Berlin Profile, TIP Berlin Magazin, 2002-11-04

Jens Komossa generally pursues his illuminating craft at night

The photographer Jens Komossa, born in 1965, has evolved from an industrial and commercial photographer into a photo-artist pursuing his own projects. After cutting short paper manufacturing and then printing studies, he trained as an industrial and commercial photographer from 1985 – 1989 at Thyssen Steel AG before going on to study communications and design at the university of Essen.

After a stint working in Paris from 1990 to 1992, he arrived in Berlin in 1994, where he continued to earn his living as an industrial and commercial photographer, pursuing his own artistic projects on the side, including the 1994 text “Judging silence,” works with text and pictures including “Café Huthmacher” (1995), “Erwin and Emil” (1996) and “Little Berlin” (1997), a video “Richard” with text by Botho Strauss, a successful proposal for the installation of a bench that made it to the final of the art competition Alexanderplatz U2, as well as a hanging, motor-propelled swing in a park he presented at a sculpture competition in Holland.

Since the completion of his graduate project “Berliner Rooms” for the university of Essen in 1996, Jens has narrowed his thematic interests, and a central theme seems to have emerged in his work: he has set out to discover the night, especially the Berlin night, by presenting its light and its deserted rooms, which his photography transforms into quiet stages.

He has been photographing “Rooms in Berlin” since 1996, always by night. He has cultivated a feeling for time seldom found in his line of work by inserting sources of light such as TVs or computers into dark rooms free of human presence, and exposing his pictures for hours in their dim light. “It is interesting,” Komossa himself finds, “that the room, formed by the cultural influence radiating from the TV, is now literally plunged into the light radiating out from the TV. The very radiation that carves out our environment and our shared simulated experiences now illuminates them. The camera captures the stages created by each person, the stages which are our rooms.” In commercial photography, one has to work quickly and efficiently. Jens is therefore very happy when he can concentrate on just one picture for a whole night. It is interesting how one really feels this unique temporal quality when looking at his work, beyond just appreciating the exotic method of exposure.

The method speaks volumes, and the indeed, these pictures really are about the journey of their creation. During his extremely long exposure sessions, Jens Komossa is accustomed to psychologically breaking down his own almost voyeuristic desire to make portraits of the objects rendered invisible by the night. This technique is about communication, interaction, and a way of life. This is how Jens Komossa thinks, for example, about his idea for a pasta cookbook that he plans to illustrate with snapshots of his own noodle orgies, his friends gathered around the table, and, of course, his usual low-light, long-exposure technique. There are hints that these vague ideas are starting to coalesce into concrete projects. He has taken part in exhibitions in the museum of art and commerce as well as in the chamber of commerce in Hamburg, in Photography Now in Berlin, in Pixel Park in Cologne, in Ramp 003 of the Volksbuehne, and in the State Galery in Pankow in May 2001, exhibitions which have been widely covered in the press (recently in the magazines “Zeit” and “Frankfurter Rundschau”)

Of late, Jens Komossa has turned his focus on a book project, “Rooms of the Night,” for which he recently signed a book deal with the Berlin-based publishing house Braun. The main theme of this book is his now tested technique of making tangible the auras of the residents of the photographed room, which lie entombed in the invisible foreground. This marks a disciplined step forward, and a boiling down of the content he has long worked with. Done with TV and computer rooms, he wants to do a series of rooms belonging not to arbitrary residents, but to historical figures, and the personalities which still occupy those spaces, to see what lasting part of them he might capture. Hitler’s ghost in the ruins of the fuehrer’s bunker, perhaps? No comment, it’s all very hush-hush, and Jens Komossa hates to spoil a surprise. With a recent Grimme Institute prize winning effort, and a commission for night photos from "Die Bahn," the man has a lot on his plate. But that’s how he likes it.

Michael Simbruk

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