Interviewing Gerardo Korn
About Gerardo Korn
Gerardo Korn, a German Argentine who lives in Buenos Aires, is an art photographer.
His father taught him at an early age the basic rules of photography and gave him his first SLR-camera (a Minolta SR-T 101) for his 15th birthday back in 1977 during a trip through Asia. There, in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan, he shot his first two film rolls. Since then a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, but he never lost his enthusiasm for photography!
He visited New Delhi, Agra and Calcutta which he describes as indelible memories of a unique country… His projects have been declared of cultural interest by the Buenos Aires City Legislature.
In recent years Gerardo has been dedicated to a street photography project in Buenos Aires that he will begin to publicize this year. Along with the film project “The Goddess in the Pool”, where he shares the story of a fantastic work of art by renowned Argentine painter Guillermo Roux. For the last few months he has been working on an awareness campaign on the subject of ostomies, in collaboration with Gabriela Lavalle, an Argentine tango singer and personal friend, who has been ostomized for 10 years.
Gerardo’s work has been exhibited in Mexico in 2014, at the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), in Buenos Aires in 2016, at the prestigious Centro Cultural Borges, and in Berlin in 2017, at the Argentine Embassy in Germany. His last exhibition took place in Germany last November, at the WinterShall Holding Company in Kassel.
This is his second exhibition in India after the success of ‘Behind the Scenes ~ Buenos Aires” where he has photographed the metropolis of Buenos Aires, timeless, full of beauty, in the absence of people.
Hi Gerardo, thank you for joining me on Art-Is-In! Could you please tell our readers a little bit about you and your artistic persona?
Thank you, it’s a joy and a privilege for me! I am 58 years old and was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My parents came from Germany, so I also have the German citizenship and consider that country my second home.
My post-high school education was business-oriented, and I worked for many years in a multinational company. So I have two ways of thinking within me, one more rational and factual, and one more sensitive. Art, or the dedication to something artistic, became a necessary complement, but I never stopped having that other vision and I always look for balance between these two facets.
What is your photography/art style or process about?
I think I put a strong emphasis on classic aesthetics and composition, paying attention to the light and the focal point, with a rather “straight-forward” approach and taking time for each photo. But in the case of street photography I let myself be carried away and surprised by the exploration and by what people in a certain place and a certain situation transmit to me.
Before we delve deeper into your work, let’s start with your most recent ‘amazing’ Virtual Photography Exhibition ~ CARS IN THE NIGHT ~ BUENOS AIRES, which was launched on 27th August 2020 and continues online at Cosmic Heart Gallery. Your work here is simply fascinating! Take us through your thoughts and journey through it?
Thanks a lot! As I explain in the presentation of the project, two elements came together in this work: having done the photographic project on my hometown Buenos Aires, which resulted in the exhibition held last year at Cosmic Heart Gallery in Mumbai, and my passion for cars, especially those that marked my youth.
In addition, of course, the photos were taken at night. The night is mysterious and solitary, and despite the limitations in terms of lighting and exposure time, it allows me to work more freely than during the day.
Consequently it was a challenge I had to accept, and in doing so, I began an even deeper exploration of the city than I had done in the years of my previous project.
Gerardo has captured this collection with his lens making the car and facade appear as if they were on a stage, ready to present themselves to an imaginary audience.Curator’s statement – Jalpa H Vithalani
I find it intriguing that you used cars as your canvas of choice. Why cars and were there other contenders in your spectrum of choice, when you first started?
No other contenders. I have always been a car lover. But having portrayed my city the way I did in the “Behind the Scenes” project, the terrain was quite familiar and I was ready to embark on a new project.
I am always interested in playing with time and combining the past with the present and with what I see as timeless. The idea of finding these relics from other times in the present, exposed in such different kinds of sceneries, and of extracting the colours from the darkness and seeing how they begin to shine, took possession of me.
It was your father that initiated you into photography; teaching you the basic rules at an early age. What was that like and how has this inspired you in your work?
I’m an only child and my parents were always very busy with their work, so maybe my father, who liked photography, thought it would be good to give me a camera. In addition, he was a subscriber to the National Geographic Magazine from the USA, through which I could immerse myself into the dazzling world of photography.
My interest in the subject grew, my father taught me the basics with his Agfa Colorflex, and when I reached 14, my greatest desire was to have a reflex camera. That finally happened during a trip to Asia, days before my 15th birthday, in Singapore, a city that along with Hong Kong was famous for the possibility of getting cameras from the best Japanese brands at attractive prices. I decided on a Minolta SR-T 101, which at that time was one of the most popular cameras in the world and immediately became my most prized possession.
Just to name a few, you have travelled to Indonesia, Hong Kong, “India”, Japan… Wow! Take us through some of your experiences, on these travels.
My parents were travel agents in the golden age of the business, when the jet revolutionised the way we travel. This specific trip, made in early 1977, which took us through several countries in Asia, starting in Turkey, going through Iran and Nepal, visiting India and ending up in Japan, was a very special gift that my parents gave themselves. And I, who was about to turn 15, luckily was old enough to remember almost everything we were about to experience.
Sadly, my mother got ill and died on the way back to Argentina. That’s why all my memories of the trip are strong, emotional and exultant, and will remain engraved in my memory forever.
How did you learn/acquire your technique and how has it evolved through time?
Besides what my father could have taught me about theory, I am an autodidact.
When I was young I used to be very interested in “hardware”, new cameras and lenses and all that, but with time my interest became more focused on the “software”, that is to say the final result, the photo, and on the process to achieve it.
This emphasis led to the decision to do the work on Buenos Aires (Behind the Scenes) using black and white film, because it is a slower photography, to be more aware of the importance and “value” of each photo, since with a roll of 36 photos you have a very limited resource, unlike the almost unlimited resource you have with digital.
After that I worked in one more project using film, not yet released, but last year I needed to take a break and work again with digital, because of the technical possibilities to achieve better images at night and also because I needed to make the pictures faster due to the subjective feeling that during the night I could face some danger or risky situations.
How has art impacted your life?
As I was saying, I come from a more rational world, so discovering this side of myself was strong, an enlightenment and also a conflict – a conflict I had to make friends with.
Art can be a path of no return, in the best of senses but sometimes also in a not so good one, because of how obsessive we can become when we dedicate ourselves to it. Therefore the goal is to find a good balance, in which case the presence of art in life can be the best thing that can happen to us.
Tell us a bit about your work on the film project “The Goddess in the Pool”.
Thank you for asking – it was a unique experience.
The creator of the Goddess in the Pool, Guillermo Roux (90), is a respected and renowned Argentine painter, who was also very successful in Europe in the 70’s .
We are neighbours and have always known each other, but at a distance.
In 2015 I presented him my work about Buenos Aires, looking for support and new stimuli. We immediately became friends.
Roux had already painted his pool once, in the late 60’s. Back in 2012 he had a health problem that resulted in an impairment in the legs, so since then he moves in a wheelchair. In spite of this and the obvious obstacles, his young and restless mind began to consider the possibility of recreating that experience. When that idea became a reality, I had the privilege of being part of the feat to document in photography and video the work, which instead of one week, which was the initial plan to paint one of the pool walls, lasted five months with the entire pool artistically intervened!
A hot summer spent in a pool without water next to an old master who was 86 years old at the time, in a wheelchair, with a trembling pulse, painting with brushes attached to bamboo canes, creating such a work of art!
So the idea of making a film grew as the days and weeks went by, and once the work was finished, I partnered with Martín Serra, an Argentine documentary filmmaker who had already done work on Roux, to make this documentary film. The film had an unofficial premiere at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, has been declared of cultural interest by the Buenos Aires City Legislature, and this year is being submitted by us to international film festivals.
Your work is truly inspiring! You have also been working on an awareness campaign on the subject of ostomies. What is that about and where did this idea originate from?
Thank you! The campaign, which took place in 2018, was devised by Gabriela Lavalle, a very close friend who I have known for almost 20 years. She is a musical coach and Tango singer, and has been ostomized for 10 years. Being a public figure and knowing what it means to go on stage to perform live, she decided to make her condition public to raise awareness and to help break down taboos. And being close to her and having photographed her on stage, I decided to help and assist her.
Apart from the photos I took of Gabriela for the campaign, my work was mainly focused on finding contacts and support from the political arena and making the campaign known abroad, since that year “World Ostomy Day” was celebrated. I must say that we were quite successful, even reaching India, a country where there are about 300,000 ostomates, where I established contact with Dr. Harikesh Buch in Mumbai, an internationally recognized doctor in the field.
So what can we expect from you in the future?
I hope to continue evolving in terms of my style and discovering new ways to connect with my subjects.
I have more projects, in progress and finished, which I have to give shape to.
It’s always about projects and telling stories. So I hope that new ideas come to me, so that I have no other choice but to capture them.
Finally, and I’m not saying this is something that can be expected, because these are complicated times for traveling, one of the coolest things would undoubtedly be to travel to India and specifically to Mumbai, not only for the obvious reason of knowing Jalpa personally, but also to photograph!
Gerardo, are there other artists/photographers that have influenced you and your work?
Influenced and/or inspired. I could mention Eugène Atget and his photos of early Paris, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Aldo Sessa from Argentina, among many others…
And since I am holding a new exhibition in India, I would like to mention the work of the great Raghubir Singh and highlight my appreciation and admiration for it.
What would be some words of advice you would give aspiring photographers?
There are different types of photographers. I cannot give advice to someone who wants to be a professional photographer, so I will limit myself to those who are into “fine art”. That said, I don’t like trite phrases like “follow your dream”, “dont’t give up”or “if you work well, things will work out in the long run”. I’d say yes, follow your dream, but: stay connected to reality, never stop learning and being curious, find a style, let it evolve, try not to care too much about what others say – but be inspired by the masters, go out and work regularly and tirelessly on your art, and last but not least, find stories to tell – or let them find you.
Is there any more information you would like to share with our readers? Maybe journey us through the story behind one photograph from this unique exhibition.
With pleasure. Of all the stories I could tell, I choose the one about the crumpled yellow station wagon at the promenade (photo “XXV” in the virtual exhibition), which curiously is the only one in the series that I didn’t take at night, even though it was still pretty dark at that time.
This is the last photo of the exhibition and the first I made this year, one morning in early January, at the “Costanera Norte” Riverside Drive, where the Río de la Plata river looks like the sea.
I saw the imminent sunrise, a few days into the new year, as a sign of hope and new beginning, but of course we had no idea what was coming just three months later. Therefore the symbolism of the image I felt at the time of making it has only been growing over the past few months.
Interestingly from what my curator Jalpa says, I understand that this looks exactly like Marine Drive in Mumbai…
Where can the readers see this exhibition?
Gallery website links:
Cosmic Heart Gallery & Consulate General & Promotion Centre of the Argentine Republic in Mumbai present “Cars In the Night – Buenos Aires”, a collection by Argentine German photographer Gerardo Korn
How do you feel about this second exhibition with Cosmic Heart Gallery & Consulate of Argentina? And about your work showcasing in India?
It’s a privilege to work with Cosmic Heart Gallery in collaboration with the Consulate General & Promotion Centre of the Argentine Republic and I’m very excited for this Virtual Photography Art Exhibition. After having made exhibitions in Germany, to have my work exhibited in an Asian country is absolutely amazing, especially in India, a country so richly portrayed by such masters as the aforementioned Raghubir Singh, Steve McCurry, Raghu Rai, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Margaret Bourke-White, among others.
It’s also nice to be a kind of ambassador and to be able to show far away from home images captured in beautiful Buenos Aires.
You seem to share a great mutual synergy equation with your curator and gallerist…would you like to comment on this?
I’m pleased to comment on this. We have not yet been able to meet personally, but if I see our connection and the almost weekly contact we have, I think it’s a small miracle and part of those things that not always have a logical explanation, but must be received as a gift of life.
Going to a more rational analysis, from the very beginning Jalpa appreciated my work and the visual style of my photographs and creative approach to the subject, so we immediately had good a good vibe, which allowed us to develop an executive, respectful and efficient way of working.
I also feel that I am in good hands as far as the commercial aspects related to my work are concerned, since the fine art prints I make of my photographs, published in limited editions and shippable to wherever needed, are offered by an established gallery and by a person like Jalpa Vithalani.
So I look forward to maintaining and expanding this fine partnership, through new ideas and new projects.
Message from The Consulate General and Promotion Centre of the Argentine Republic
“Like Ansal Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”. And that is exactly what the Argentine German photographer Gerardo Korn has proved each time when working on ‘Behind The Scenes- Buenos Aires’ or ‘Cars in the Night- Buenos Aires’, where he successfully brings life to everything he captures with his lens. At a time where the world has come to a halt and it seems that there is no way left to pursue our passion for art, the Consulate General of Argentina in Mumbai in collaboration with Cosmic Heart Gallery bring the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent photography of Gerardo Korn, who shows us the underworld of old cars that the watchful eye may still find in Buenos Aires. Indeed a visual treat for the lovers of art.”
Guillermo E. Devoto, Consul General and Director of the Trade Centre of Argentina, Mumbai.
AN INTERVIEW BY CHRISELDA BARRETTO
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