Johannes Reinhart, a German photographer now based in Australia, reflects upon the nature of his photographic practice, attempting to understand the workings of his subconscious in his own words.
When I press the shutter, I am one step closer to making sense of this world.
Over the last 20 years, photography has been many things for me.
Joy, escape, memories, creation, community, validation, and a job, amongst many other things.
I still remember that feeling of excitement when I bought my first proper camera. Everything – and I mean everything – suddenly looked interesting. Like, through some force, my eyes could take in more than before.
I am much more selective in what I photograph these days, though I still feel I overshoot. I still photograph many different things for many different reasons.
A constant is, and I guess this is true for many, that I take photos of what I emotionally or imaginatively react to, whether that be a beautiful sunset on the beach, a dead bird on a path, or just someone I encounter.
I have realised over the years that many of my photographs symbolise what I see in my vivid imagination.
I don’t know why I’m running… 2014
The rational part of me knows very well that what’s in front of my camera is a three-dimensional object that I flatten into two dimensions. Still, in my imagination, there’s a fourth dimension. Another layer that reveals some magic clue, an overgrown path to my inner world.
Lament of a Tree, 2022
When it comes down to it, all I really do is try to figure out this puzzle of life. It’s forever fascinating, and sometimes, I get a glimpse of understanding. Then the famous Socrates quote comes to mind: “The more I know, the more I realise I know nothing.”
Regardless, …I continue photographing everything that I find interesting, guided by what I react to, knowing that I know nothing.
While I know it’s a ferntree, in my imagination, just by the way the light falls on it, I see angel wings, 2020
Later, when I look through my images, I tend to find themes that crystalise as time moves on, and I get a clearer picture of the goings-on in my subconscious. I often learn what resonates with me at this stage and ask myself if I want to follow this up with an in-depth body of work.
Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.
Memory of Germany, 2017
A year ago, I kept photographing paths that led to an indistinguishable destination. As a photographic subject, this is certainly nothing new, and in previous years, I probably would have walked right past them. However, my wanting to photograph them made them meaningful – made them significant. I gained insight that I had started on a new path through seeing myself photograph these paths again and again. I didn’t know where the path would lead me, but photography helped me trust the road I was taking.
In Search of my Father, 2014
In my series In Search of my Father, I was constantly taking blurry photos of silhouetted men. Again, through photographing what comes naturally and then looking for meaning in those pictures, I realised, deep down, in my subconscious, that what I was doing was searching for my father.
The result; a dark yet beautiful series that is meaningful to me and represents a time in my life that eventually led to a better relationship with my father. Additionally, I know that by exposing the vulnerability of my inner life, other people may feel a little less alone in their struggles.
My photographs read like an emotional diary of timepieces of my life. All because I capture what I see, and I see what I feel.
It should be clear by now that photography adds a lot of meaning and value to my life, and I haven’t even touched on the role it has played in being part of a community and making friends.
To me, there’s a lot of joy and meaning that can be gained through photography and with a camera in hand, the world becomes a treasure box where you never know what you will find.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Internationally exhibited photographer Johannes Reinhart was born in Germany in 1974 and has lived in Perth, Western Australia since 1999. His photography is a reflection of his inner world and explores a myriad of themes such as shadow and light, alienation, life, death, loneliness and subcultures.
Johannes has won the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize, Australian Documentary Photographer of the Year and was a Lensculture Street Photography finalist. His work has been widely shown and exhibited around the world.