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Interview

Meet the coach of the ING Unseen Talent Award 2019: Adam Broomberg

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
September 10, 2019
Adam Broomberg is a documentary photographer and half of the artistic duo Broomberg & Chanarin. He is also a professor at HFBK Hamburg and teaches the MA in Photography & Society at KABK. We’re extremely pleased to welcome him as the coach for the ING Unseen Talent Award this year, where he mentored our five Futures Talents over the three months running up to Unseen Amsterdam 2019. We caught up with Adam to learn more about his career as an artist and educator, and to find out what he was looking for in this year’s finalists.
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As an accomplished artist with such an impressive CV and portfolio, could you tell us which of your projects you’re most proud of and why? 

You know, you never feel accomplished but thanks for the vote of confidence. I guess I’m most proud of having stuck with it for so long. It’s thirty years now. Sometimes you have to dig deep to keep the faith. There’s not one project I haven’t lost faith in at some point. Perhaps my personal favourite is Dodo, which involved digging up a WWII bomber on the set of Catch-22 in Mexico. It was such a preposterous idea that getting so many officials to collaborate gave me some faith in what’s possible in the world.

As an author of several photobooks, one of which, Holy Bible, was awarded an Infinity Award by the International Center of Photography, how fundamental is it to publish photobooks as part of your artistic mission? 

I think book making has mostly been my primary medium the past three decades. But I’m moving away from that now. I just spent two weeks in the stone and marble yards of Sicily. Touching a raw material is so very different from making an image from a distance. I hope I can combine the two without it feeling forced. 

In your work as a documentary photographer, the act of shooting takes a secondary position in respect to found objects and imagery, which seem to play a vital role in the creation of new images. Could you explain your research methodology and what you prioritise in your process? 

I’m more interested in the world than in photography and the art world. I need to feel things are relevant – to me, to others, and to my grandmother (if she was alive).

In your work, you often question and challenge the medium, and the practice itself. Do you translate this attitude in your teaching? What kind of challenges do you face in this process? 

Absolutely. I’m a professor in Germany, which follows a medieval hierarchy: the professor always has the final word. It’s my mission to turn this hierarchy upside down or at least level it. I hope in a few years we’ll have a class that can teach itself and I’ll be completely redundant.

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"[Young artists] use new technologies, but the personal struggles and the pain they either hide or reveal are universal"

As a professor and mentor, you’re working closely with emerging talents in Europe. How do you see this new generation’s work and creative process? 

They use new technologies, but the personal struggles and the pain they either hide or reveal are universal. It’s been such a rewarding experience going on this journey with them, helping them make work more in line with their own deep feelings and thoughts.

You coached the five emerging talents of the ING Unseen Talent Award, each of whom has their own way of working and themes that they’re interested in. How was the process of mentoring? 

They’ve all had the courage to let their old strategies go and embrace a new way of thinking through their concerns. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of them for accepting that challenge. I don’t think just one of them deserves the award, they all do!

Is there anything specific that you look for in the work of aspiring or emerging photographers? 

Honesty.

 

Thank you, Adam!

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