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.