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June 14, 2024


Photography by Matthias Gödde
Interview by Melanie Meggs

Welcome to an exploration of the photographic world crafted by Matthias Gödde, a photographer whose work delves deep into the raw essence of human emotion with unparalleled authenticity. Matthias' photography transcends mere documentation; his photographs serve as windows into the very souls of his subjects, inviting viewers to contemplate the complexities of the human experience.

Eschewing contrivance and artifice, his images offer unadulterated glimpses into the everyday moments that define our lives. For him, it's the people who inhabit these spaces that truly breathe life into his compositions. Through meticulous curation and a keen eye for detail, Matthias crafts series that resonate with profound emotional depth, blurring the lines between observation and introspection, infused with wit, irony, and sometimes even absurdity.

Reflecting on his journey into photography, Matthias traces his passion back to a childhood encounter with a book on photography techniques. Despite initially grappling with the technicalities, the allure of capturing the visible world through chemistry left an indelible mark on him. Fueled by a voracious appetite for visual exploration, he immersed himself in the works of luminaries past and present, drawing inspiration from the rich kaleidoscope of artistic expression.

With over four decades of experience behind the camera, he continues to evolve his craft, drawing inspiration from a diverse range of subjects and themes. From street photography to urban landscapes, his work remains rooted in the tradition of new color photography while embracing the ever-changing landscape of contemporary visual culture.

Join us as we explore the mind of Matthias Gödde, delving into the inspirations, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped his remarkable photographic journey.

“Today I see myself as an author photographer. A term that was coined in the 80s by the art critic and curator Klaus Honnef. I have been working on very different topics for years. If, like me, you have been taking photographs for 45 years, this is a tried and tested means of having different seedlings to trigger your gaze and perception again and again. My roots lie in the new color photography of the 80s with its street and urban landscape photography is something I still feel strongly connected to today.”


THE PICTORIAL LIST: Hello Matthias…welcome to The Pictorial List! Let's start by telling us about yourself. What would you say first drew you to photography?

MATTHIAS: Looking back, I had no choice. When I was 10, I came across a small book about photography techniques from my older brother. It was one of those long summers that, as a child in the 60s, made the holiday season seem endless. So, with an abundance of time, I read several chapters about film processing and how to put negatives on paper in a darkroom. At the time, I didn't really understand much of what the content of the book was trying to tell me. However, the magic of the latent image that can preserve the visible world with the help of a little chemistry has remained to this day. Reading this book was the seed that took several years to sprout. There was a drugstore in town that sold darkroom supplies, but my pocket money wasn't enough. However, that same year I bet my entire pocket money on the main prize at a lottery booth at the fair and won a Kodak Instamatic 133, which became my companion on school trips.

My interest was directed towards art by an uncle who painted and knew how to copy old French and Flemish masters. An intensive engagement with painting and graphics began. I got everything I could find in illustrated books about it from the city library. Because of the desire to see, I could never get enough. This also later impressed my parents, who enabled me to study visual communication at the age of 17. Here the seed sprouted and germinated. It took less than 4 weeks, and I was just hanging out in the photo workshop. The university library was a mecca for good monographs about American and European photographers. My eyes didn't get a break. In a small circle of like-minded people, we met at the cinema at least twice a week. Taken together, the best preparation for refining your own vision.

TPL: How do you think your background in visual communication has influenced your perspective as a photographer?

MATTHIAS: It was something like a Studium Generale. I was just 17 years old and came from a middle-class family and a small-town environment. The company of teachers and students, many a little off track, looking better than I knew it, was pure inspiration. The freedom to try out different creative disciplines alongside theoretical subjects such as art history and perceptual psychology are formative influences. Getting to know different aesthetic positions opened up a field of possibilities that still resonate today.

TPL: What role does storytelling play in your photography, and how do you balance narrative with visual aesthetics? How do you approach the process of capturing the essence of human emotion in your photographs?

MATTHIAS: This is a good question but not an easy one to answer. Many of my photos are still strongly influenced by the aesthetics of cinema. This is where the roots and key to my photography lie. It is these moods and the rhythm that are inherent in films and literature. When I look at documentary photos, I always make up a story about them. I see the scenes with their history and their future. Of course it's all fantasy. This creates new images in your head. Photos are the congealed part of a story.

TPL: What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who are looking to develop their own unique artistic voice today in photography?

MATTHIAS: Neglect the flood of digital images. Check out photographers' monographs. There is more excellence here.

TPL: Can you share any memorable anecdotes or stories from your experiences as a photographer?

MATTHIAS: In the 90s I drove across northern Italy with a friend to photograph the wonderful grave sculptures in cemeteries. After a week we had a day at the beach. When we got back to the camper, it had been broken into and our equipment and all the exposed films had been stolen. We only took our 35mm cameras with us so we wouldn't miss any subjects on the beach. However, large and medium format cameras were also among the stolen goods. We then visited the same cemeteries again to repeat the recordings. A fallacy. Photographs are always tied to a singular event. All newly taken pictures were missing something. The magic of the first perception was lost.

TPL: Looking back on your journey as a photographer, what are you most proud of accomplishing, and what do you hope to achieve in the future? Any projects or ideas you are excited to explore?

MATTHIAS: When I look back, all the photos form a quartet of memories of my life. I mix and re-arrange the images every now and then. It's always a different version of me. This quartet is still missing a few cards. Let's see which ones come along.

When I look back, all the photos form a quartet of memories of my life.

TPL: Can you share any insights into the technical aspects of your photography, such as your choice of equipment or preferred shooting techniques?

MATTHIAS: I took analogue photographs until the 2000s. 35mm, medium format and large format were used depending on the subject. Today it is mainly digital full format and medium format cameras. A Mamiya 7 was my constant companion for a long time. A viewfinder camera has the great advantage that you can look beyond the subject and are not immediately limited to a section that excludes everything else. Even with digital cameras, I rarely look through the electronic viewfinder. I keep an eye on the scenery via the screen.

TPL: Could you describe your creative process from conceptualization to execution when working on a new series?

MATTHIAS: It's more of a chaotic approach. If you, like me, have been photographing for many years, you'll always end up with images that suddenly fall out of the camera outside of your own redundancy. Vague fragments that slowly develop as sediment into something that can be walked on. I often feel bored with certain topics. Perception is an open system.

TPL: How do you choose your subjects or scenes to photograph, and what draws you to them?

MATTHIAS: It's something like a matrix. They are reflexive and anticipatory reactions. A mélange of everything seen from dreams, books and films filtered through heart and experience.

TPL: What is your takeaway from the work you do? In what ways has your photography evolved over the course of your career, and what factors have influenced these changes?

MATTHIAS: In the analogue phase of photography, it was hardly possible to give the images a special look beyond the choice of film material and photo paper in post-production. The possibilities today are comparable to painting. The color grading and the selection of papers and printable substrates seem limitless. The way of taking photos, however, is almost unchanged. It seems to be something native to the language. If you haven't learned to dream in another language, your worldview and world experience are set.

TPL: If you could work with any photographer for a day, from any time period, who would that be and why? What would you want to learn from them? What would you like to share with them?

MATTHIAS: There is this saying: “A real voyage of discovery does not consist in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” I would want to have a very long conversation with him about how he thinks about life. After all, we don't photograph what we see, but rather what we are.

TPL: When you're not creating your visual stories, what does Matthias Gödde do for leisure?

MATTHIAS: Waiting for the time when I can create visual stories.

Matthias Gödde's photographic journey is a compelling testament to his passion, persistence, and creative vision. With a background in visual communication and a profound appreciation for the aesthetics of cinema and literature, Matthias has developed a unique perspective as a photographer. His photographs transcend mere images; they are intricately woven narratives, inviting viewers to explore the stories behind the scenes.

As Matthias continues to evolve as a photographer, he embraces the boundless opportunities presented by digital photography, while remaining steadfast in his commitment to the authentic language of his art form. For him, photography is more than just a profession; it is a way of life, a medium through which he captures the essence of the human experience and offers viewers a fresh perspective on the world.

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