Interview with Julien Morel on VICE.COM France // June 2014
on the occasion of the 4 th edition of COLOSSAL YOUTH
When and where did you take those pictures?

I photographed COLOSSAL YOUTH from 1988 - 1990 in Essen, which belonged
to West Germany at that time. Aged around 30 I had been working on my final
examination at the Folkwang School. Since 1986 I had been approaching the topic
of youth step by step in the context of magazine commissions. In 1988 I received
a grant from STERN Magazine. This was a starting point. I photographed in three
different youth milieus. One day I fortunately heard about a party that was supposed
to last for three days. When I arrived at that place, I immediately realized that I had
found the people I had been searching for. I was the only person taking photographs.
This was before the smartphone era.

In parallel I have photographed DEUTSCHE VOLKSFESTE, commissioned by
STERN Magazine.

When you took the pictures, were you thinking of publishing them
somewhere?

Of course. I planned to publish them both, as an exhibition and as a book. In
the early nineties I had exhibitions in Berlin, Braunschweig, Cologne, Tallinn,
Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Rotterdam. But I did not find a publisher then.

How big and influent was the hardcore punk scene in Essen
– and generally speaking, in Germany – by the end of the 1980‘s?

This is difficult to answer. I have not been a punk although that music matched
my feelings. I always wanted to live my own style, got inspiration from many fields.
My personal discovery of PUNK music was in 1977. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here‘s
the Sex Pistols
was an initial spark. Right in time. A statement. While photographing
COLOSSAL YOUTH I emotionally reconnected to the feelings I had had as a teenager.
I still liked the sound of punk music that was played at those parties. Especially
the Dead Kennedies.

Most of the pictures featured in the book are party-related.
Who organized those? Where did they take place?

All parties took place at ordinary rental apartments. Some people had a flat
and were open to visitors at any time. The bell rang and someone looked up.
Nobody made appointments by phone. People just stepped in and stayed for
a while or longer. I worked the same way. I visited Gero, or someone else, who
probably had been alone or in company with some guests. Not every afternoon
turned into a dionysian party. Sometimes it was hard work for all of us to await
something to happen. I was there in order to take photographs. Being
present but not entangled.

Tell me about Germany at this time, when the Berlin Wall was about to
fall and Metallica were the world‘s superheros.

I remember very well thinking that life would continue as it was at the end of the
eighties, forever. There was a feeling of bored normality. But when I was young,
I had no doubt that we all would perish in an atomic catastrophe. I had this feeling
of senselessness. No future. I went to school without knowing for what reason.
I and most of my classmates had absolutely no idea about any possible profession
we would like to pursue. In 1977, one year prior to my abitur, we made a study trip
to Berlin and visited the exhibition Tendencies of the 20th Century. Discovering
these artworks inspired me a lot and opened my eyes to the possibilities of the
artistic means of expression. I decided to find a way to express my feelings. Since
my childhood I have had for a few times the somehow unconscious idea to become
a photographer. That saved my life. When the Wall opened I became aware of the
fact that my pessimistic concerns had luckily been wrong. A new perspective
opened up. I already had elaborated a coherent body of work and I have been
confident to extend my artistic vision.

From which ‚social class‘ are you from? What your parents would think
of your lifestyle then?

I am from the so called middle class. I was given the chance to study and to
follow my genuine interests. My parents did not have this possibility when they
were young. They accepted my lifestyle and they always supported me.

When you look back at those pictures taken 25 years ago, what kind of
feelings do you have? Do you regret the invincibility of youth?

I get the feeling of pure energy. It is as if I had taken them some minutes ago.
They give me a feeling of timelessness. COLOSSAL YOUTH was not built in a day
but I am happy and grateful that it worked out this way. I have learned to practice
patience and confidence. Invincibility is a great feeling dedicated to youth. Over the
years I have learned more about myself and how to apply my abilities. Learned to
fail and learned to win. That makes me feel more relaxed. I enjoy the here and now.
Writing these lines, I do not think that any of these poles is better or worse. Just a
period in life.

Published on VICE.COM France // June 2014

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