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20 minutes of light

Phil Coomes | 09:27 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

As photographers I'd guess we are all constantly watching the light, see it changing through the day, seeking out those magic corners of a city where the light seems to be so intense, or other worldly.

Katrin Koenning has taken this to its limit. Her latest series, entitled Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna is a startling series of pictures shot in Melbourne, Australia, of brightly lit faces emerging from a void. The prints entice the viewer into this work of light and dark.

What makes the series all the more interesting is the fact that the pictures are all taken in the same spot during a 20 minute period when the light reaches this street in the city's business district.

Luckily this moment of illumination coincides with lunchtime when office workers are hurrying to grab coffees and sandwiches making ideal subjects.

Katrin said:

"During these few minutes, a transformation happens - faces are illuminated, dust twirls through rays of sun, cigarette smoke glistens silver- blue against dark buildings. You can hear snippets of conversation and laughter between friends, and sometimes the muffled tum-tum of an iPod as if to draw attention to the lack of interaction between strangers.
 
"It's a 'mis en scene', a theatre stage on which people become my protagonists for an instant. Here, every minute detail counts. Blue coats, red ribbons and green bags become significant 'props'. Everything ordinary turns into something extra-ordinary, begging me to have my eyes wide open.
 
"We stare ahead, buried in thought. There is a fragile beauty in our distant gazes - as if inside, we were hanging on to something out of reach to anyone else, sacred only to us.
 
"In a way, these images are an invite to play the guessing game we all love playing - the Girl in Red, what is her name, and what's her story?

Katrin has revisited the street many times has revealed the routine of our daily lives as she has now photographed a number of people more than once.

But don't be fooled into thinking these are shot from far away, the alley is a narrow one and Katrin uses a standard 50mm lens, often rubbing shoulders with those she photographs.

So far no one has come complained, or she tells me even questioned what she is doing, indeed many don't appear to notice. She told me that she wants to be open: "It is important to me that people who I photograph can see that I am there - I think this is fairer."

"This is something I really was curious about when I started the project, I wanted to see
how close, how intimate I could possibly get while photographing in public, and to make images that remove those cold barriers of strangeness."

She adds: "I have a never ending love affair with the hustle and happenings of the city centre, and an obsession over what happens when strangers are thrown together in close proximity. Strangers intrigue me."

Her work draws the audience into that love affair in an attempt to get us to lift our gaze from our own field of vision and notice those around us.

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

Katrin's work can currently be seen at The Front Room Gallery in London, alongside the work of Schinster and Kurt Tong. The three were selected as winners of the Troika Editions/Format Exposure Award.

An interview with Katrin can also be viewed on the Troika website.

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