Ali Kate Cherkis


CJ Chandler

Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Milan Gies - State of Identity

Jul 17, 2019

Over the years many intellectuals have struggled to understand and define the notion of identity.


Is identity rigid or more fluid? Does such a thing as a man or a woman exists, or do these labels just serve the purpose of maintaining social order. What if you happened to be born in the wrong body and you have no choice but to confront your initial gender identity.


In the series State of Identity the artist portrays those who are in search of their gender identity and are in the process of physical transition. Just as in his earlier work he establishes a bond through working with them over a long period. Only through this intensive method he is able to represent them in all their complexity.

Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.

State of Identity

Jul 23, 2019 - Milan Gies

In the series ‘State of Identity’ I portray young people who are in search of their gender identity and who are in the process of physical transition. The focus is not on the physical transition in itself though, but on the complex psychological process these people are going through. It’s a search for who they really are and where they are going. For most of them, it’s the first time they disclose themselves like this, both physically and emotionally. I tried to capture their inner struggle and the way this is shown in their bodies and glances. I invite the viewer to look at them the way I try to do: as open, caring and unprejudiced as possible.

Portraits of B

Jul 22, 2019 - Milan Gies

These images are part of the series ‘Portraits of B’. This is a long term project I’ve started many years ago and I’m still working on. I’ve portrayed my friend B over the course of many years. My focus in this series is on studying the way his body, posture and glance tell the story of his, often painful, life.


Although I’m a photographer, I get a lot of inspiration from painters like Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. What I try to do in my work, is to get as close to a person as possible, both physically and emotionally, and spend a lot of time with them. By working this way, they allow me to come closer and help me in showing them as ‘true’ as possible.


Jul 20, 2019 - Milan Gies

Ecce homo- Behold the man. Self-reliance, independency, in a way ‘invulnerability’ are important values in our modern day society and that is reflected in the way we appreciate the human body: it should be healthy, young, fit, strong. Those are the images that we are usually confronted with. But how do we relate to people who aren’t able to come along, for example because they suffer from exclusion, poverty, addiction? Vulnerability has become an almost unbearable phenomenon in our achievement-oriented society. That raises the question: what is vulnerability still worth in our society? Does vulnerability mean weakness, or is this exactly where we find our common humanity? Are we really different from the people we consider to be vulnerable?


For this series, I followed men who have come to falter for several reasons and who are considered ‘unprofitable’ by society. I try to show them in all of their humanity and complexity; their strength, vulnerability, suffering, beauty and grace. I worked intensively with these people, who visited me very often and spent a lot of time in my studio. This way, my studio became part of their daily lives and this allowed me to immerse myself in their world. This method shows a relation with the work of Antoine d’Agata, also one of my sources of inspiration. Furthermore, this is a point in my career where I decided to add some colour to my images, to create a counterpoint to the rawness of them.

Bedburg Hau

Jul 18, 2019 - Milan Gies

These images are part of the project ‘The ideal man’, created during an artist-in-residence in Bedburg-Hau (DE). Within this project I wanted to show my search for vulnerability in men. Although I think there is no such thing as the ‘ideal’ man, one must have ideals. But those ideals must always be reflected and placed in their own context. Otherwise we start creating super ideals that make the world hard and unreal. The ideal can only exist if the opposite also exists. There is perfection through the existence of imperfection.


This series was made in 2011, so is part of my earlier work. After my graduation from the Photo Academy, I was inspired by a book I read by Wolfgang Tillmans. In this book, he described his method of creating images, portraits that were as ‘real’ and direct as possible, for example by flashing via the ceiling to avoid artificial shadows. This way, the images appear very soft and nearby.