• Conversations
  • ‘Saga’: A Story Both Ancient & Contemporary by Jessica Wolfelsperger

    Jessica Wolfelsperger is a Swiss photographer, based in Berlin. She won the Swiss Photo Award 2016 and was finalist for the same award in 2017 with series Saga and Hide & Seek. Saga is her new body of work produced during an artist residency of the Verzasca FOTO Festival. It is an enigmatic yet carefully told story that inspire curiosity about the main aspects of a world we don’t live. The time we realize that this project is not so internal and dream-like, we have already get more closer to a truth.

    To begin with, could you please discuss your earliest experiences with photography? What triggered you to use this medium?
    When I was in Kindergarden my parents gave me a little plastic camera to play with, it was a simple analog point and shoot camera and not an expensive one at all. I can remember that I had so much fun with it. I only got black & white films, because they used to be cheaper than color at that time. One day I got a colored one and that made me so happy and excited. I was too young to have any ambitions in photography, it really was only for play but this special feeling while taking pictures never left me. With eleven I went into a summer camp where we learnt how to really use a camera and I developed my own films for the frst time. That was a magic moment. Then I lost track of photography a pretty long time, I always took pictures somehow, had always a camera with me but I was more involved with other stuff. I got back into it intensely when I studied it in the art-school.

    In your series Saga we see a successful combination of black & white and color photographs. Knowing your work, you mainly use black and white. However, is this choice in this case related to the primitive myths of Monte Verita?
    It’s true, I mainly shoot in black & white, but this is changing now. I knew that for this series I have to use color as well, because of the landscapes. In general I love to mix formats and camera types. So it was actually only a natural next step to do. I went to the museum of Monte Verità in Ascona in Switzerland to get inspiration and more info about this community and there were also pictures hanging in color. I choose black & white because I can catch the ambivalent atmosphere better which I like.

    Sagas are stories mostly about ancient Nordic and Germanic history. In contemporary usage sagas are parallel to tales. Your visual story could potentially bring up uncomfortable thoughts about the modern society structure. Is this intentional?
    Yes, this is a topic in this series. As I live currently in Berlin – a big bustling and pulsating metropolis – it was a big contrast to live for nearly two months in the complete nature back to basic without distraction everywhere. I started to see and feel differently and I didn’t really miss a thing.

    “The most important thing for me is silence and having time for myself, so that I can transform all these inspirations and information”.

    It’s unbelievable how beautiful and healthy nature is. How it sharpens our senses and how it calms you down but still it has a power and also something respectful and fearful. That made me think a lot about our world we live in or maybe how I want to live. It was like a detox from my rather stressful life in big cities.

    What are your future plans for Saga? Do you intend to publish a photo-book or do you think it matches more the nature of the exhibition walls?
    I am already in discussion with a publisher about a book, I think it would fit beautifully as a book – but I don’t want to rush. I love this work on the wall pretty much, because I can play with layers and always change it a little bit. That makes it for me also more interesting to compose it everytime newly.

    Your photographs strongly remind me of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and especially the enigmatic element of it . Could you talk about some of the materials you find inspiring?
    Indeed David Lynch used to be a big inspiration. I loved Twin Peaks, I was obsessed with it as early teenager, it was the first time I got in touch with such a bizarre strange world and it captured me deeply. I watched it secretly, my parents wouldn’t probably have allowed me to watch it. I still love the quite well known sentence “The owls are not what they seem”, something I transport also in my work somehow – the secret and to let things open. Movies are a huge source of inspiration for me. But also the nature and the life itself. I mean there is so much going on in this world, I don’t even know where to begin and where to end. I also love to go to exhibitions. I can seek so much inspiration from everywhere. A book, poems, paintings, animals, trees, theater, Internet, people, home, travels… I am a sponge, that soaks up a lot of different things. But the most important thing for me is silence and having time for myself, so that I can transform all these inspirations and information.

    Apart from Athens Photo Festival 2018, Saga has been presented some months ago, Jessica is going to show it at Organ Vida — International Photography Festival in Zagreb, Croatia in September and at MEWO Kunsthalle in Memmingen, Germany in November.

    More on her website.