Northern Exposure: Interview with Inga Beckmann

By Zaki JufriEvents - 03 June 2011 2:42 PM | Updated 3:02 PM

Northern Exposure: Interview with Inga Beckmann

Hi Inga. It’s a real pleasure to feature you on our website. Can you tell us a little about yourself? When did you first become interested in photography?

I grew up in the Germany countryside, and had the privilege to travel with my parents. They also enabled me to keep contact with other cultures. Beyond the European borders, we also travelled Asia in the early 80s. Back in those days, this was a rare and almost revolutionary travel destination. I knew from early on that one day I would like to juggle travelling, be in an environment with different cultures and mentalities and make room for my creative vein, which I already expressed on numerous tapestries during my childhood.

You are known as a documentary photographer. Are there any other areas of photography you cover?

I find an entirely different creative side of photography in the field of fashion and beauty. Here I see a big separation to my personal work. I also work in postproduction and as a digital operator. The pre-occupation with aesthetics, composition, colour, light, and technique in a totally different light fascinates and challenges me.  It also inspires me, but more importantly I am convinced that the pictures I “shoot” must stay true and original.

Can you tell us about your experience in North Korea? I think your pictures are awesome! Can you talk us through the process of shooting in the country?

Travelling through North Korea meant saying goodbye to the day-to-day images we are used to, and yet to welcome a stream of fascinating and inspiring new stimuli. For me it was a unique travel experience and amazing base for my work--capturing snapshots of moments in a country that not many had the chance to witness.

I was at the right time and the right place to meet my contact that made this whole trip possible; and soon an official invitation to visit the country followed by the KITC (Korean International Travel Company), the operating arm of the North Korean Ministry of Tourism.

We started each day at the break of dawn and travelled extensively through the country, where the prevailing late summer guaranteed excellent photographic conditions.

The travel route covered cities such as Pyongyang, Kaesong, Nampo, Wonsan as well as places known for their ancient historical monuments--previously unknown to the West.

From a photographer’s point of view, North Korea offers, on the one hand picturesque impression comparable in its beauty, to Switzerland, Canada, the Mediterranean and Caribbean; while On the other hand it offers a rich cultural experience, which dominates the North Korean daily life.

Are there any memorable travel moments you’d like to share with us?

It was an upper class Indian wedding. 2,000 people celebrated a never-ending stream of rites, emotions, and traditions in an unprecedented magnificence of colour and ornamental decoration (incl elephants) over seven days. For this I travelled aroundDelhi, Jaipur and Agra in one week. Until then, I have never had a comparable sensory overload.

We understand that you also travel extensively for your work. What are some of your favourite photography sites?­

From the snails in my German front garden to the top of the Juchetower shimmering in the sunset, my favourite sites are those that fascinate and inspire me in the very moment.

It is the harmony of the light, colour, subject and feeling of this moment that draws my attention and curiosity.

Do you have a favourite photograph from your collection?

It will be Episodes of a Revolutionary Past 2. I like the intensity of the colour, the mass, the unity and the power of beauty by details. Thousand dancers fascinate by their synchrony and precision, as well as the controversy how far the motive is shown in a plausible context, situation or background

What do you think is the most important factor in making a good picture?


What do you believe is the power of photography?

By conveying emotion and significance of a particular moment, photographs can take us to a different time and place. A picture is able to bring about people’s awareness of justice, compassion and love to the surface.

One of the most famous examples is a picture, taken by a Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut in 1972. He captured the moment when Kim Phuc, a nine-year-old girl, fled her village after a napalm attack - he won the Pulitzer Prize for this picture.

What is the ONE lasting impression you want to leave in your photos?

It is my utmost goal to question beauty in its common definition by social convention. To express aesthetics not necessarily only in beauty and to capture beauty such that one might question its positive valuation.

Inga Beckmann’s photography exhibition is on from Jun 2-30 at Vue Privée, 20 Cairnhill Rd., 6338-7821. Free.