The basis for the Gunther and Gretel project was the amateur photo legacy of an unknown author. Found at the flea market in Augsburg, the slides documented a German couple’s journeys, everyday life, gatherings with friends – in very high technical quality.
By looking through the hundreds of photos, it became evident that all the pictures had been taken by the husband, and on account of that, he is only seen on one of the photos, and even there only wearing a mask, on a New Year’s Eve gathering. They had had no children, almost their whole life was about travelling; from the 50s they had travelled across the whole of Europe with their trailer.
Almost every country they had visited could be identified from the pictures, but for some reason, they had never travelled to Hungary. This served as the basis for our joint project with László Csáki, the Gunther and Gretel photo series. We intended to complete the photo legacy with the nonexistent Hungarian pictures, evoking the aesthetic quality and compositions of amateur photographs.
We got in the shoes of our characters for a while and made a fictional journey through 60s Hungary. By using the amateur photos as a starting point, we searched for expressive places and objects that would evoke the era and the geographical location as best as possible. During their/our trip they/we visited pubs, baths, community houses, immortalizing their/our presence with their/our camera. Just like if Gunther and Gretel had travelled to Hungary in the 1960s.
Snapshots from the Life of a Family Man
The protagonist of the Snapshots series is an ordinary family man, who occasionally captures the more important moments of his life: Christmas, summer holiday, or a secret fling in a topless bar. However, the seemingly idyllic situations turn absurd, and the faux family photos feature a sprouting potato as a sunbathing mother, or a character from a Nan Goldin photograph is giving intimate massage to the family man, who is lying on his back and photographing.
Although the photographs imitate the genre of snapshot, featuring the photographing man in the image relativises the position of photographer and subject. Moreover, the collage-like compositions are the result of a lengthy, meticulous work process: the building of the scale models took years, and the photographs were taken with a tilt-shift technical camera on 6×9 cm slide film.
Thus, the staged snapshots of the series are actually quite the contrary of not only the technical characteristics of the genre, but also the authentic representation of the reality they seemingly depict. And yet we have a feeling that they are uncannily real.
The first four photographs of the Snapshots series were made in the spring of 2001, before the Gunther and Gretel series. Family Man goes to Heaven was made after 9/11 in 2001.