FOTOGRAF #05 / borders of documentary // 2005
by Peter Bialobrzeski

The first photograph that I saw by Andreas Weinand, which must have been fifteen
years ago now, depicted depraved-looking young people at some sort of heavy
metal party. It had been taken on a Christmas Eve in the late 1980s. I remember
thinking then that the photographer must be some kind of tough guy. The photographs
struck me as unbelievably harsh, full of an archaic power. They were, in the best sense
of the word, atmospheric - instantly transporting me to a environment I wished to have
nothing to do with. In another photograph from the same series, two young men stand
on their hands in the pounding surf of a beach in Portugal. This picture had an equal
force, an equal intensity, and the young pair portrayed here, I learned later, belonged
to the same group of adolescents. 

Andreas Weinand entitled this series, his early 1990s graduation project at the University
in Essen, Finding Oneself. The title indicates that this series means much more to Andreas
than merely a reportage on a youthful gang. It is representative of a stance in the world
of photography rare back then and nearly absent now. Andreas Weinand was striving
to expand the genre of the photo-reportage, in order to arrive at a universal statement
defining youth and the search for onself. Even though he was close to his protagonists,
he was not afraid to trespass boundaries, and did not shirk from taking photographs that
were intimate, at the same time using the camera as a dissecting scalpel. In doing so,
he left the traditional [and at that point the only acceptable] black and white form of
reportage far behind him. At the same time he made it clear that while the esssayistic
devices used by Danny Lyon and Bruce Davidson during the 1960s and 1970s in their
monumental books, The Bikeriders, and Brooklyn Gang were stylistically adequate
for capturing that particular epoch, they were nevertheless not suitable for mediating
the youth culture of the 1980s. 

Andreas Weinand therefore decided to use a medium format camera, and often
employed a flash in daylight, he thus achieved almost surreal frozen moments; a
highly topical translation of the fragmentary peaks of the adolescent state of mind.
Andreas Weinand's photographs thematize yet another feature typical of the 1980s:
sensitivity and hardness, the seeming ambivalence that wound through the mental 
landscape of the youth culture of the late West Germany, torn between the necessity
of social protest against nuclear energy and the NATO armaments race, and the
desire for private happiness. 

In terms of the photographic tradition, Weinand's work of the 1980s and early 1990s
place him in the context of the "New Color Photography" of the USA. Other influences
from this period would be, for instance, the work of Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank. 

After finishing his studies, Andreas Weinand made his living through commissions from
magazines such as Tempo and Stem. Among his themes are, naturally, "Youth" and
"German Festivals". Nonethless he quickly realized that his own motivation to work in
the field of photography, and the way in which the media use his photographs, are
radically different. The media did not present Weinand's readiness and I sensitivity
in terms of commitment to his themes, but instead took his radical interpretation of
the image to be a signifier of a tacit agreement, of a cynical distance from the world. 

Disappointed, Weinand withdrew, and embarked on his work, Reflecting Oneself,
in which he attempted to define himself and his relationship to the world in diary-like,
tranquil and yet extremely precise photographs. In terms of visual language, he thus
removed himself from his earlier work, while maintaining his integrity at the level of
content. Let us quote Andreas Weinand on this point: "My interest in photography
derives from the need to express myself and to explore the essential questions of life.
At the center of my work is a search for human identity. " 

His current work, Field, a long-term observation of two small farmers in the Ruhr,
on the surface again appears totally different from his previous work. But if we
look more closely, it definitely forms an integral part of his canon. Through his
photography, he explores whether certain social propositions, outside of social
conventions, could play an important role for him. The radicalism of youth revolt
has given way to a subtle, almost polite cultivation of the land with hard physical
labor, and this is just as sincere as it is of consequence to an artist now over forty
years old. To have the same sensibility as a twenty-five year old does not mean,
in Weinand's world, to remain an unemployed and disaffected youth. This makes
him pleasantly different from many of his "creative" contemporaries, who in their
Doc Marten shoes, baseball caps and hooded sweatshirts vainly try to conserve
their past dreams. Field is thus far less conservative than the attempts of greying
techno DJs to create, in runnning a club of their own, a Walhalla of the previous era.
Field tries to describe the possibilities of a self-sufficient, simple life within an ever
more complex society. An attempt rather similar to those of Knut Hamsun and
Ernst Wiechert in the literature of the early 20th century.

With his earnest, meticulous subjective-documentary manner, Andreas Weinand
in my opinion ranks among the most seminal photographers of his generation.
It is regrettable that none of his works have been published yet in book form,
or even presented in a solo exhibition. In a world where culture has to ever more
loudly draw attention to itself to be noticed at all in the clamor of the mass media,
such placid and non-spectacular projects have a difficult time. Andreas Weinand
and his work remind me a little of the British photographer Tom Wood. For fifteen
years, Wood worked in and around Liverpool on everyday projects, almost unnoticed.
It was not until the Cologne gallery owner Thomas Zander discovered Wood and
was able to foist him onto the museum circuit that Wood's work won the recognition
it deserved. Within a few years, several books of his work were published, while his 
photographs were displayed in respected museums and became part of renowned
collections. The work of Andreas Weinand has a similar potential, and it is worthy
of attention. I wish him luck. 

/ Peter Bialobrzeski

Published in FOTOGRAF #05 / borders of documentary // 2005

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