Travelling through Arizona, New Mexico and California on roads that modern interstates have meanwhile replaced, Ralph Gräf portrayed small villages with sparse populations, gas stations and abandoned settlements bearing testimony of the long-perished mining industry. “Roadside America” is an impressive project, a photographic register for future memory.
Thank you very much, Ralph, for all your availability for this interview, and for telling us a little bit about your story and the fantastic work that you have been producing. To begin with, could you introduce yourself and tell us how your creative side combines with your professional career?
Many thanks for your kind words about my work. I am originally from southern Bavaria and had a professional career as a biologist, currently as a professor of cell biology at the University of Potsdam. But I am also a passionate photographer since I was sixteen and bought an SLR camera with my first self-earned money in 1981. My work-related move to Potsdam, now more than fifteen years ago, together with the many new impressions, the very different landscape and also the very different townscapes, stimulated me not only to take the camera with me on my travels, but also to explore my new environment with the camera in my free time. It was, and still is, like being on a travel. Through photography, I also quickly found new like-minded friends.
We noticed that, instead of single images, you tend to work on long-term projects, with each one dedicated to a very well-defined subject matter. Could you explain why this option, going against the current trend of creating fast consumption content, produced mainly to be shown on social media?
I take great pleasure in putting together exhibitions and photo books. Yet, an exhibition only works with a consistent series concept. There are also many themes that are much better and more effectively presented as a series of pictures. In my book “Brandenburg Unplugged”, for example, the majority of the pictures would not work as a single picture on the wall, but as a series in the book they work very well, and the book was a great success and touched many people. Fortunately, I don’t have to make a living from photography, which is one of the reasons why I don’t really care about the “success” of a picture on social media. I make the pictures in a way that I personally like them. Of course, I am very happy when they then also please people I know personally and touch them.
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