Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Jochen Lempert

Jul 15, 2017 - Sjoerd Knibbeler

I’m writing these blogs on a small island called Föhr, just off the coast of Northern Germany in the national park of Schleswig–Holstein, where I’m an artist in residence for a few weeks. On one of my tours around the island I happened upon four wood pigeons flopping about in a wheat field. They were trying to land on top of the straws, which were too fragile to carry their weight. To try and solve this problem, the pigeons landed flat on the chest with their wings spread wide to divide their weight over as many straws as possible. Even so, the straws gave way after some time and they took off again to try their luck on another patch. It all looked quite awkward and inconvenient for the birds and I could not come up with a reason for this strange behaviour.


The whole scene made me think of Jochen Lempert, who might have to photograph it someday, or otherwise surely has an explanation for what these pigeons were doing. Trained as a biologist, Jochen has a keen eye for unnoticed, fleeting moments, which he captures with an unassuming virtuosity. The threads that spiders use to take to the sky, carried by the wind, which he catches in the light of the sun. Or a deer on a stone paved road, alertly perking up her ears. In the first photograph her attention seems to be drawn to what’s in front of her. The second photograph probably captures the very moment she hears an unfamiliar sound behind her: the click made by the camera.


Jochen does not only hunt, he also gathers. The Skins of Alca impennis is his expanding collection of the great auk, a flightless bird that became extinct in the mid-nineteenth century. The great auk was exploited en masse by humans for it’s down, used to make pillows. The animals portrayed are in fact taxidermied specimens in the collections of natural history museums around the world: Stuffed skins of an animal exterminated to fill cushions. Sleep well.


For me, the biologist becomes most apparent in his photograms. He deploys the technique to trace movement and patterns of smaller animals and plants like glow worms, fire flies, reptiles or algae. By letting bio luminous organisms like glow-worms crawl over 35 mm film, they record their own paths onto the photosensitive material. Another series documents water striders, insects that ‘walk on water’, where the photosensitive paper was placed under water to create the photogram.


Although Jochen only uses analogue modes of photography and prints his exclusively black and white photographs on barite paper, he is by no means a traditionalist. Technical perfection or dogma’s are not his cup of tea. He rather uses his unframed prints to improvise with spatial organisations in an exhibition space, inviting you to associatively make connections between photographs: Looking, discovering and questioning yourself.


Lot’s of reason I’d say, to look forward to meeting Jochen end of August in Belfast. Together with David Fathi, we will take part in a group exhibition at Belfast Exposed. Keep an eye out on the website for more information on the show.


All images are installation views of his solo show at Midway Contemporary Art in 2012