… this, at first glance harsh statement of a very good friend of mine, was actually considered rather prankful, but had triggered a far-reaching thought for me.
It can be quite an exciting process to think about our existence as a single individual within humanity as a whole collective. With eight billion people (and as long as we’re not on the Truman Show), the world is not about anyone. No matter what ethnic background, culture, religion, skin color or continent we are from, the earth is spinning at the same speed for all of us and our lifetime under the sun is not just limited – considering the time already past and perhaps still it is just a tiny spot in the universe – like a short flash of a star.
However, this should not mean that our lifetime would have no value – quite the contrary. Precisely because of their brevity, the lifetime of each individual is uncannily exclusive and valuable. It is therefore all the more important to make the best of the given time, with the means given, and perhaps even make a contribution in the world in which we leave our mark. Steve Jobs once put it very well in a meaningful metaphor … “We’re here to put a dent in the universe!” The quality of who we are and what we do is not defined by our words. It is only our actions that show who we really are. Bien sûr not a new knowledge yet, but one too often forgotten.
“Each artist’s work is autobiographical.”
Helga Polzin in Women’s Stories
But what does all this mean for myself, for a photographer, a part-time writer and art director? I’m not a rocket scientist and the iPhone has already been invented. Since I can not sing very well, I will not become a second Luciano Pavarotti. All that remains for me, therefore, is my attention, my camera, my ideas, thoughts and feelings and the knowledge of how I can understand all that in words and pictures. For me, I can say that I would like to make my personal contribution in this world and in my lifetime. All that I design or create must always and in any case express its significance – If it does not, it is at best something for social media and ultimately not sustainable … without reverberation!
Also, one should not be too influenced by external circumstances. It makes a difference if something comes from within, is drawn from the heart, or if it is simply just mended nonsense. The voices out there can be very loud sometimes. It is therefore all the more important to hide them, so that they do not influence our own work too much and that our creative work is not subconsciously determined by outsiders. Thus, the conclusion is that every “creative” moves very well in a small world of its own, a world in which a lot of things revolve around oneself. Only then can we achieve something “new” and “meaningful” at the end of the day – something that will be seen and heard for a long time to come.
Well, what I have created so far in my personal “little world”, you will find on these pages – unadorned, unretouched, reduced to the essentials – something real.
In this sense, all the best & have a good entertainment
Yours Alexander von Wiedenbeck
As a child of the 1980s, he was undoubtedly born 30 years too early or 30 years too late. Supposedly too young to celebrate the once glamorous era of photography and yet too old to come to terms with today’s developments in photography. He is an analogue player in a digital world.
But let’s go back to the beginning. The desire to pursue a creative purpose in life grew in Alexander von Wiedenbeck at a very young age. It was his wish to create something “real”. But as is so often the case in life, he was to lose sight of this path. Having gone training a technical and commercial apprenticeship, his professional career finally took him into the world of media in a round about way after studying when he founded an advertising agency in 2004.
“Maybe the loneliness shaped my awareness!“
Alexander von Wiedenbeck
Dazzled by the creative options on offer to him at the beginning, the magic faded with the years though and he realised that he was just a puppet of the consumer society. Selling untruths, presenting facts differently to what they actually are, that was his daily bread a lot of times. His clientèle was “bien sur” very high class and his agency’s client base included reputable international brands. But the bigger the budget the more it resembled a kind of prostitution and his personal fulfilment was increasingly overshadowed by the slavery of his services.
Out of the dark, it was time to consciously live life again, to limit himself to the essentials and to pursue his dreams, whatever the cost. And so Alexander left everything behind him in 2012 and started his first independent production of the Obsession for Freedom photo book, which bridged emotional portraits and unretouched fashion shots that looked more like casual street photography. It was a kind of “revolution back to the old values” for him. In doing so, he limited himself exclusively to black and white photography for the first time, which as he says himself, actually limits the images and emotions to just the essentials. To that what his dreams always aspired to – something “real”.
At the time, he did not realize that fashion was playing a much bigger role in his life than he thought. The family tree of the Wiedenbecks, which dates back to the year 1634, is diversified over the decades and the family is distributed around the world. However, one aspect of the family chronicle runs through the centuries in the various paths of the family tree, namely the profession of the fashion tailor. So it was probably destiny that in the middle of his life, in the search for his self-realization, he (at first) moved into the field of fashion photography.
“Kunst = Mensch = Kreativität = Freiheit“
Joseph Heinrich Beuys // 1921-1986
Alexander once called it “a leap into uncertainty”, which you can undoubtedly agree with him on. But this newly achieved freedom, the escape from the prostitution that had bound him, is an infinitely precious gift that it is worth striving for. And as a result, he can look back on lots of these independent creative productions today. Whether it’s an advertising campaign, a magazine editorial, or a simple and unique portrait, in every case he has expressed what drives him – the essentials.
Over the years and the countless photo productions with great artists, actresses, singers and musicians from Hong Kong, Paris to New York and Los Angeles, the world has given much good to Alexander. He has experienced intense moments and the discovery of himself and his passion for real photography has given him exciting paths to magical places, making him a great and unique experience.
Alexander von Wiedenbeck // Berlin, 2017
Driven by incredibly gratitude for his life, the idea grewed up to give something back to the world, to return the favor. But how, where and above all with whom? So I wrote to ten German aid organizations and offered my support and more importantly presented my vision of a pioneering social responsibility project within the photography industry. Following numerous talks, considerations and after comparing the brutal facts I then chose the “Aktionsgruppe Kinder in Not e.V.” from Windhagen with its projects on the Philippines. Children living in cemeteries, rubbish dumps, forced child prostitution were concepts that had stopped me in my tracks and moved me to start here.
“They opened up my heart so much more than I had ever thought possible!“
Alexander von Wiedenbeck // Philippinen, 2015
In 2015, he travelled to the Philippines together with the “Aktionsgruppe Kinder in Not e.V.” aid organisation to visit the children living in cemeteries and on rubbish dumps there and take portraits of them. This series resulted in a touring exhibition where all the proceeds from the sales of exhibits and the exhibition catalogue were donated to those projects on the Philippines where the photographs were actually taken. Until today, numerous aid projects have been implemented from these proceeds such as the construction of several water fountains for the water supply, as well as the construction of a small school & health center in which over 200 infants are taught.
Recently, a complete pre-school in Cebu City at the Philippines has been funded from recent sales of his photographs to finance the entire 2018 school year. But this project should not be insignificant on his future life. Back in the Western world, in the midst of Show & Shine and an oversupply of material consumer goods, it was hard for him to overlook the omnipresent superficiality.
In the same year, just after his trip to the Philippines, he was also involved in another transnational project by the international CARE aid organisation, which works on empowering women in Nepal, Uganda and Ethiopia. Alexander saw a significant link to his actual genre, portrait & fashion photography, in the women’s rights issues, as the respect and rights of female players is still an issue even in the Western world. It therefore simply seemed consistent with his own world view to get involved here. The resulting photographs are now being incorporated into publications on the issue of women’s rights and will be displayed at numerous charity exhibitions arranged by the aid organisation. Also, already since 2016, his photographs of the women empowerment found their way into the annual european issue oft he CARE calendar. The proceeds also flow into these aid projects.
In the following years, Alexander became increasingly involved in photography reportages for aid organisations, gaining important insights into his own world view, as well as about himself and his personality. The center of his creative work has shifted even more to the essentials of what drives us all – freedom, hope, the love, the happiness and the strength to aspire to what we deeply desire inside!
Today, in his mid-30s, Alexander von Wiedenbeck has reinvented himself so often to finally end up where he is now – in the midst of life. Having finally found personal fulfilment and the photography that he once was supposedly too young for. Capturing genuine, authentic moments that celebrate real photography, regardless of today’s modern and yet bedazzled understanding of the same, he does exclusively what his heart desires – he photographs the essentials!