Düsseldorf In an interview, photographer Paula Severding spoke about her approach to motifs, her team, and her diverse artistic family.
Paula Severding (41), daughter of media artists Katharina Severding and Klaus Mitig and sister of music producer and DJ Orson Severding, like all members of this creative family, has had a long career. Wilfried Weiser has portrayed the “boxing daddy” and depicted the sweaty bodies of pro wrestling. She captured the nocturnal parallel world of Berlin in “Nocturnal” and is one of the initiators of the duesseldorfphoto + biennale. In the large-scale “Think We Must” (we have to think) exhibition at the Academy Gallery, she in no way affirms Bechers’ belief in surviving in the industrial landscape of photography, but he is looking for new opportunities to expand the media.
You combine local and global culture in your work. I’m thinking of your photo of the red light environment on Vulkanstrasse or your contribution to Morgentau’s allotment gardens. Her business has always focused on the community. How will you go forward?
Pola sieve I have been looking for years to build relationships. I’m not interested in feelings. I spent ten years photographing my brother Orson’s Nocturnal Music for the “Nocturnal” exhibition in the Kanya & Kage project space in Berlin. As a visual historian, I was interested in a form of intimacy and seriousness towards the social space of the club and this Berlin-Kreuzberg music scene.
In your main exhibition at the Dusseldorf Photo Biennale, for example, you present Walid Raad, who creates gray areas between credibility and cryptic lies. what are you doing
sieve We want to claim diversity in the history of photography, which is often said in a very one-sided way. I see photography as a way of thinking. Pictures are always linked. Lebanese artist Walid Raad deals with the civil war in Lebanon and the balance of power in it. If you tell the story a little differently, everything falters. From Hetto Steirl we have an early film she made with her friend who went on to her film role in real life, went underground, was killed in 1998 and is revered in Kurdish circles as an immortal revolutionary. The fictional material in the film becomes a kind of document that oscillates between fact and fiction, document and narrative. Of course it’s great that there are technical developments, but I’m interested in how the stories are told.
Who is the co-curator Asya Yaghmourian?
sieve A young Armenian from Berlin, who actually organized the Nigerian photo festival “Lagos Photo” in 2020 and 2022. We agree that there is no such thing as a single photographic story. Hjalmar Larsky, for example, the photographer initially for “Metropolis” Fritz Lang, immigrated to Palestine and took 140 close-ups of a young civil engineer’s face only with mirrors of sunlight, and no one is like the other. And he was not concerned with the representational image, because one can only approach a person in the multicultural Frida Europabo is a sociologist and transmits archival material that always shows black bodies from the same perspective, and this exchange of content and media is important to us.
Just a word about your career?
sieve I was born in the darkroom of my parents, so to speak, at first I wanted to be an actress and I ran into the black and white photographer Dieter Apelt in Berlin, who was not only a professor at the University of the Arts, but was also a singer in the Deutsche Oper Berlin choir who performed and gave me advice for my audition roles. However, I soon realized that I wanted to become my boss. When I was accepted into the University of the Arts with my Videos, I completed my basic studies in Photography and Film with Dieter Abelt and then studied with video and photography artist Stan Douglas, with whom I was introduced to the relationship to literature and narrative.
They even went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Surikov Institute in Moscow. What are the motives there?
sieve At the University of Pittsburgh, you can fill in the knowledge of the various building blocks. There was an intellectual exam and he linked art with philosophy, literature, and cultural studies. That’s why I generally enjoy teaching. From 2016 to 2020, she was a guest professor with Jorinde Voigt in the painting class at the Munich Academy.
Now to the family clan. What is the force?
sieve We are a production family in the best sense, with a strong media flair, but we’re also producers in their own right, each with their own signature. At the same time, there is a natural, monetary and constructive exchange, because we do not work in an ivory tower.
The last question is directed to the minimal team at Photo Biennale, where you curate the main exhibition. What do colleagues do?
sieve Liliana Radlowicz is the project manager and maintains the organizational threads together. Gallery owner Robert Pfab takes care of the comprehensive support program, and gallery owner Thomas Rieger serves in an advisory capacity. Everything works only if we are all possessed. There are around 45 locations with 50 exhibitions, from May 13th to June 19th.