Photogravure 5 © Henrieke Strecker
Photogravure 5 © Henrieke Strecker

We are pleased to share the work of photographer Henrieke Strecker.

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

From early childhood, nature has been my teacher. I am self-taught, learning from nature. When young I watched the flora of the Black Forest, its changes, how it unfolds, how time works upon it.
Each step is its own beauty. I look at a wilting flower and see it become a beautiful gown. Nature knows much. Gradually I learn some of what nature knows. This learning becomes my art.

How did you get started photography?

I tell quiet stories about nature and life. I began with painting, and later added photography, and I move back and forth between them. I am not concerned with documentation. My concern is embodying essential truth. I am not a photographer in the sense of building a photographic archive.
In the 1980s I began making photograms. Working without a camera is like touch: unique one-time intimacies. Light meets paper and changes it. No camera, no lens, no shutter. Touch. Sensual truth.

Would you share with us an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time?

Seeing images is for me like breathing. Contemplating images, I inhale them. They come into my blood and become part of me. Recalling specific images is for me less important. This is not to say I forget. I remember well. But the memories are not so much things to store and recall, as part of what I am, guiding all I do.

Which photographers and other artist work do you admire? 

I admire many artists. I am grateful for the long tradition of art. It is our great river. From this river we learn together, and there is always more to see. Which photographers and other artists’ work do you admire? In this same way, I respect many artists and cherish what they do. But my direct concern is life and nature and our world, more than specific artworks or styles. The work of other artists is for me like air. We are all breathing this air together.

What has been your most memorable experience as far as your photographic work?

When the USA invaded Iraq in 2003, I made a photograph called “A Pinhole Portrait of War”. With thousands of other people on the streets of Frankfurt, Germany, I protested against the war. But protest was not enough. I wanted to offer some kind of comprehension. I built a pinhole camera, sat before it, and repeated the word “war“ through the whole ten-minute exposure. I wanted to evoke a physical sense of war – the reality – because the word easily becomes abstract. War is not abstract. I wanted the feeling, the whole, not aspects. The exposure time is a dwelling place, a substance, and the substance, the ten-minute evocation, became the image.

Pinhole Portrait of War © Henrieke Strecker
Pinhole Portrait of War © Henrieke Strecker

What draws you to doing alternative processes?

Above all, I love simplicity of means. The beautiful watercolor papers. The alchemy. The magic of how the sun – nature – creates the image. However, I question the historical processes. How can we work with chemicals that damage the living earth and poison the water?

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?

Making “A Pinhole Portrait of War” gave me (1) the wholeness of art, because it was an active contemplation, embracing all meanings of the theme rather than a specific perspective, and (2) the substance of time, which is very different from its limited role of linear measure, because my experience in the ten-minute exposure is itself what became the image.

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?

Art is quintessence, homing beacon, guiding principle, and embodiment of truth, so a day suffused art-making is a good day.

Photogravure 19 © Henrieke Strecker
Photogravure 19 © Henrieke Strecker

What hangs on your walls?

My walls are mostly bare. I like empty spaces. They let me breathe in this world flooded with images and distraction. Thinking needs breathing and quiet. Empty rooms are not a lack of any kind. They are the presence of thinking and feeling, knowing, caring, learning. Empty walls encourage thinking.

What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?

The essence for me is simplicity of means. Specific gear is not my concern. The challenge is to simplify while being open to new possibilities. I like small formats, intimate in size. Especially in our era, it takes a certain courage to work small, because people expect the huge scale and sensory impact of media productions, and “small” often means weak or unworthy. For me small means intimate.

Is there one thing that you wish people would stop doing when it comes to the creative process or the photographic world?

Telling other people what I think they should do would for me be disrespectful. But there are questions we can ask together. Can we keep using chemicals that poison the earth and sicken people who work with them? Is “maximum impact” the best way to communicate, or is there a good reason to do things quietly and modestly? This era we live in asks these questions. They are not my questions to others. They are life’s questions for all of us.

Whats on the horizon?

Beside art-making, I do volunteer work in a children’s hospice in Berlin. This work gives deep perspective. I am making a project dedicated to a two-year old boy with life-threatening heart disease whom I have accompanied for eight months. The art project honors him, and conveys to other people something of the life of this boy and the other children like him. For most of us, seriously ill children seem remote. They are not remote. We are all here together. There is much we can learn from these children.

Photogravure 10 © Henrieke Strecker
Photogravure 10 © Henrieke Strecker

Thank you Henrieke for sharing your work with us.

To learn more about the work of Henrieke Strecker please visit Henrieke Strecker.