Beyond the many changes brought about by the spread of the Covid-19 virus, something creative blooms in the distance. Photographer Markus Hofstätter uses the downtime created by the pandemic to bring us a new series of tintype photographs. He uses the materials he has and the skills he's built up through the years to keep making art that inspires others to do the same. See how he's keeping himself busy in this interview.
What inspired you to create your tintype animation during self-isolation?
The precautions for the wet plate collodion process and the coronavirus are similar. If you have followed my work, you know I mostly wear a mask and gloves when working in my darkroom. After the pandemic started, everybody was wearing masks and partly, gloves outside of their house. This was when I first thought about doing a project in that direction. Additionally, we all were following coronavirus related news, the same way I followed the virus with my eyes and head in the tintype animation. With this in mind, I came up with the idea of the animation.
What do you wish to get across with your recent project?
This was the first plate of 6 Covid-19-related artworks. I express and process my feelings with my wet plate work. This helps myself and I can also make others aware of this important topic. I know I can not change everyone's mind with my art, but if it is even only one person, it was already worth it.
How does the pandemic relate to your tintype work? What are the similarities between the two?
As written above, the precautions are very similar. But also the self-isolation is a part of my work. I mostly work alone in my darkroom. I don’t mind it, its part of the process and I enjoy it. The pandemic gave me more time to work on a private project and I enjoyed this a lot. Where others were stuck at home, I was stuck in creativity.
How are you dealing with the pandemic and its effects?
In the beginning, I took care of the groceries of my mum and went for long walks instead of running to avoid funny accidents. I mostly stayed at home and went for groceries once a week. I was very careful in the beginning to avoid any possible infection. I was not afraid of the virus, but I had to bring food to my mum and had photo sessions and wet plate collodion workshops booked. Little did I know, at the beginning that, all of my workshop and commissioned work would be canceled.
Your work with United Art Gallery (UAG) is a big step. What pushed you to do it?
As an artist, you express yourself with your art and I was sure that others are doing the same. I remember seeing one of the concerts on TV where musicians (like Lady Gaga and many other unknown ones) were having a good time with their music sitting at home. That's where it hit me and I thought, we as artists have to show the world that this virus will not stop our creativity. I was stoked to get this done and it is very exciting to see all these gifted artists contribute their work in our gallery.
How did people react to your work with UAG?
I got lots of positive feedback. I think my concept of a “silent gallery” is refreshing. When you visit a gallery today, you are not distracted with comments, upvotes, or likes from other people. Galleries are normally a quiet place where you can enjoy art without any disturbance. The gallery is a little older than 30 days. We have now 150 images (in the Covid-19-related gallery) from 30 artists around the world. People are excited to be a part of our project. Also, the media/newspapers/blogs praised our gallery a lot. Since I do the video podcasts that show artists behind the united art gallery, I got also very positive feedback from them too.
What have you learned with your current artist project?
Oh my. :) I’m the founder, web developer, curator, technical assistant for any questions, public relations, interviewer, video cutter, social media team, and photographer all in one person. If you want to do a project like that seriously, you just heard about the word sleep somewhere, but you won’t get much of it - hahaha.
I don’t mind this so much, because all the artists bring great energy to our gallery. And I use this energy to make more people happy. You need lots of stamina at the beginning and have to be very understanding of different cultures. I try to create a connection between the images I publish every day. That sometimes makes it very tough. I got also more open-minded to other kinds of art and cultures. People in other parts of the world think and “work” differently. You have to consider this for your decision if an artwork makes it into the gallery or not. This is one of the toughest jobs. When new submissions are coming in, I spend often lots of time deciding if it goes into the gallery or not. Sometimes I even question the artists about their motives and thoughts. This is not a competition where you choose the best. In our gallery, it is about heart-warming stories and life-changing situations that are captured in an image.
How do you think the pandemic will affect photography/and photographers in general?
I learned a lot from behind the United Art Gallery interviews. People start to try new ways of working with their art. They grow and this brings out the best in them. This kind of situation always brought beautiful things to light. I am 100% positive that, even we have to keep distance, we get closer to each other and are more connected than ever.
I had already my first corporate headshot sessions. There I worked with a makeup artist who was constantly cleaning her tools. I was wearing a mask all the time and shot tethered to a laptop with a second screen connected. So the customer could check his portraits without coming too close to me. I was also photographing a live sports event for TV - I would say it was a pretty empty situation. So what? We learn to adapt and develop solutions for every situation. My brother photographed a wedding during the pandemic and for sure had fun too. Borders are only in our heads. We just overcome these limitations with creative ideas and this gives us new chances to create something that didn’t exist before.
What are your plans for the United Art Gallery?
You asked the right question at the right moment. The United Art Gallery just added another topic with a new album today. I think the black lives matter topic is very important and another topic that moves artists around the world to create new amazing artwork. It was important for me to leave the new album open to all different equal right topics. That's why It is called “Justice for All, inspired by black lives matter” (these three words are also a part of the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States.) I think the new album will be for sure dominated by BLM-related art, but we have already a wonderful painting that reflects a topic of native American women. I like to have paintings in our gallery. Photographers can learn a lot from painters - this painter for example has a photography background and let this background influence her paintings. With this, I invite all artists around the world to join our Covid-19 or Justice for All galleries.
My contribution to this album is called “Division - a portrait shot with non-visible light”. This portrait shows visually how divided we are right now. This is because of politicians, the pandemic, and many other things like racism or the refugee situation that was a big topic last year. I shot this portrait with film that is only sensible to UV light and infrared film (medium format). Additionally, with wet plate and digital infrared. Check my blog for a full description and a making-of video.
We would like to thank Markus for sharing with us his work. You may see more of his images and learn more about the United Art Gallery on his website.