The documentary photographer Ralf Meyer has successfully opened his new exhibition “Nichts war, wie es bleibt” (nothing was as it remains) on October 10 in the Bunker-D on the FH campus. Thereby the 25th “Bunkerwoche” (bunker week) has been heralded as well. I went to the vernissage last Thursday to talk to the photographer from Bremen – and to marvel at the photographs.
Ralf Meyer takes you back to the Recent German history, almost 90 years ago. His photographs are results of the last 18 years of hard work and passion. The outcome is really impressive. What I liked most is that there is a description next to the photographs which let the photos appear in a different light than on the first sight. Behind every single one of his photographs is a story. Many stories go back to the Nazi time, others are about racism and hate, but also about refugees welcome or success. The photos do not necessarily show beautiful things, but rather what needs to be seen.
Ralf, how come you exhibit in the Bunker-D in Kiel?
That was due to an interaction of personal connections. Klaus-Michael Heinze, the chancellor of the FH Kiel, was the chancellor of the Muthesius art school, back to when I studied. I was a student of communication design at the “Mu”. About two years ago, I went to another exhibition in the Bunker, from two Kieler friends of mine, where I met Klaus-Michael again. We had a good talk and next thing I know was him offering me an exhibition. What intrigued me particularly was that I made photos of former Nazi buildings which I would now be able to present in a former bunker – a perfect match.
One photograph caught my attention at first sight: one piece of the “Architektonische Nachhut” (architectural rearguard) which shows convicts in striped suits, like the victims in the concentration camps had to wear. What is the story behind this piece of work?
This is actually the one photo that Klaus-Michael acquired the rights of two years ago already. The people that wear the striped suits are actors during their break. They are standing in the so-called “U-Boot-Bunker” in Bremen, where I was born. That scene took place in 2001 when the theater in Bremen put on stage a show in the bunker. Originally, the bunker was built to produce submarine boats. I am very happy about how the photograph works on the wall here in the bunker.
How did you find your style of photography, the artistic documentary photography, and how would you describe it?
I cite from reality and present that through my point of view. Basically, my photographs show the reality through my eyes. The person who disclosed this style of photography to me was my lecturer Dirk Reinartz. He was a great and experienced photographer who’s sadly not with us anymore. After my diploma he directly offered me a job at the “Mu”.
You now live in Hamburg for almost 20 years. Do you still feel connected to Kiel?
Funnily enough, yes. I moved to Kiel for my studies and didn’t warm up with the city in the beginning. Also, I didn’t like the fact that the Muthesius was not a real photography school. Now I know that everything I have learned during that time was extremely helpful to me at different jobs or stages of life. That includes typography or graphic design. And I still have a few close friends in Kiel who make me come back for a visit every now and then. After all, I still live in Northern Germany.
Is there anything you’d like to advise aspiring photographers?
This is something that Dirk Reinartz used to say that I want to pass on: If you question something it is not the right thing for you. This is actually applicable to all careers. But especially in artistic jobs, like photographer, the market is overrun nowadays. Many people can take good photos. Still, if you know you really want to do this you should definitely go for it.
Agreed. Thank you so much for the interview, Ralf. And congrats on the exhibition.
Are you interested now to see the photographs yourself? Ralf Meyer’s exhibition is open every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. until November 6. Other visiting times are available by arrangement. The Bunker-D is located on the FH’s campus, Schwentinenstraße 11.