Max Kellenberger

Max Kellenberger is a Swiss photographer based in San Francisco, USA. He tells us a few words about his on-going project Carry, a street photography style project that metaphorically explores the emotional burdens that strangers carry.

How did your project Carry begin and how long were you working on it?

I started photographing Carry about 3 years ago. It is all related to my work with a psychoanalyst in downtown San Francisco. After a very invasive and painful medical intervention I lost the ground under my feet and decided to "dive under" and investigate the bottom of my abyss. Being a photographer, I am so used to carrying (speaking of "Carry"...!) a camera all the time. One day walking to the therapist's office and waiting at a cross walk for the light to turn green I noticed that just about every single person is carrying some thing(s). I started to point my DSLR at people, focusing on the area between neck and feet. It's an ongoing series. I am still shooting but not as regularly as I used to. I seem to have become a bit less dependent on carrying my camera...

Your photographs look like they're taken surreptitiously — do you ask subjects if you can photograph them?

Yes, your assumption is correct. I am shooting from the hip, without people noticing. That also means that I end up using only about 1% of all the material. Out of focus, bad framing, bad exposure etc. A lot of editing! I do not feel bad about not asking people's permission. I am not showing any faces, it's not about individuals, it's about the human condition, the fact that we seem to need to carry something, holding on to objects. It gives a purpose, meaning, reason.

Has working on Carry brought you any closure on your own emotional difficulties?

Realizing how people share this common human trait is comforting. Realizing that I am unique and at the same time so similar to the 7 billion people is a grounding quality. Observing other people and imagining what kind of emotional loads they might be carrying helps me looking at my own.

What are you working on now?

On September 3 my solo show with the title "Le Scarpe" - Italian for "The Shoes" - opened in downtown San Francisco. It's a series of twelve large format toned cyanotypes depicting empty shoe boxes. The titles of the prints are the names of the designer of the shoes which were inside the box, like "Gucci", "Saint Laurent" or "Fendi" to name just a couple. It's been on my mind to do something with those shoe boxes ever since I started to collect them well over a decade ago. I believe that working on Carry has enabled me to look more inside myself and see a void, an abyss, a longing which is so well expressed in these empty boxes. My next project however will be sort of a retrospective of 50 years of photography in the shape of a handmade artist't book which hopefully will turn into a traveling show. I am very excited about it!

Max's exhibition “Le Scarpe” currently runs until October 17th at Corden/Potts Gallery, 49 Geary St., San Francisco.

Noela Roibás

Noela Roibás is a photojournalist from Galicia, Spain, currently living and working in London. Her project Irmá is centred around the relationship with her sister, Sara, who is affected by Cri du Chat syndrome, a rare congenital disease. Photography has always bound the sisters together as way for them to bond, with Sara as the subject and Noela as the photographer. This life long project has become a way for the sisters to interact and understand each other's worlds, using the camera as a toy, but the photographs as memories.

"It's hot and the bedroom window is open. The sound of gulls nesting on the roof reminds me that I'm home. Childhood memories pop into my head, when we played at her being my model and me her photographer. Years later, I watch her again and the glass of the lens filters reality. As she looks at me closely, the playful light drawing planets on her face. I touch her nose with my index finger slowly, intermittently. That is my way of hypnotising her and she lets me. I cannot help but wonder what the world she lives in is like and whether she's also frightened."

What was your relationship like as younger siblings? How did you feel towards your sister?
At that time, and also sometimes now, it feels frustrating and stressful. I love her so much, of course, but the situation makes our relationship complicated. Communication is really hard with her and sometimes she gets mentally blocked and it becomes impossible to get through to her. We're all able to deal with it better now but when I was little it wasn't easy to understand the situation.

How did you begin to photograph Sara as a child? What was and is her reaction to being photographed?
When we were younger it was really hard to play with her. There was pressure from my parents to spend time with her but she wasn't able to focus her attention on games and she used to just destroy everything. When I got my first camera for my birthday I started photographing my own world and Sara was a big part of it. I was around 10 at that time and she was 4. She loved it. She is quite smug so she loved to model. I used to make her up and dress her in my own clothes. She was really excited every time we had a photo session and I enjoyed it a lot too. Photographing her became a habit and enabled us to share really good times, all thanks to photography.

The photographs are very tender and soft documentations of daily life. How comfortable are both Sara and your family with this way of working?
Sara is always happy to be photographed. She also loves to look at the photographs and check if she looks good or not. My parents found it difficult at the beginning because they had no idea of what it was that I wanted to do, but as soon as they saw the pictures they were OK. It is not a work about my sister's syndrome, just a game between she and I, so I intentionally hide some images.

Which is your favourite photograph and why?
I like the one where she is diving on the ocean. Sara loves being in the water and she learnt how to float and "swim" naturally, which is really curious because she is really clumsy.

How do you think using photography as a way of interacting has affected your relationship?
It definitely brought us closer. Sara is sometimes hard to handle, so when photography is involved, I don't know how to explain it... she is in, it feels like she is there with me. And also, because we both have fun taking pictures, it means that we spend quality time together.

Has photographing Sara given you any resolution about the way you've felt towards her?
No, I don't think so. I think my feelings about her change over time, the same time as I change. Photographing her is a way to connect with her and to have some fun. Now, as time passes, it's a way to get closers into her world, even when I know that I can't.