A night for a single picture, Festivalmagazin - Focus Award 2003 / Bilderkriege, 2003-11-07


“The eye thinks that light is white, whereas in reality it’s composed of different colors- green, yellow, orange…” With what he has accomplished with lighting effects and more, Jens Komossa manages to keep his listeners fascinated for hours, as he goes about the business of “giving and taking time.”

“It’s funny- you repeat so many things in your life,” explains Komossa, “it’s like a book that you read over and over, and every time you read it, you find something new.” That’s how night photography is for him. The first series he showed came from before he began his studies, a series of pictures from little French towns with their dimly lit streets, almost devoid of light sources. There followed in a later phase the “Berlin Rooms,” a portrait of his chosen home of Berlin, far from any cliché. And that was far from the end of his foray into night photography.

“I sit there through the night and guard the camera.”

The question that logically follows is this: ‘How does one capture such a quality of light at night?’ The answer is hidden in the title of this event: “Time…” His secret lies in the exposure time. “It’s not the most time-efficient method of photography,” he confides with the wink of an eye. “But that makes it all the more efficient material-wise.” The exposure of one his pictures can demand up to four or five hours. “I sit around all night, drinking red wine and guarding the camera, making sure no one walks through the picture.” The fruits of a night’s labor: one single negative.

Quality over trash photography

A positive aspect of this kind of work is that he avoids mountains of unusable material, and never takes the wrong shot. “You don’t sit there for hours in the dark for any old trash,” Komossa points out. That makes sense. For his exams at the technical college in Essen, he would often present a single folder of work, whereas his peers would have entire cabinets full. “I like to really concentrate on one photograph and really do a good job on it, explains the 38-year-old. He shies away from creating huge deluges of pictures, out of which one picks only the best few and of which one must then throw away the bulk.

Today, Jens Komossa works equally as a commercial and art photographer. Although night photography has come to be his signature, he is always looking for other languages, forms, and expressions in photography. He declines to dedicate himself so strictly to one kind of work- he wants to keep himself open to everything. His personal philosophy acclaims this very sentiment: “You just have to do something, and you will automatically develop in a certain direction.”

Sarah Thelen

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