Before turning to photography, Andreas Meichsner worked as a carpenter and studied architecture for three years. However, on observing his fellow students, he realised that he didn’t share the same enthusiasm for actually designing buildings. “I wanted to be as enthusiastic as them, but could only muster this when observing and analysing architecture. I came to a point when I had to admit that I was more interested in the effect of existing architecture than in designing it”, he recalls.
His architectural studies however have since fed into his work as a photographer, which uncube presents in two blog postings, starting this week with his long-term documentation of Berlin’s latest government building, the extension to the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-House, which stretches across the river Spree alongside the Reichstag.
Commissioned by the German Government’s Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning, you began your documentation in 2011 and it’ll continue until the building’s scheduled completion in 2016. How much scope is there for creative freedom in such a project?
Actually a lot. Clearly my client requires a documentation of the building process at the end of it, so we meet frequently to coordinate our ideas and thoughts on how this documentation should proceed. However, they do leave me a lot of freedom regarding the decision of what’s interesting to document and how to do it. I visit the site about once a month, more or less spontaneously, looking at what’s currently going on. Since the site is in constant change, I have to react differently every time I’m there.
You are not only documenting the building, but also portraying the people who build it.
One tends to forget that even big buildings still have to be built largely by hand. Time and again I am impressed by the extent of this handcraft and skill – how many little steps are necessary to “grow” a building of this size.
Do you think this interest is partially down to your own training as a craftsman?
That might be true. It’s also planned to both use my images in a publication and exhibit some of them permanently in the building. Therefore it’s important to me, to not only document the making of the architecture, but also to show the many people who’ve built it with their own hands.
How important is it to your work as a photographer that you studied architecture for three years?
Very important. On the one hand I received architecture-related commissions at a very early stage of my career due to the contacts I’d made in my studies; and clients also seem to grant me a large amount of trust because of my education which allows for greater freedom in the work. On the other hand I think that my aesthetic perception of space was altered and evolved during my studies. I’m always trying to create calm and concentrated images in which the observer’s eye can focus on the essential; I think I’m doing this even when working on reportage or taking pictures of people. I guess that this really constitutes the essence of my photographic work.
– Andreas Meichsner is a photographer based in Berlin.
Next week: one of Meichsner’s self-initiated projects, in which he looks at the constricted nature of contemporary urban space in Japan.