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Do photographers dream differently? In her new photo series, Julia Baier, a Berlin-based Leica photographer, has put together a collection of motifs that reflect her dreams. The series is being presented for the first time on her newly redesigned homepage. We are also presenting a selection of the images here. She spoke with us about her ideas and approach for the series.

LFI: How long have you been writing down your dreams?
Julia Baier: I always have a notebook lying at my bedside, and I regularly jot down my thoughts in it. First thing in the morning, right after I wake up, is the best time, because then the dreams are still clear and undistorted. I've always dreamt a lot, and it seemed natural for me to write them down. The more frequently you write down your dreams, the better your memory becomes. I've trained it a bit over the years.

When did the idea of connecting your dreams to your pictures turn into a series?
My dreams frequently deal with taking photographs. Actually, I’ve always wanted to do a series where I re-photograph pictures I'd photographed in a dream; as well as those pictures I'd missed taking – because the camera was broken; or I'd forgotten to load a film in it; or I'd simply forgotten to bring my camera with me. However, as a photographer, I don't like to stage my motifs, so I'd never got round to realising the idea. Then, at some point, I had the idea of searching through my existing pictures that corresponded to strong dreams; pictures that produced a similar feeling or provoked the same kind of questions. I finally began the series, during the first lockdown. At that time, due to the consequent deceleration, I began to dream even more intensely than before, which produced the ultimate spark that got me started. By the way, the series is still on-going, and I've already collected more good dream material.

How do you find the pictures that fit your dreams?
The work is very associative and intuitive. On the whole, I usually take the dream material as my starting point. Then I remember existing pictures in my archive, or I browse through it, until I discover an unexpected text-image combination. It's a process where I combine, discard and sometimes also take new pictures. For example, I've been regularly photographing a house, overgrown in lush green, for a long-term project; and it seemed perfect for the Paris dream. So I cycled over there, specifically to take landscape-format pictures for the series. In some rare cases, the process works the other way round; I take existing pictures that I find very dreamlike and look for a dream text that fits them. That is considerably more difficult, since my absolute starting point is that I really must have had the dreams, and I don't want to rewrite them. I am really tied to my dream-reality, and I don't invent anything additional.

Do you dream in colour or in black and white?
Curiously enough, my photo group and I discussed the question of whether dreams are in black and white, or in colour, twenty years ago. One of my friends was convinced that dreams occur in black and white. I am a defender of the contrary view, because I can remember the colours clearly. Just recently, I dreamt about a wild boar, and it was definitely wearing a blue jumper! It was an unforgettably funny colour image, and the rest of the scenario was also in colour. I'm prepared to place a bet on it! I do agree, however, that in certain dreams colour doesn't play a role; and a dream could seem to be in black and white. So, I won’t make a categorical statement. That's why I've decided to allow both in my series; whichever best conveys the dream or the mood.

Was the redesign of your homepage the ideal opportunity to look through your archive again?
Yes, that it was. A new website always represents a new beginning; and it's fun to dig through the various layers of archives, to get lost in your own photo story, and to wallow in memories. Furthermore, in the best case scenario, maybe old buried treasures will rise to the surface and offer new perspectives.

Thank you, and best wishes for a good night's sleep!
(Interview: Ulrich Rüter)

Image captions and all pictures on this page © Julia Baier
Equipment: Leica M10, Summicron-M 50 f/2 Asph and Summicron-M 35 f/2 Asph

Image on the right: I’m dreaming my head off. Tonight in my dream I was present at the birth of a calf, which for a short time was a colt. Interestingly, it didn’t come OUT of the cow, but disappeared INSIDE her. In the end it lay exhausted on the ground and was licked by a horse. How changeable things are in dreams!
Why do I always dream of my original family?
Not a night goes by without one of the members of my large family – from young to old – appearing.
Today I dreamed of Grandpa Walther. We visited him in his home, he was lying in bed with his computer and chatting away.
I had to smile because he was about 100 years old.
I dreamed about a psychopath last night, and he was my boyfriend, of all people.
He looked astonishingly similar to the Joker.
I was in the deepest inner distress, because for the life of me I didn’t know how to get rid of him. It was simply terrible. Because I was afraid, he would kill me.
Even so, I was at least making escape plans.
The perfect shot that slipped through my fingers because I had forgotten my camera in my dream: sunbathing people in bikinis lying on flat rocks with depressions. In front of them crystal clear water; behind the buildings of a city, and behind again a picturesque Swiss mountain landscape. It could not be more idyllic.
Shortly before waking up M. was visiting me. We were just lying on the floor together, deeply intertwined. For quite a while. I stroked the back of his head with my hand, just like before.
Last night, I dropped my Leica M10 and it disappeared into the crack between the floorboards. We dug up the floorboards in shock. A whole Leica depot came to light; there was even an old M3 among them! Only mine remained swallowed by the ground.
I was roaming around with my camera and then this: A woman sitting half in the bushes tampering with a meter-sized knuckle of pork. She was so engrossed in the food that my camera and I went unnoticed. Or maybe she just didn’t care about me. Anyway – in my viewfinder her head finally disappeared behind the over-sized giant pig’s knuckle.
My dream was almost over, when a white duck swam through the air past the treetop – please note, it did not fly, but it SWAM. The picture had something immensely peaceful.
I was living in a new apartment right on the top floor. Looking over the roof tops made me feel a little like I was in Paris. Strangely enough, my apartment had a different entrance and exit, which I didn't notice for a long time. I was often confused because I lost my sense of orientation in the apartment.
When I finally understood, I had to laugh and jumped relieved over the exit onto the grayish, glittering roofs.
© Joanna Kosowska

Julia Baier

Born in Augsburg in 1971, Baier studied at Bremen University from 1991 to 1995, followed by Graphic Design at the Bremen University of Fine Arts from 1995 to 2002. She works on personal artistic projects, as well as on assignment for magazines, institutions, agencies and clients. She has received numerous grants and awards. She has been a member of the international photography collective UP Photographers, since 2019, and lives in Berlin.

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