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Sand Kornfeld_300dpi Heide_300dpi Berge_300dpi Katharina_neige-1 Sumpf_70 Katharina_2_children-2
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P1030182
Sand (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother), Katharina BosseKatharina Bosse,
Sand (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother),
2008, c-print, 160 x 125 cm
© courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Anne Barrault
Kornfeld (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother), Katharina BosseKatharina Bosse,
Kornfeld (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother),
2008, c-print, 160 x 125 cm
© courtesy Galerie Anne Barrault
Heide (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother), Katharina BosseKatharina Bosse,
Heide (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother),
2008, c-print, 160 x 125 cm
© courtesy Galerie Anne Barrault
Berge (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother), Katharina BosseKatharina Bosse,
Berge (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother),
2008, c-print, 160 x 125 cm
© courtesy Galerie Anne Barrault
Neige (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother), Katharina BosseKatharina Bosse,
Neige (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother),
2008, c-print, 160 x 125 cm
© courtesy Galerie Anne Barrault
Sumpf (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother), Katharina BosseKatharina Bosse,
Sumpf (from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother),
2008, c-print, 160 x 125 cm
© courtesy Galerie Anne Barrault
from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother, Katharina BosseKatharina Bosse,
from the series Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother,
2008, c-print, 160 x 125 cm
© courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Anne Barrault
  There are few comments, few representations of what being a mother is today. Oddly enough, this basic passage, fundamental and founding, seems to be carefully left in the blind spot of a society which does not mind in the least infringing people’s private life. This has nothing to do with coincidence but rather with a taboo. And that is why the very last series of Katharina Bosse’s photographs in w...[more]


RackRoom
Interview with Katharina Bosse

Jan. 2009: At Galerie Anne Barrault, Paris, Artslant's Natalie Hegert met up with Katharina Bosse as she prepared for the opening of her current show, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mother: a series of provocative photographs, self-portraits in which she poses nude with her children in natural settings, exploring the "unsettling shift in identity" she experienced in becoming a mother.




Natalie Hegert: How long does it take from conception of the images to the final product?

Katharina Bosse:  This was a very long term project for me; I started in 2005 when I was pregnant with my first child, photographing every couple of months.  And then after I finished shooting it it still took another year just to make a selection and to clear things in my mind.

NH: How do you choose the location and staging, the concept of each scene?

KB: The ideas very much came out of the situation I was in at the present; every once in a while when I was not too busy with everything else I would sit down and make scribbles and draw little images; I would get ideas, usually actually quite a few at a time, but then it would take some time to actually find the way to do the images.  These for example [indicates the scene in the field with hay stacks], it looks so simple, but in Germany they take those hay bales off right away, they don't leave them on the field, so I was looking for this field for a long time! [laughs]

NH: Had to do some scouting...Do you have assistants that work with you?

KB: First, it  was when the baby was in my belly and when she was really small, so I had only one person helping me, someone to press the button, to take the actual pictures. I would set the camera on a tripod, but then I couldn't actually take the picture.

NH: Did you use other lighting? Or is it all natural light?

KB: It's natural light as well as an on-camera flash, just to add a little extra light.


NH: So it's not as staged as I would have expected.

KB: Well when the children got older there were more people involved because then they got nervous by me being occupied by the technical aspect; they didn't like it, so they needed someone to look after them.   So if I was setting up the camera they would go walk with them and play with them.

NH: So you can kind of see a time-frame because of how old your baby is...

KB: Well I have tried to make the work not like a diary.  It is two children and they are different ages, but I think it's not so easy to tell which one's which especially because the girl, the older one, looks very much like a boy.. [laughs]

NH:  Based on your other projects do you think this is a departure for you or a continuation on the other portrait series?

KB: I think in the style it's actually rather similar to my other work but the content is very different.  In the other work the documentary aspect would be much clearer, in the fact that I was meeting with people and taking their portraits, even if it was in a setting that I would choose or that I would bring the concept to this kind of photography.  But, this is new, this kind of photography where you actually have a concept of the image first and you choose everything, the setting... And it's very different because I'm in front of the camera and not behind it [laughs] where I'm actually much more comfortable!  It's also different because the content is obviously working on so many emotional and sociological levels.

NH: It seems to draw a lot from mythology as well, and even the seasons are represented..  What was your creative process?  You said you would come up with ideas and make scribbles; where did those ideas come from, an emotional standpoint, changes in your life?



KB: Well there were actually three big changes: I moved from New York back to Germany, I got pregnant and became a mother, and I started teaching full-time as well as working as an artist--before that I was working as a freelance photographer so it was quite a change in profession as well.  More importantly for this series is the fact that I moved to Germany and I became a mother, and I felt quite in a place where there was not much expression for what I was experiencing.  I felt that the things I went through were very... big, like... groundbreaking, and I thought, this is what all the women go through and I never knew it!  And no one's talking about it really--you go to a bookstore and there are all these advice books on how to be a good mother but there's hardly anything that talks about how it feels to be a mother.  The mother is very present in many discussions about such things like how much money they should have, or why are there no more children born any more, but it's always about the importance the mother has for the children, or for the society, and hardly ever about how it feels for the woman herself.  And there are so many ways to do it wrong, which I found very odd.  Basically if you stay home, it's wrong; if you go to work, it's wrong.  What I thought was missing most, is that there are many strong emotions involved, and very different ones: like being very proud and very in love with the child (much more than I would have thought, I never knew it would be like being in love with someone so much), also being scared or angry or overwhelmed or sad.   I was definitely overwhelmed, and I feel like this lack of control was a very big issue for me, because I was already 35; I already had a feeling of myself and my life and then it was all--[clicks]--changed.  

NH: Where are you living and teaching right now?

KB:  I am teaching photography at School of Applied Arts and Design in Bielefeld, Germany. It is quite a good school for photography.

NH: So are these self-portraits representations of the different facets of your emotions, a fragmenting of your identity in a way?

KB: Yes and I feel it was aspects [of motherhood] that I did not find reflected upon so much, except maybe in the media, but only if things go really really bad--like if the mother is abandoning her child--but not when it's maybe part of a normal trauma.

NH: None of them are simple representations of basic emotions, they are quite complex: like this [points out the portrait with the mask], it has an almost demonic aspect but also a very nurturing stance.

KB: In this one it's very strange: the cloth itself appears very Virgin Mary-like, and if it weren't for the mask it would be actually quite a motherly gaze on the child.  This is an image where I was dealing with this aspect of what you can offer to your child, all the things that you want, all the little things, but also, everything that is bad about yourself comes with it.  The child will basically get everything from you, all the bad things as well, and as a mother you'd like to protect your child from that, but it's impossible because you cannot protect the child from yourself.  The child will never know any other mother, so for him or her "mother" is whoever's there--really bad mothers are still be "mother" for their children.  Mothers that are a little bit bad, a little bit good, which is most of us [laughs], that's what the child will know.



NH: I think one of the things that's so striking about the work is that it is so personal yet so universal.  It's really powerful, very strong work.

KB: Thank you.  I try to go beyond what was personal.  I mean, they're very much based on my own emotions but I tried to bring them to a level where it's not just about what I've experienced but also about ideas of motherhood, and also taboos about motherhood, the bad sides or it or the sexuality which is--

NH: A lot of your work deals with eroticism and sexuality, and it is striking to see it presented in this context, even though motherhood is obviously a direct outcome of sexuality, but we don't talk about it.  It's a taboo subject.

KB: Like this image [indicating the portrait in the snow], many people have a problem with it, but if the baby wasn't there it would be totally fine. I mean there's much more explicit art than that out there, but the thing is that I'm holding the baby at the same time.

NH: Well that's where the baby came from--so it really does confront the silence in our culture about that.

KB: Exactly, the female body is, in images, so much an object of the gaze but when you become a mother the body is a very powerful site of things happening.  Some feel good and some feel bad but in the end it's very powerful.  Many people ask me, "Why do you have to be so naked?" because it makes them feel uncomfortable with the images, but that's where it all happens.

NH: You said that one of the other galleries that represents you as an artist has refused to show this series.  Why do you think that is?  What is it about this series in particular that made the gallery not want to show it?

KB: I think the gallery chose not to show the work because it made them uncomfortable in regards to the intimacy. It was not a question of the photographic quality, but of the content.

NH: What does the future hold for Katharina Bosse?  Are you working on a new series?  Focusing on family?

KB: Yes, I am working, experimenting with abstraction, doing research on other subjects for future projects, thinking about a book for the motherhood series. I am still very much involved with this work though, as it has been shown in a solo show for the first time at Anne Barrault, just a few days ago.  Maybe I don’t feel like I have to focus on the children specifically, because I am constantly checking in on them and taking care of them every day. The artistic work is much more long-term.

Artslant would like to thank Katharina Bosse and Anne Barrault for their assistance in making this interview possible.

--Natalie Hegert


(All images courtesy of the artist.)

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