The pictures shown in the exhibition bear witness of the special encounters of the photographer with unique people on his trips through Africa and Asia. Since 1998 Jan C. Schlegel regularly travels to remote places, which are secluded from the tourism of the western world. On his tours the artist observed the rapid decline of traditions and increasing change of the way of life of the people within their tribes due to globalisation. The inexorable changes woke the urgent wish in the photographer to portrait people, to capture impressions and to preserve traditional life forms in his pictures. Thus Schlegel not only creates artistic photographs, but also documents and preserves unique pieces of art – the people themselves. None of people photographed wear special make-up or were specially dressed before the photographs were taken. Nothing was staged, nothing is fake. They were all captured in their own habitat – at the market, in the village square, or simply on the roadside. The only stylistic device Schlegel uses for each one of his photographs is a simple grey background. With it he concentrates the attention on the people, not on their living conditions. The basic message is the internal and external beauty of the pictured people. Schlegel emphasises their uniqueness, their value and their irreparableness. With his art he fights for the particularity and individuality of the cultures.
During the last years Schlegel visited 61 countries, always in search of the distinctive beauty and variety of the people. The picture’s compositions, the highly contrasted play of light and shadow, the inner dynamics and the extraordinary perspectives, open a crack in the door of secret-treasures of this world that are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Schlegel often stays several weeks with the tribes to get to know and understand its way of life. With his assistant Schlegel lives in modest circumstances among the people, which he tries to portray. Step by step the photographer gains their trust, in order to make pictures in the desired nearness and intimacy. With his photographs Jan C. Schlegel gives us a glimpse on foreign cultures and allows us to discover something about the uniqueness of every single person.
Thus we meet Biwa, 44 years, from Ethiopia, one of the most respected warriors of his Karo tribe. With pride and great strength he poses in front of the photographer. His fame means, he has killed three lions, four elephants, five leopards, fifteen buffaloes and numerous crocodiles.
Monteria, 10 years, tenderly looks at us with her crystal-clear blue eyes. Schlegel found her in Nuristani in Pakistan. Her family descends from the people of Kalashi, an own tribe from the area between Pakistan and Kashmir. The Kalashi have a polytheistic faith and are nature loving, their culture decisively differs from the ethnic tribes which surround them. Today Monteria’s family lives in a remote area in the Hindu Kush, where they gradually loose their traditional culture, clothes and spiritual rites and festivities.
Nale, 18 years, belonging to the Sure tribe in Ethiopia, lives in a small mountain village near the boarder to Sudan. She is the daughter of one of the elders of the tribe. The size of her ear jewellery indicated the extent of her dowry. The bigger the plate in her ear, the greaterthe marriage portion. With an upraised head she presents her jewellery to the camera and and by doing so reveals her self-conception and pride.
Since the beginning of history, human kind is made up of an endless number of cultures, people and tribes. Each one has its own way of living, its own view on things, values and life-styles. The faces of these people sink deep into our memory and remind us with their prominent aesthetics of how important it is to preserve cultural identities in all their variety.
The black and white photographs from Jan C. Schlegel are taken with a 4 x 5 field camera (Ebony SV45 Ti) on traditional film (Kodak Tmax 400). The Negatives are developed in Kodak D76 Developer 1+1 dilution. Nothing is digitally edited, and the pictures are enlarged on fiber base photographic paper (Efke Varicon Classic FB) in the size of 50 x 60 cm and 77 x 86 cm. Afterwards each photographic print is partly toned with Schlegels own mixture. Over two years the artist has personally developed this mixture, which gives the photographs a special internal strength and depth. Often this process takes several hours and turns out differently with each print. This way each print is unique. To guarantee a maximum life and enhance the depth in the shadows each picture is Selen toned and mounted on 2 mm solid aluminium.