A new kind of photographic exhibition is coming soon to Hamburg, Germany this December. Curated by Fabian and Laura Wolf, who run Wolf Camera Straps and have worked for over 20 years in the art scene, the show is going to be completely analogue. Featuring twenty-three photographers and their film-based work, Unstable Lights will be held from December 9 – 11, 2022 at Fruchtallee 108.
The photographers include Joel Meyerowitz, Katharine Kollman, Steffen Schüngel, Lucy Lumen, Takashi Fukukawa, Simone Rudloff, John Sypal, Hannah Häseker, Craig Bergonzoni, and Charles Peterson, among others. Over the weekend, the exhibition will host several events, including workshops and photo walks, and there will be a shop to browse as well. The shop will feature refurbished cameras from OM Doktor based in Hamburg amongst other analogue treats like film, straps, bags, photo books, and other photo equipment.
Supporters and partners of the exhibition include Kodak, Safelight Berlin, KHROME camera store in Hamburg, Art Meets Education, IPS Hamburg, Silbersalz35, Optik Control, and Light Phone from Brooklyn, NY.
Events include a large free photo walk sponsored by Kodak, KHROME, and Safelight Berlin with giveaways along with a contest. Disposable cameras will be given away at the photo walk via Instagram from Kodak Professional which include processing sponsored by KHROME. Safelight Berlin will also be offering portraits which will be processed using the direct positive printing technique.
Art Meets Education will also be in attendance. The organization, based in Hamburg, is a non-profit working with children in the Philippines to support educational programs. They provide cameras to children, work with them to sell their prints, and put the resulting funds into educational support like schools and workshops. The shop will include postcard prints made by the program with proceeds going directly back into Arts Meets Education.
Unstable Lights is supporting young people who are interested in photography with cameras free of charge for the duration of the exhibition to give them an introduction to the art. Fabian says, ‘For us, analogue photography also stands for a more conscious way of life and deceleration and can therefore offer a wonderful alternative to the fast-moving digital trends, especially for young people.’
Instead of the traditional photography exhibition style of limited photographs mounted on white walls with generous amounts of negative space, Unstable Lights will cover as much wall space as possible with the work of the exhibitors. No fees will be taken from participants, the organizers are funding the entire show.
The idea formulated from a personal moment during the first lockdown of 2020, when Fabian found a box of negatives in the middle of cleaning his parent’s house. The small box contained almost 100 years of his family’s history. It was such a powerful experience to look through the negatives with a small darkroom magnifier, Fabian describes it as ‘stepping back in time through a small window’. A year ago, he had one of the 40-year-old negatives printed and said it looked like the image was taken yesterday, which was an incredibly beautiful and moving experience. From this, Fabian and Laura felt inspired to curate an exhibition that would bring together photographers from different genres across the world to celebrate the craft of analogue work.
“Today we justify the decline of craft, and especially that of analogue photography, with the necessary and supposedly inevitable step into a digital age. TikTok and Instagram have defaced photos into a quick-to-consume commodity. It almost looked as if analogue photography would sooner or later fall victim to digital change. Analogue photography is not a dusty and outdated medium, but an important art form that needs to be preserved and should continue to be accessible to future generations. We can share analogue photos with local people without using the internet, can pass it on to the next generations, we can even collect them in a wooden box and pass them on to our children.”
As for the selection of photographers, Fabian mentions this comes from his personal interest. He is first incredibly moved by the work of each of the participants and often has followed their journey for a long time. The personality of the artist is also just as important as their work and he prefers to connect with them either in real life or via Zoom. “I’m old school,” he mentions.
True to this, we chatted about the exhibition over Zoom for this article and what a pleasure it was. I regret not being closer to Hamburg to be able to attend this year, but am keeping my eye out for future events from this lovely team! Fabian and Laura are already planning a second show for next year which will be much larger and over an extended period.
To find more information about this year’s show, head over to the Unstable Lights webpage here.