April 22, 2020

What are your thoughts on the current affairs of the world? How does this period affect you personally and does it have an effect on your work?
This epochal moment can be read as a time of reconsideration. My work has always dealt with the cultural experience of images. This includes that landscape is something that you also experience and perceive physically, mentally and through its cultural roots. It has always fascinated me that the world has become globalized in international understanding and that it has already been on longer paths before. Unfortunately, this world served more economic interests and rather fueled the irresponsibility of certain countries, which is now showing itself in a terrifying way. It was therefore never enough for me to follow a superficial curiosity and fly first class to Hong Kong in order to then photograph a hotel lobby there or to photograph a piece of primeval forest from a tourist viewing platform.


Elger Esser,  Combray (Saint-Loup)

Elger Esser, Combray (Saint-Loup)


Knowing that you are an artist who is very much engaged in literature, history and music and the visual arts, are you finding solace in reading or researching anything in particular right now?
I have no need for consolation, but that can still come ... As an artist, you live your life anyway, quasi-naturally, in a quarantine.
For me, not much changes in the work, except that I am prevented from traveling and my gallerists hindered from selling my work. I perceive both as a serious interference with my autonomy. I can't think of any suitable literature for this scenario.


How are you spending your days at the moment?
I think that the closest view often reveals much larger wideness. Due to the current travel restrictions, even in Europe, in this dark time, I have put my darkroom back into operation. My own archive and many undiscovered pictures have enabled me to embark on a wonderful journey.


Can you describe the work that you are currently making in your darkroom?
I have been working on my Atlas of unknown France for 15 years. This work, entitled „Combray" based on Marcel Proust's novel and the idea of a visual and non-literary memory, has so far been realized in the form of heliogravures. Now I'm trying to enlarge the pictures, which have been taken since 2016, as silver gelatin prints, which for me is also a journey through time, because it takes me back to the beginning of my photographic work


Elger Esser,  Combray (Marchenoir)

Elger Esser, Combray (Marchenoir)


Knowing that you are an artist who travels a great deal to make work, is not being able to travel right now affecting the way you're thinking about future projects? 
The subtle changes in our immediate environment, the small differences in cultural, geographical, historical terms, have always fascinated me. I feel as deep European and have always reflected this in my work. I owe this knowledge to the experience of feeling as a stranger on a tourist platform in the US as well as in an Asian hotel lobby. ;-).
I am very happy that all my partners are looking ahead during this time and I am sure that after this time of crisis we have grown and learned to focus on the essentials.


Elger Esser,  Combray (Chaumont)

Elger Esser, Combray (Chaumont)

Interview by Zoe Lemelson.

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