Today I want to share a small set of images I took of Leibniz University Hannover. To be more precise, these pictures all show the university’s main building, the historic Welfenschloss (Welf castle). Hardly any report, flyer or website of the university that comes along without a photograph of this icon. So I had to have a try at this building myself.
Before I’ll get to my subject, let me ask a question: What is the “perfect photograph”? I know, I know – this is a debate probably as old as photography itself. Tough matter. Personally, I believe formal criteria and aspects can help to get on track, but in the end the less tangible factors are decisive. How can I as a viewer connect with the image? Which emotions, connotations and memories the image does evoke in me? Will I bear this image in mind? Or will I forget it soon?
This being said, I’m on a quest to create my personal perfect photograph of the mentioned Welf castle. The place itself carries a personal meaning for me: I studied at Leibniz University Hannover, and I continue to work there. In good and bad, kinda. For a certain period of time, I have now been applying my private interest in architectural photography to the symbol of my professional life. I consider this quest as an arrangement I have made with myself.
A Brief Introduction to the Leibniz University Hannover Headquarters
Built from 1857 onwards, the castle should serve as a summer residence for the king’s family. However, the Kingdom of Hannover lost its autonomy in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, becoming a Prussian province. Because King Georg V. had to leave, the Welfs never moved in. After ten years of vacancy, they eventually rebuilt the castle to accommodate the royal technical university in 1879. This institution would later become Leibniz University Hannover.
During World War II, the parts of Welf castle were severely damaged. Four of the five prominent towers lost their spire. Furthermore, the chapel had to be demolished. Despite the devastation, the overall appearance of the castle remained roughly the same.
My Attempts to get THE Shot
Within this series, the main subject – the castle’s front – doesn’t change. On the contrary, conditions and the equipment used vary greatly.
On most occasions, I came early in the morning. There is less activity – especially on the weekends – and the pre-sunrise light possesses a special quality. Unfortunately, I often had to deal with setbacks. E. g., an unexpected cloud layer rolled in, turning a potentially beautiful daybreak into a dull, grey morning. The other day, some delivery trucks were parking right in front of the building’s entrance. Or the scaffolding of recent construction works had appeared, covering parts of the roof. I call them “Mhmm, maybe another time but I’ll take an image anyway”-type of moments.
In terms of equipment, I’ll just give you a short list of numbers:
- four different cameras with a total of six lenses
- two film formats, 35mm and 120 (with two different aspect ratios for the latter)
- and seven different film stocks (mostly color, but also black-and-white)
Leibniz University Hannover in Images
Am I satisfied now, have I succeed in taking my personal perfect photograph of Leibniz University Hannover’s icon? Well, the answer is a clear “I don’t know”. My preferences constantly fluctuate – one day I am a fan of bold colors, the other one I prefer pastel shades or the gritty look of a black-and-white photograph. I like the images I have taken so far, nevertheless I haven’t reached the point of closure for this quest yet. Maybe this project serves rather as a coping strategy than it is about a singular result. Or, in nicer and more familiar words: It’s all about the process.
Thanks for stopping by!
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9 thoughts on “6 Frames of Leibniz University Hannover – by Christian Schroeder”
Let’s say you did everything to capture the lowersaxon intensity! My favorites are the special and the bizarre ;))
Low, lower, Lower Saxony – thanks, Thorsten! 🙂
Soon there will also be a foggy shot (with “foggy” referring to a weather phenomenon of high humidity and – luckily – not to a ruined film by intense radiation. 🙂
You really know how to use these shift lenses to realise their full potential.
Thanks, Zoltán! I have been using them since 2015, so plenty of time for making mistakes and learning. 🙂
As I progressed through your article I kept wondering if I’d see a shot with your ArcBox. And you kept me waiting until the final image!
But the image that fascinates me the most is that shot with the Leicaflex SL2 and 35mm. This is a combination I also have.
During my one and only visit to West Berlin, 1968, (and, yes, I did the almost obligatory coach tour into the eastern zone which in those days seemed quite an adventure!)) I pruchased a little booklet entitled “Berlin, wie ist früher war” and which was filled with architectural images taken in the decades before WWII. All were in black and white, but what fascinated me was how much your image fitted in with these, both in style and technical presentation. I believe it was for this reason that without being told what the building was or its location, I immediately could see it was Germanic.
Hi Terry, interesting story! I possess a book with black-and-white images of (Western) Berlin taken during the first decades after the war – some ruins and lots of wasteland and modernist architecture.
I’m also pleasantly surprised how the SL2 shot turned out. And it was quite a relaxing experience to take a shot without setting up my tripod (as Ari would say: “tripods kill the groove”). I think I’ll try this quick n’ stealthy approach for rather ‘delicate’ architecture as small, private houses – best way to avoid the inevitable “What are you doing here?!”-question.
thanks for your posting! When pursuing the perfect shot I believe that it must catch the essence of what a photographer has to say about the subject. Thinking about my own relation to my work place (though that is mostly home office) there would be multiple aspects, practical, emotional, professional and social and all these can be broken down into further aspects of their own… For me and my work place, there would not be the one perfect shot, it would always have to be a series or a whole book. With that in mind and for my personal preference, I like the combination of all your pictures more than any individual one
Greetings from Hamburg!
thank you for your feedback! I know what you mean: It is very difficult if not impossible (and not necessarily desirable) to condense so many diverse aspects in a single photograph.
Besides the Welfenschloss as a figurehead of the university, I have also been photographing a variety of other buildings of the same institution: research facilities of the early 2010s, office buildings from the 1970s, libraries of the post-war era, institutes from the turn of the century. In doing so, I strongly preferred objects or at least views that were probably not subject of a “dedicated” photograph before. It is an ongoing series; I use it to deal with my workplace in a slightly broader sense, creating an architectural-oriented portrayal of this small universe. I would like to add a social dimension to this series, maybe showing the humans related to their workspace. However, it is easier for me to photograph buildings than people – at least people I’m related to in a professional context.
Hi Christian, same here, I find it so much more difficult to photograph people. I feel that I owe them something special or fear that they expect something extraordinary if I asked them if I might make a portrait. That’s a big hurdle to clear. It should in theory be easy, you’d have to have an idea of what it is you want to show about the subject and the rest is craftsmanship. But this is still something I shy away from.