Lena Herzog. From Dance Floor to Bullring.

Publication: 
Black & White Photography (No 30, February 2004)
Author: 
Tracy Hallett

"I am influenced by Weegee and Diane Arbus, but recently I went to see an exhibition by August Sander and it completely blew me away," she enthuses. "His images stay with you - they stay in your spine. With Diane Arbus, the impact is immediate, but with Sander the layers take longer to come through. You rarely see this, even in painting - with Sander the more you see, the more you get it."

It is this slow, poetic, unveiling of information that lies at the heart of Lena's work. Each project - from Viennese landscapes to Buddhist pilgrims, flamenco dancers and bullfighters - is executed with the same instinctive and questioning eye. Each series is self-generated and is as long as Lena sees fit.

"Each project comes to a natural end - sometimes it can be 10 photos or sometimes 100. The way I work with any portfolio is to immerse myself in the subject for two or three weeks, then dwell in the darkroom for two or three months. When I re-visit a subject it is like a Chines box to me, it opens out just like that. I am currently working on five different projects, all at different stages. I shoot and then come back to them. My head just doesn't work in a linear way."

It is this constant re-visiting and re-questioning of her subjects matter that allows Lena to understand the world around her. "The world is full of chaos to me," she explains. "But the moment I involve the camera it seems to make sense."

"The way I work with the camera is not deliberate. Nothing is deliberate at the time of shooting - it's instinctive. (But) I prefer to shoot in black & white because it gives me more control (in printing)."

The passionate nature of her subjects, and the love and hunger they have for the rituals and ceremonies they perform is clear. But allow the images to wash over you for a few minutes and layer upon layer begins to unfold - just like a Chinese box.

(by Tracy Hallett)