x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Painting with light strokes

We caught up with Christian Voigt, a German photographic artist showing at Salsali Private Museum.

Egypt -- Stitched PanoramaChristian Voigt þÄì the German photographer whose amazing images are up in Salsali Private Museum
Egypt -- Stitched PanoramaChristian Voigt þÄì the German photographer whose amazing images are up in Salsali Private Museum

The fine details and nuanced tones that are visible in Christian Voigt’s photographs make them mesmerising. Couple that with their extremely large size and a viewer can enter into an almost hypnotic state. Whether it is tuk-tuk drivers taking shade under a tree in Cambodia or the grandiose hall of the Morgan Library in New York, the effect is the same and the images are certainly photographic pieces of art as opposed to artistic pieces of photography.

Voigt is a German photographer who works with large-format digital cameras and camera techniques; a selection of his images is currently on display in Salsali Private Museum in Dubai.

Your images are so powerful and almost surreal in their brilliance and colour. How do you create this effect without using Photoshop?

What makes the light, depth and contrast in my images is a camera technique, not a Photoshop technique; these effects are made while I take the photo. It is quite complicated because I take the same image up to 30 times and each time I change aperture and depth and I make little adjustments with the camera. Of course, later on, I use Photoshop; I have to. Photographers always need to do minor adjustments.

Does that mean you can only take still images then?

At the beginning I could only take still scenes and I had to be on a tripod because I use a very long exposure and sometimes it can take up to four or five hours to take the image many times. But lately I have discovered through new techniques and cameras that I can capture moving objects and I can play with the dynamics of the picture.

So you don’t make any enhancements of colour?

No. I use layers and layers of photos so that when you put them together you get this intensity and I can later choose by painting with a digital programme how much intensity I want to show. It is a manipulation but I am only using the data that is already there.

How do you describe yourself as an artist?

I like to say that I paint with the camera because that is what I want to do. If I had the hand for a paintbrush I would have become a painter, but I cannot paint so the camera has become my tool, but the painting is still what I have in my mind.

Do you plan and visualise your ­images?

I try to, but at the same time there is only so much you can plan. For example, I can plan a trip to the desert but I cannot plan the image that comes out. There is always a great percentage of exploration involved.

How long has it taken you to perfect your technique?

Well it never stops; really, you never reach a point where you think that now you know the technique. You always find a new image that asks for a new technique. I am always experimenting in how I can use my instrument, the camera, in a way that I can make these pictures.

All your images have great stories but could you tell us about the one of the Burj Khalifa at night?

This was a very difficult image to take. It took almost six hours, which is a long time so it was tricky to get all the detail in there. Sometimes even buildings can move in six hours in Dubai (laughs). This was taken in 2011 and now the skyline has changed, as it always does in this city – things evolve so quickly.

• Christian Voigt Photography runs at Salsali Private Musuem until November 1. Visit www.salsalipm.com for more information

aseaman@thenational.ae