EK Interview: Oliver Rath

For Oliver Rath there never was a line to cross.  For him it’s all in the game.  And we’re appreciative, he’s forging new frontiers, challenging the very definitions of art.  When he’s not destroying gender stereotypes and pushing the envelope he occasionally takes the time to answer interview questions.  One such example follows:

What’s it like to be Oliver Rath?

Great, there´s nothing to complain about


Where are you from and where are you going?

I came from the forest and will stay in the city!

art blog - Oliver Rath - Empty Kingdom


Have you ever been confronted by someone who was insulted or offended by your work?

Sure, there a many people and photographers who disdain my work but all the fans make up for it.


What, if anything do you think such boundaries, inhibitions, say about our society?  What do they say about us ideologically?  Morally?  Sexually?

I don´t care about the beholder’s view of one of my pictures and I don´t like to think about it. However, if a picture polarizes and affects them emotional, I´m happy.

art blog - Oliver Rath - Empty Kingdom


Why is your photography so sexual?  What emotions do you hope to illicit in your viewers?  What cultural and social themes do you seek to discuss and challenge in depicting women in leashes as in “Tenir en Laisse”?  Or men in drag as in “Die deutscheste Versuchung”?

I remember very well, as my uncle once showed me monks made from ivory, which all had pure sex under their cowls. Already as a child I got enthusiastic about it because sexuality is something really secretly, intimate but could be funny, too.

I grew up with porn and for me it seems that many of my pictures just show the amuse guele before the main course.

art blog - Oliver Rath - Empty Kingdom

art blog - Oliver Rath - Empty Kingdom


How do you differentiate your work from erotica?  That’s presume you do, or would object to that characterization.

I wouldn´t say that my pictures are erotic. They´re more like my children, born in a huge family and I´m the granddad watching them from the distance.


How do you think contemporary art is challenging the boundaries of ‘safe zones’?

Basically, this isn´t a desicion made by the art but made by the press. Boundaries won´t be crossed by the artists; the market decides if art crosses the barriers.

art blog - Oliver Rath - Empty Kingdom


How do you get your models?  Have you ever had anyone object to what you told them you would be photographing them doing?

I´ve met many of them here in the “Berlin night live”, artists and exhibitionists are my favorits because they follow their own ideals.


When preparing a model, what kind of emotional or anecdotal background do you provide them?

That depends on the model. If she´s from a respectable family you´ll see it in the pictures. As soon as I recognize that my model doesn´t care about anything and seems “Rock n´Roll”, I try to catch the maximum of this “Rock” attitude. I don´t want to put anyone into a situation that does´t match his character. If a hetero is asked to look gay, be sure he fails.

art blog - Oliver Rath - Empty Kingdom


What is your favorite part of the body?  What do you think the most highly fetishized part of the body is and why is that?

I´m absolutely a friend of boobs, legs and booties. Knees, elbows and hands are often the most difficult part in a photo. Feets are its own special kind of erotic because they seem so unimposing. Otherwise, they are able to show great power. Bedsides, women with high heels look really erotic and together with sexy stockings they are a serious weapon.


What are you currently working on?  What’s coming down the pipe?

I save all my ideas in my mobile phone. Meanwhile my list really owns a myriad of ideas and I do my best to manage one once a week.  In future, I want to work more with kids and older people, even one or another political statement will also be part of it.

art blog - Oliver Rath - Empty Kingdom

Can you tell us a major influence and how their effect on you can be seen in your work?

If you lump together Robert Mapplethorpe, David Lachepelle, Diane Arbus, Terry Richardson, Ellen von Unwerth and Helmut Newton, mix it well and you´ll receive a bit of Rath.


If you knew you would be reincarnated as a tree, what kind of tree would you be and where would you want to grow?

Definitely a palm tree located in Venice Beach, California. I´m sure I won´t get bored there and would be able to save enough sun and energy for my next life.