paris |
|Solo exhibition of the work "Saltos y Abandonos" im Atheneum, Málaga, Spain|
|2005||Zoogestalten, Deutschland in Japan, Gallery B u. C, Konica Minolta Plaza, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan|
|2010||Vater, Mutter, Kind – Die Familie in der Zeitgenössischen Kunst, Stadtmuseum Neuötting, Neuötting, Germany|
|2008||Familienbilder, Frankfurter Kunst Block, Frankfurt, Germany|
|2003||After the Fair, Galerie Tammen & Partner, Berlin, Germany|
|2001||Steine ohne Grenzen, Künstlerhof Buch at the Berlin Academy of the Arts, Berlin, Germany|
|1998||Zwischen Innen und Außen, Galerie in der Alten Schule Adlershof, Berlin, Germany|