Searching for my very own Rue Mouffetard
It all started with that magic B/W masterpiece by Henri Cartier-Bresson, a photograph which I saw as a photographic beginner in a book in the early 1980s and which accompanied me through my whole life, giving this initial spark to my interest for showing people in the public realm. The black-and-white picture of a small boy, carrying home two huge bottles of wine with an indescribable expression of pride and joy on his face, entitled Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954. When I saw this picture, I was thunderstruck: How on earth could a photographer be there, see and catch such an intimate, candid moment? What he called The Decisive Moment. With the equipment available at that time! This was THE picture for me, my personal game changer, that was what I wanted to do, too, take pictures of people in the street.
© Henri Cartier-Bresson
As a teenager, I had a subscription to the German GEO magazine, which featured, among other things, the pictures taken by the fabulous German photojournalist Thomas Hoepker at regular intervals. These pictures also had a major impact on me. Although they were published in a documentary and journalistic context, they showed life on the streets of the world – street photography in the truest sense of the word –, whether in East Germany, the German Democratic Republic at that time, New York, or Beijing. I saw one of his exhibitions in Munich in the mid-1980s entitled Ansichten, and these were pictures that burned themselves into my brain. I have never forgotten them since; they have provided me with a kind of internally memorized guardrail and a compass to give direction to my own photographic passion. .
I see myself as a classical flaneur- – though sometimes more of a long-distance-runner- –with-a-camera. I react to any kind of scene or visual clue that strikes my fancy and unfolds right in front of my camera. And that’s what I love so much about this subject: you don’t need any clumsy gear, you don’t have to travel anywhere, you're always there! That’s why it is so magical for me, many have said this before: It’s positively an obsession! I try to stay as invisible as possible, try to see things that others might not see, find something special in the ordinary that might only exist for a split second and then it’s gone forever! Creating a document of life. The two old grannies I captured in 1991 in San Gimignano, Italy, one with the Hanimex 110 pocket camera: a time document today. As all the millions of smartphones today will be at some point in the future…
As Matt Stuart put it – and rightly so: Try to find All That Life Can Afford. The big theater of life is always open with no closing hours! This search for great pictures is something that gives me the greatest joy, to go out and try to make something out of nothing (Gus Powell). Most of my pictures have people in them, must have some kind of significance and meaning to me. For me, a good picture must have a thought-provoking note, some humorous or quirky details, some kind of storyline. I like pictures that pose questions rather than provide answers. All of my photos are taken candidly; nothing is staged or manipulated.
After all, it’s all about curiosity! It’s all about finding out what life has to offer me on any given day – I'm always eager to see what’s around the next corner.
What is more, I am a keen collector of photobooks. For me, it is important to explore the work from as many different photographers as possible, seeing and understanding their approaches and photographic languages, which helped me to find my own way and decide which of my own photos are good or great. I love the haptics of quality paper and the smell of ink and freshly unpacked photobooks – that’s reason enough for me to love this genre, I guess.
I am located in the German city of Braunschweig.
All works © Thomas Hackenberg Photography 1984-2020
No further reproduction or copying without the express written consent of Thomas Hackenberg. Hi-resolution files of all photos are available upon request.
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