Interview with Ralph Gräf
#1 Please introduce yourself
I was born in southern Bavaria and studied Biology in Munich, where I spent more than 20 years. My job related move to Potsdam (near Berlin) in 2006 rekindled my old love in photography, and I made many new friends who were also involved in photography and inspired my creativity as a photographer. After several successful participations in international photo contests, twenty exhibitions mostly in Germany, but also in Italy and Poland I would call myself a semi-professional.
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
My father was an optician working in a small camera lens factory. When I was eight years old, he gave me my first camera as a present. Since then, albeit with some pauses, photography has escorted me through my whole life. It is now my medium to act out those of my creative talents that I have to neglect at my daily work.
#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?
I was always interested in visual arts. Together with ten of my friends I am organizing a successful gallery project for contemporary photographic arts in Potsdam (The “Fotogalerie Potsdam”)
#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
Among my favorite photographers are Gregory Crewdson, Nadav Kander, Josef Hoflehner, Andreas Gursky, Wim Wenders and Sze Tsung Leong, just to name a few. However, to me it is difficult to state names of other artists, who have inspired me, since I think one gets inspired by any picture. I try not not copy somebody else’s style but to find and create an own one by creating my photos in a way that they reflect my personal likes.
#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph?
This depends very much on the series I’m working on. For my series “The Traveller”, in which I stage myself as an old-fashioned traveller through times and exceptional places, I’m usually scouting in advance for suitable locations by Google Earth and other internet resources. The situation is similar for my series “Vacancy” and “Plattenbau Swansong”. Yet, for my series “With A Holga Through Brandenburg” I do have a vision what I’m looking for but find my motives spontaneously by just travelling through the countryside. Since I prefer available light, I usually try to anticipate the light situation on site to find the right time for the photo. In any case, I want to stimulate the imagination of the viewer and to sense emotions, since this is the prerequisite to keep pictures sticking in his mind.
#6 Which places have been your favourite shooting sites so far and why?
Ever since I was attracted by abandoned sites and buildings. In Brandenburg I found many, because numerous often historic buildings have been abandoned after the withdrawal of the soviet military forces about 25 years ago. I’m always fascinated by the unique mood of these abandoned, quiet rooms, which inspires associations despite or because of their emptiness and darkness. It makes me think about how their inhabitants lived their life there in the past. I’ve visited many of these sites within the last decade, but meanwhile they are often not accessible anymore or rotten to an extent that they are no more attractive to me. Thus, instead I’m now more looking for urban and landsape views with an inherent austere beauty.
#7 What do you do in your life besides photography?
I’m a cell biologist by profession and have a (more than) full-time job as a professor for cell biology at the University of Potsdam. Thus, there is little time for other interests than photography and arts.
#8 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
First of all I’m preparing for my next exhibition on my “Roadside America” series, which opens on May 11 in Potsdam. Next I’d like to create a new website that is more suitable for mobile devices and more focused on my favorite projects. With regard to photographic projects I’m planning to continue with my series on drab business parks, abandoned plattenbau prefabs and Holga-pics from Brandenburg. If I find a suitable setting, I will also add photos to my so far most successful series “The Traveller”.