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Over the years, Alexander von Wiedenbeck has increasingly grown to appreciate and love the island of Sylt. He considers it an island that has much more to offer than television reports or shiny magazines seem to suggest. In this interview, the photographer speaks about quiet and remote places, the unfolding of his photography, and the magic of colour reduction.

LFI: What does Sylt mean to you? What stories do you intend to convey with this series?
Alexander von Wiedenbeck: For me, Sylt is a place of regeneration – though only during the low season. It's only then that you can experience the peace and quiet that allows you to simply be yourself. I've been taking pictures there, with my Leica M, for many years now; however, the idea of a whole series dedicated to this place of retreat and relaxation first arose in 2020. On that occasion I was there in late summer, and I could hardly believe how devoid of people it was during Corona times. So the impulse to explore the island completely anew, and to pack the story into a series, was born.

As a photographer, how did you manage to find these quiet pieces of paradise, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and far off the beaten track?
On the whole, you need a lot of time and patience, as well as lots of curiosity and a bit of courage. I probably shouldn't mention it here, but there were various times when I by-passed a few obstacles, such as “No Entry” signs and fences, to get a bit closer to “paradise”. Furthermore, I can only recommend going to the island during the off-season. For me, that has always been the times before Easter, and in the middle or at the end of October. Those are always the best times to ensure that you have the island to yourself, to some degree.

You speak about a “sea made up of grey tones'', produced by the Leica M10 Monochrom. To what extent does black and white photography offer added value, when taking pictures on Sylt?
Black and white always represents a reduction to the essential. That really applies very well, especially, on Sylt: for example, the traces of wind on the sand, and the interplay of light and shadow – these appear much more firmly defined as a result of the reduction in colour. When you photograph the red cliff in Kampen – an enormous wall of sandstone that looks as though it has just surged out of the ground – such details really come into their own, if you leave colour aside. Furthermore, this is the moment where I must highly praise Leica, and the superb quality delivered by the Leica M10 Monochrom. The photograph of the red cliff that I mentioned earlier will appear in my exhibition in Westerland; for the first time as a large-format panoramic, artistic print, measuring 300 x 105 cm. To be able to print that size, with such high-resolution quality, and with such a wealth of detail in the grey tones... it's quite simply amazing! (Interview: Danilo Rößger)

All the pictures on this page: © Alexander von Wiedenbeck
Equipment: Leica M10 Monochrom with Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH.

The Wattenruh exhibition runs from July 3 to 30, 2022, at the Alte Post Stadtgalerie in Westerland/Sylt.
© Alexander von Wiedenbeck

Alexander von Wiedenbeck

...was born and grew up in a small village in the Bavarian province. He discovered photography in the advertising industry in the early 2000s. He soon began to take pictures beyond the world of advertising, telling authentic photographic stories. Since then, he has produced reportages around the world; on assignment, as well as personal projects. Von Wiedenbeck has received various recognitions, such as the Tokyo International Foto Award and the GoSee Award. His work has been displayed in numerous solo exhibitions around the globe, including at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in Bangkok, the inatura museum in Dornbirn, near Bregenz, the Weltmuseum in Vienna, and many established venues in Germany.

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