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2012 BarTur Award Winner JOACHIM FLEINERT talks to the BarTur Photo Award

Joachim Fleinert, born 1984 in Denmark. Live and work in Copenhagen. His works has been displayed at various photo festivals, museums and institutions such as: Pingyao International Photo Festival (China), Hasselblad Center (Gothenburg), Photoville (New York), Fotografisk Center (Copenhagen), The Photographers' Gallery (London), Riga Photomonth (Riga) and Sven-Harry's Art Museum (Stockholm).

Joachim Fleinert, from The Mexican Box, Ancient Shapes of Modern Voices, collage 200 cm x 695 cm.

Joachim Fleinert, born 1984 in Denmark. Live and work in Copenhagen. His works has been displayed at various photo festivals, museums and institutions such as: Pingyao International Photo Festival (China), Hasselblad Center (Gothenburg), Photoville (New York), Fotografisk Center (Copenhagen), The Photographers' Gallery (London), Riga Photomonth (Riga) and Sven-Harry's Art Museum (Stockholm).

How would you describe your work?

I like to identify myself as a visual artist who is not locked to a specific medium, but as a part of the process find and work with photography as a result of random encounters in my everyday life. Doing the recent years, I have worked with images found everywhere in the urban landscape, from sidewalks to street-markets of all kinds. With a curator’s mindset I work from the stories that exist within the photographs I find and try to see them in a new contemporary light. I'm very much interested in photography’s place in history, the consumption of it and also how we use photography to understand our surroundings.

You've already touched on about how do you decide to start a new project is it sometimes do you plan to kind of look at a certain element or is it purely by coincidence that you find something at a flea market or something that catches your eye?

It’s a bit hard to explain since I work much on intuition and my trained eye for stories or pictures that I want to know more about. In my case you never know when and where a new inspiration to a project emerge. For instance when you go to a flea market you are never certain about what you will find and if also take in consideration a simple walk on the street can result in finding discarded photographs. However there are some projects that I've been working on that have inspired me to look more directly at some specific topics.

What you're working on at the moment?

At the moment I am very much involved in creating collages made by either found or donated photographs. For instance I have lately been working on an ongoing series of projects with the overall name the Russian Suitcase, which is an investigation into the many stories that I've experienced while traveling several times in Russia. One of my visits to Russia included a one and a half month artist in residency program in Moscow and otherwise I have been 8 times in the country during the last 4 years. Besides my own observations the project is especially focused on how Russians from different parts of society perceive Russia today. As for now it has resulted in several collages. Some of them were made in collaboration with random people on the streets of Moscow and also working in an archive of an independent Russian newspaper that allowed me to work in their database of thousands of images.

Sounds great. So where did it start for you. What kind of lead you to photography?

My story is that photography has always been a very natural part of my life. My father has a huge passion and a comprehensive collection of cameras of both film and cinema cameras. Funny enough my Father has never really been interested in becoming a photographer or basically taking pictures himself, it has and still is more the historical, physical and technical aspect of photography that he is interested in. The basement has always literally been full of cameras. I occasionally was allowed to try and use some of them. The more I did the deeper my interest in photography developed. Throughout the years I tried a big variety of cameras of all kinds, which has given me a great experience in photography. However today I’m not considering myself as a Photographer, maybe more an image-maker that had to go through a childhood full of cameras before I found my interest in found photography. In some ways you can say I have inherited my father’s passion of collecting but instead of being interested in building up a collection I believe that the images I find hide stories that are more worth telling than producing my own photographs.

Do you ever follow any of the stories that you discover any of the people?

I always try to seek as much information about the images I find as possible! Of course it varies a lot depending on how old the pictures are and especially if it is a family photography. However an example is one of my current projects The Mexican Box that is a result of a five-month-journey to Mexico. At a renowned and notorious market in the middle of Mexico City I found a box full of original photographs. My research showed that the photographs surprisingly originate from an archive of a defunct Mexican magazine consisting of 2500 unique photographs, with professional quotations and remarks on the backsides (e.g. name, date and event). The magazine had a strong focus on Mexican politics and societal problems between the early 1980s and late 1990s. My ongoing research includes photographs of former presidents, politicians, authors, journalists, human rights activists and dissidents. The many stories I have found include the war against drugs, corruption among police, but in particular the question of freedom of speech and expression in Mexico.

So I've been asking people who take photos if they look for anything in a good image or what makes a good photographer. But for you, I wonder, are there any images that you see, that really draw your attention? What is it about them that makes you interested in them?

Good question. I think I am interested in the originality and the physicality, which is also one of the reasons why I am often using the original pictures in my projects. I am not that interested in the perfect picture. Of course pictures can be eye-catching or attractive but I believe more in the message and the history behind the photographs. For me the good story consists of many images at the same time, the collection and even the episode up to when the photographs were found, that's what brings out the whole picture for me.

And do you have any favorite photographers or favorite artists that really interest you and inspire you?

I don’t think I have any specific favorite photographers or favorite artists. Many inspire me, also authors, so I think it will be too abstract to only mention one or even ten. Some of them inspire me to more extent than others, sometimes only a tiny fragment of a practice or artwork, all of which have formed me as the artist I am. Quite obvious I am very much inspired by people in my own field of found photography or readymades but also artists that challenge the medium, the “copy paste” era we live in, mass consumption and environmental activism.

Are you represented by a gallery?

Not currently.

Have you got any top tips for people who really want to make a career out of photography or using photographs as a medium for their work?

Basically my top tip is to believe in yourself even in a situation when no one else is believing in you. Be patient. I quite often say, patience is your best friend. Do what you love to do, as long you love doing it - this applies to everything in life. If you don't have a 110% passion and a joy to what you are doing, don’t do it. Work hard, be humble and don’t forget it’s often outside a comfort zone where all the magic happens.

What was your first camera and what do you have now?

It’s long ago but I believe my first camera was one of these most likely very kitschy one time use/disposable cameras, which probably had a pop band on the cover. Well I’m not using a camera that often but I have recently slowly started to use the camera for some new ideas, which I’m currently exploring. For that I am switching between a 35mm Konica Hexar AF and Fujifilm GW690 III 6x9 medium format camera.

That's fantastic. Thank you.

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