Meike Nixdorf is an amazing photographer who’s pictures have just something special to them. I can’t put my finger on it, maybe it’s the eerie, abandoned feeling; maybe it’s the scope, the impressive feeling of elsewhere you get from looking at them. Either way, they’re the bee’s knees. And here for your reading pleasure, are her words and thoughts.
What is your full name, your favorite animal and the best kind of sandwich?
Meike Claudia Nixdorf. My parents came up with Claudia as middle name as they wanted a name that could be pronounced easily in English speaking coutries and in Brazil, where my father grew up and most of my relatives still live.
I like big dogs and elephants. And with food, I definitely prefer cooked food over a sandwich, like Pasta with fresh tomatoes.
In your Biography it says that you have a background in science, what branch of science in particular? How has your background prepared you for a career in photography? Do you think having cross disciplines is valuable as an artist?
I have studied Biology, Geography and Human Movement many years ago. There has always been a love for nature and movement, I guess it shows in some of my images. I have a great passion for all the different small plants, the leaf patterns and rock formations.
Currently I am enrolled in a Bachelor´s degree in Psychology. The psychology studies primarily help a lot with getting a more profound understanding of human perception, cognition and the dynamics of interaction.
I think having cross disciplines as an artist is enormously valuable. It helps with changing the point of view from time to time, with looking at things from a distance and with getting a more profound understanding of the complexity of the world how everything is connected.
With the increasing popularity of instagram, facebook and other social media photography is becoming much easier to share and access. There’s a feeling that everything needs to be documented. How would you respond to such an impulse? How do you decide that something is worth photographing? Why do you think there is such an obsession with recording everything in our society?
Creating images for me is to try to make visible not what is out there in front of me but rather what is inside of me – memories, emotions, thoughts. Instead of documenting a surface I am using the surface to create an abstraction through the transformation of the visible, that can hold feelings, sounds and thoughts. The beginning of a story, which will differ for every viewer depending on which personal memories or experiences will be evoked.
Consequentially, I am not all to interested in “just” documenting things. I like to look at photos that hold memories to different parts of my life, especially due to the fact that I have a very bad memory. So photographs always help me to remember things. I am very lucky that Grit, my partner loves to document our life. I, myself, hardly have any photographs that show the everyday.
I guess the general obsession to record everyting in our society has to do with the increase of complexity of life. There is too much content for the brain to cover. So a camera is a great tool to reinstall order, a feeling of control and helps in building a visual library that one can always come back to. In a way memories get outsourced, similar to the way we use wikipedia for historical facts instead of memorizing every historical detail.
Where were the photographs for your series The Point of View taken? Where has your work taken you? What was your favorite location to travel to? How has your work changed and evolved as a direct result of your travel?
The Point of View was taken in New Mexico, Hawaii and on the Canary Islands. The series was a marking point for a change in the way I would approach my projects. Before this project I wasn´t planning or conceptualizing on where to go and what to shoot. I would just take images of what ever I felt connected to while travelling and the project would evolve out of my archive. I started this particular project from images out of my archive but felt I would need more images that would fit into the concept. It was only then that I started to conceptualize before taking images.
Nowadays usually the idea comes first and then I try to find a location that would be suitable, like with the project “In the Orbit of El Teide”. At first I planned on shooting Mount Fuji in Japan. But I had to realize that it was not only to expensive to travel to Japan but also the vegetation around Mount Fuji wasn´t as diversified as the one around the Pico del Teide.
Your series In The Meantime is the only series that contains people and buildings, all of your work since then seems to focus on nature only. Why is this? What precipitated your pursuit of nature photography?
The project In the Meantime is a look back into my past and is very autobiographical. You could compare it with a writers first novel, which is in many cases very autobiographical too. The project evolved during my time in New York. These years were very intense, reflecting the intensity of the city and the people. I could not take photos like this anymore, they belong to that specific time in my life. Having said this, it doesn´t necessarily mean that I will never work with people or buildings again.
Every image, every project, starts either with a deep connection, a returning thought or an abstract idea. Lately those have led me towards nature. I feel a very strong connection to myself and the world when I am out there. It is impressively peaceful with a lot of room to work with thoughts and abstractions.
However, already the next thought could turn into something completely else which might not even have to do with photography, like a sound installation for example. In the end it all depends on what I am trying to say.
How did you come up with the name for Once, I Left The World Behind? What do you think when you see the ocean? How does something so vast and unrelenting impact you emotionally?
I have always had a very strong connection to the ocean and its power, depth, sound and smell. It is something quite eternal. In a way there is no beginning and no end to it.
Our perception is very limited and most of the time we live in our small world of mind and don´t get the bigger picture. So we can only grasp the idea of the endlessness of the universe if we manage to leave our small world behind, at least for once. Some people travel to other planets to do so, for me it was an imagined journey.
What filters or effects do you apply to your work? Do you use digital or analog? Technology is always getting better, whether or not digital images reach a point where they are as good as analog film isn’t nearly as relevant as whether or not the human eye can discern the difference. Do you think digital film will still be around in 10 years? 15? 50?
So far I still shoot analog film but this is mainly due to the fact that I love my Mamiya 7 and there is no way to go digital with this camera. I don´t really understand the whole analog or digital discussion. For me it makes no difference, like I also don´t care which camera someone uses. All that counts is the quality and arrangement of the final image or print and whether or not it fits in with the concept or the athetic approach.
In the beginning I have done all the retouching myself, but my abilities have always been very limited and I was just too impatient to work on all the details. Nowadays my partner Grit does all the retouching work. She is a professional retoucher and has an outstanding eye for color. All alterations made to the scanned image are done manually by her, she doesn´t use any automatic filters or effects. She actually takes part in the whole process from the first idea to the final shoot.
What are you working on right now? What does the future hold for you?
I am currently working on the editing of a project which I photographed in New Mexico. It evolves around the circle of life and death.
Otherwise I am thinking about ways to gain in dimensionality or complexity for my next project with the incoorperation of sound and video.
If you could travel to Mars but would have to be there for a decade before you came back, would you?
I would go if life on earth would be an impossibility. Otherwise who would want to exchange the beauty of the planet earth with all its colors, rocks, waters and plants for a dusty desert like planet Mars?