About “Made in Feuerwehr”

MADE IN FEUERWEHR PORTRAITS

Im quartier, vom quartier, fürs quartier

EXHIBITION OF 30 PORTRAITS 

 in offspace viktoria

Vernissage:

November 14, 2022 from 18h

Finissage:

November 20, 2022

Nina Blumer, social worker and Leihbar volunteer

The idea of this portrait series was to photograph the fellow members of the collective Feuerwehr Viktoria in Bern, where I have my music practice room and photo studio, and to exhibit the work around the building to make its members more visible to the community they come from and serve. 

The Feuerwehr Viktoria is a cooperative that administers the space of the former fire station built in the 1930s and in recent years repurposed as a community building housing over 30 projects. It promotes affordable residential, commercial, artistic, cultural and meeting space for its members and promotes communal, non-profit, socially mixed and ecological forms of working and living.

Regula Schwarz, managing director of the Feuerweher Viktoria
Lorenz Keller, custodian of the Feuerwehr Viktoria

The collective consists of a very diverse group of people. Their projects range from urban gardening to audio and video production, from a boxing and a circus school to radio production for the visually impaired.  Among the many projects there is a repair shop, a second-hand shop, a bicycle shop, a communal carpenter’s atelier, an organic market on Thursdays, a raw food shop and Gastwerk, a takeaway that offers work experience to migrants and fresh international cuisine to the public and people of the neighbourhood.

What unites all these people is idealism, a pioneer spirit and a strong sense of belonging and serving their community.  They want to work in the neighbourhood, with the neighbourhood and for the neighbourhood of Breitenrain in Bern.

I wanted to take up the ideas of belonging to, and creating from within a community and reflect them in the way of making the portraits. I chose to make the portraits completely on site and with as many local tools and materials as possible. To that purpose I asked the community to let me use one of the toilets in the 2UG, next door to my music and photo studio, as a darkroom to develop and print the portraits. In the cellar of the Swiss Institute of Art Research in Zürich I found, bought and then restored, an 8x10in Sinar Norma, a camera made in Schaffhausen in the 1950s. This camera was used there to reproduce and archive works of art until the digital age made it obsolete. The studio lights I used were made by Elinchrom, also a Swiss company, based in Renens. For the rest I had to expand the “community” outside Switzerland but managed to stay within Europe. The lens was a German Schneider-Kreuznach, the film was Fomapan from the Czech Republic, and the photographic paper and chemicals are Ilford from Great Britain and Adox from Germany.  

The portraits were taken under low light in order to see the dim focusing glass. It is easy then to mistake what film holder was already used. In this case I used the same filmholder twice resulting in a double exposure.
Double exposures mistakes make surreal looking portraits.

 

I decided to work with the traditional formal portrait on black-and-white analogue film.  I chose the 8×10 format for its generosity and truthful rendering and made the portraits in the darkroom printing with the use of traditional chemicals. The cameras in this format are large, heavy and everything is manual. Composing, focusing and setting up takes time. A long time, especially in the eyes of our digital generation. I call the process the “opposite of iPhone”, because it almost completely lacks spontaneity and instant gratification. The sitter has to sit still for five to ten minutes before I take one photograph. The photos cannot be seen or proofed until the negatives have been developed, dried and printed. There’s plenty of room for errors in this long process, and errors did happen in almost every step of the way.  But when everything works the results from this slow and old method of photographing are fascinating, intriguing, nostalgic and… All Made in Feuerwehr.

Light leaks happen when old film holders are exposed to light after being loaded with film. Barbara Speck, textile designer.
Light leaks some times work as an "artistic" filter. Maxie Bernhard, works at restaurant Löscher.
When a film sheet moves in the developing tank it can cover other film sheets resulting in uneven developing.
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