Photographer Hannah Schemel exudes a quiet calm.
by Christopher Osborne.
Hannah’s work is minimalistic, gentle and calming.
Photographer Hannah Schemel exudes a quiet calm. Her work is minimalistic, gentle and calming. She only works on film and prints her work using the Platinum/Palladium technique.
Ironically, she turned away from photography during her degree, but then returned when she started working exclusively in analogue techniques. She moved from 35mm through medium format to large format photography. She describes analogue photography as offering a renewed “feeling of photography”.
In contrast to many of today’s photographers, she wants to make small images. She sees this as an opportunity to present work in a way in which the viewer has “a lot of space for their own thoughts”.
Hannah travelled to Japan and was surprised at the affinity she felt to the country. She describes it as “being at home”. The politeness and modesty struck a chord with her. I asked her how this trip affected her work. “Before going to Japan, there was an intuitive element to my work. Afterwards, I understood” where I was taking my practice.
When Hannah was in Kyoto she had the opportunity to see a painting by Hasegawa Tōhaku. She was ushered into the Konchi-in temple and sat on a tatami mat in front of the painting. The temple was lit by natural light, there were no white walls and glaring lights. And no barriers between her and a work that was four hundred years old.
Her images are exclusively landscapes and are made within two themes in the same locations. Schemel traces the origin of places through her provenance (“kigen”) in the Black Forest and the mythical promise of the sea (“umi”) of Quiberon.
Even though Hannah is scanning her negatives to make digital negatives for printing, she does not retouch. For example, if the light isn’t right, then she will return to the scene – in some cases a year later.
I asked Hannah, how long it is between taking an image, and it is printed. “That depends on my mood. And what I want to get on paper at the time. Sometimes it is as little as two weeks. And other times it is years”.
We talked about the process behind her work. Hannah prints on paper handmade by a local papermaker. Each sheet has an individual character and she selects the paper to match each image. She mixes her own chemistry after running into quality issues with pre-mixed chemistry. She exposes the work on an exposure unit that her father helped her to build. She laughs and her description of the lack of consistent information on building an exposure unit will be recognisable by many alternative printers. The process was a mixture of “nerves, money and time”. That said her unit worked from the first exposure.
She is currently working with Steffen Diemer on a new exhibition. The planning process starts with the viewer’s experience mood and perspective. Her Platinum/Palladium prints will sit next to his wet plate still life images. She shows me a photograph of their work together, and there is no doubt that there is an almost symbiotic pairing.
Their next exhibition is planned for September in the Peter Zimmerman Gallery in Mannheim, Germany.
Images © Hannah Schemel 2021. You can see more of Hannah’s work at https://hannahschemel.com
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