Photography: Moers Festival, 1995-2004 Frank Schemmann

Photography: Moers Festival, 1995-2004 Frank Schemmann


Moers Festival «Backstage»

Photography: Moers Festival, 1995-2004 Frank Schemmann

Portraying people is the everyday business of Frank Schemmann, the photographer.

Born in 1967, he began from scratch, as an apprentice in Dusseldorf's Studio Ohlenforst, later as an assistant with studios in Dusseldorf (Eikelpoth) and London. Since 1995 he has been working as a free-lance photographer.

His long list of customers flashes names like Porsche Design, Telekom, Interlubke, Skoda, Pan­asonic, Citibank, Ford and E-Plus, as well as those of german soccerheroes Beckenbauer, Netzer, HoeneR, or novelists, such as Hubert Selby, Hugh Johnson, the wine High Priest, and popstar Ray Wilson, just to name a few. This is the one world of photographer Frank Schemmann.


He has been cultivating a different one, void of commercial ambition, under the draft title "Backstage". In 1995 he introduced this project to me, the Moers Festival Art Director. Getting away from the trench-like position of the photographer in front of the stage, he developed his idea of placing his equipment directly at the back of the stage, in order to get at the artists when they are coming off, exhausted, happy, tensed up or disappointed - lost in themselves, euphoric or in a pensive mood; without being made up, sweaty and fagged out, with or without an instrument, in a situation which cannot be planned - a kind of action or interaction, which is different from that of the musician on stage, a dialogue with the photo­grapher, who is acting and reacting as well.

On the one hand this is quite a risky venture for Frank and the artists, on the other it is not, for improvisation, which is a typical phenomenon of jazz, has taught us that it is often the off-key note that opens the door to a totally new aesthetic sensation. Thus we find in this book a multitude of pictures full of life, illustrating how the shutter's irreversability reveals a musician's personal traits in a way the concert-goer will never see.

It should be known that Schemmann prepares himself intensively for his partners. This begins during the concert, when he eyes the artists on stage from behind the curtain or the wings, dissecting them, as it were, and making his choices, before inviting them to a backstage session, not before the final sound has faded away.

Now the game is a completely new one: a moment ago it was posing on stage amidst cheering and the flashlights of a constantly growing number of photojournalists accredited to the festival; minutes later there is total silence, there is only the eye of the man behind his camera, plain comments, the invitation to action, the attempt at committing oneself, feelings of self-consciousness, and the awkwardness of the instrument still in hand; then there are words of encouragement from the photographer, shared viewing of a polaroid, another go at it, laughter, relaxation, the click of the shutter. Finally all is over; addresses are being exchanged, promises to write and keep in touch - a new friend made, another session prepared for.

In this way more than 5000 portraits have been created in ten years; partly fragile, but unique; facial landscapes full of beauty and sincerity, occasionally provocative, almost without exception in black and white; a hymn to the moment of time.

Frank Schemmann - admittedly subjective in boiling down this immense documentation - has on these 128 pages managed to gather up a worthy selection of masterpieces, full of life, great moments, power and intensity, mirroring a festival that - in the contemporary border-crossing - finds itself focussed on and calling for continuity.

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