Landscapes altered by man, deserted cities, everyday objects and people in a self-created environment. Are those real places and people or just dreams? Welcome to the nostalgic world of Johann Husser.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
I am Johann Husser, 26 years old, and currently living in Dortmund, Germany. I was born in Kemerovo, Russia and grew up in a small city pretty close to the Dutch border after my parents moved to Germany when I was about 4 years old. I moved to Dortmund to study Spatial Planning and currently I am studying Photography in my final semesters at the Fachhochschule Dortmund.
How did your journey into film photography start and what keeps you drawn to it?
I think I was 18 and my parents were visiting good friends in Russia, I was already into photography at the time, and when they returned home they brought an old FED Camera with them. That was the point when I started to shoot film. At first it was just some playing around and experimenting, but the more I used the camera and the more analogue cameras I had afterwards, the more thrilled I got for the whole process. And the process is what keeps me drawn to it. I just love everything about it — being limited to a certain amount of shots, not being able to see the result right after I click the shutter and just slowing down. This is even more so since I started using a medium format camera. It has a certain therapeutic touch to it.
Most of your photographs show empty places, transformed by humans but seemed to be abandoned just minutes before. In the projects “Nowhere Town,” “Oro y Sangre,” and “Take Care,” you focused on places which played an important role in your life: your hometown, a place you visited, and the city where you were studying at the time. Do you think it’s fair comment to say that your work is heavily themed around nostalgia? If so, is this a conscious choice or a coincidence?
“Nowhere Town” has indeed a very nostalgic feel to it; the whole approach was some sort of a nostalgic ritual, returning to the place you grew up in and trying to revisit the places you used to hang out at when you were younger. But I wouldn’t say it was a conscious choice. Most of my subjects and themes were derived from reflecting moments that I have experienced in the past, but I am not necessarily longing for them, which is a an important point of nostalgia. I think a more fitting theme or feeling for all of my photographs is melancholy.
Why is shooting film so important to you and what would you say to someone to convince them to try?
The most important point in shooting film for me is the process of slowing down and taking time to rethink compositions. And of course, the thrill when picking up a developed film at a lab or after developing it yourself. It´s just the same excitement after every film and this feeling I would try to communicate to someone who i´m convincing to try film.
You mostly shoot in 6×7 medium format and it seems to be your go to choice; can you tell us the reason/s why?
The main reason for me goes along with the reason why I shoot film in general, slowing down the process is very important for me and medium format slows it down a lot more than 35mm. I really enjoy more the time I spend figuring out what composition is the right one for the photo I´m trying to take. My photographic language is very calm and structured and the 6×7 medium format supports my articulation very well.
With the “WHLVWD” project you worked with fashion designer Katharina Majorek. How did this project initially start and how was the collaborative process? How does it affect you mentally when you have to account for another artist’s vision as well as your own?
“WHLVWD” is Katharina’s graduation collection and in the process of finishing it she was searching for someone to photograph it. She came across my work because of a mutual friend of ours, with whom I am studying. So, she asked me if I could imagine to shoot her collection. We met a couple of times before the shooting and we’re directly on the same page in terms of aesthetics. I liked the fact that Katharina came to me not because I am a fashion photographer; frankly, I´ve never done fashion before that, but because she was into the photos I´m taking in general. We exchanged some ideas for the project and she just rolled with giving me all the freedom to do it my way. I was really nervous of course, it´s a blessing and a curse at the same time to get total freedom for something you’re doing for the first time because she depended on a good result. But everything worked out really well and she was very much satisfied with the result.
Would you and do you plan to shoot more fashion? What projects have you got in the pipeline?
This is so strange; a day or two before I received your questions I was asking myself the exact same thing. I´m not actively planning to shoot more fashion, just because I don’t see myself as a fashion photographer, but if someone approaches me because he or she likes my aesthetics I would be very much open for it.
I am working on a project titled “Our Only True Life is in the Future,” which is inspired by dystopian novels like 1984 or Brave New World, as well as on on dummies for “Nowhere Town” so I can make a proper book out of it.