“We will allow you to take photos of us while we are eating if you meditate with us afterwards,“ a friendly monk of a remote Buddhist monastery told Christian Voigt a few years ago. And with it, of course, gave his foreign guest two gifts at once: the generous offer to allow him to participate in the everyday life of the religious community – and the opportunity to take a wonderful photo. “I learned how to practice walking meditation during my time in the monastery. I continue practising it today,“ says the photographer.
Isn`t just travelling a gift of life for those who allow themselves to experience something that appears to be different or new, far from the very confortable zone at home? “A trip is like drinking from the source of life“, stated German poet and dramatist Friedrich Hebbel in the 19th century. The seductive essence of this drink, an elixir of life that has a profound impact on the viewer, flows from Christian Voigt`s photographs.
The Hamburg-based photographer manages to find images on his trips that leave us astonished before the world. That might even be his biggest talent, hidden amidst the perfection of his almost hyper-realistic photos. We stand in front of the images like a child amazed by his first firework display rediscovering our sense of ilusion for some precious moments.
At these moments, Christian Voigt`s monumental pictures open up to us like a festival for our senses. We gently lose ourselves in an archetypal dune landscape that evokes the kingdom of myths and fairy tales, and then find ourselves in the historical architecture of an ancient Egyptian temple. Our thoughts cross continents and cultures through these images. They open up breathtaking horizons, where authentic living culture meets the aesthetic culture of images. A new adventure awaits us with each image. We can almost hear the evening drone of moped and motorcycle engines revving in the streets of Vietnam, the stomping rhythm of the music emanating from the glowing red Las Vegas strip club where a stripper appears to gyrate in the blurred background of our fantasies. Our eyes and our thoughts set off on an excursion in Voigt’s “world images“.
The apparently restless globetrotter Christian Voigt shares throughout his photograps what he has extracted from his trips: a condensed world culture. He raves about the power of a large print in an XXL format that practically pulls his viewers into the picture. “I need the massive size to capture my emotions. When you sit in front of the large format the result is a festival for the eyes". Voigt`s imposing and monumental works effortlessly fill the room, shaping the atmosphere of the interior. The people in these images are often small, providing proportion to a large-scale scenario of a location and everything going on in it.
The charismatic big image hunter has an eye for cultural rites and magical moments he finds all around the world and allows us to share his emotions during these precious moments. In addition to several images that have been prepared for years, there are also often spectacular examples of his spontaneous reaction to locations and situations.
“Christian captures the beauty of the world in pictures“, gushes a Californian collector of his work when asked why he is such a fan of the German photographer`s work. His photogrphs often do seem to be a visual approach to the definition of beauty. “I love depicting beauty,“ says the photographer, not meaning a one-dimensional concept. Voigt says that he also looks for and finds this beauty in the chaos of an Asian street market, for example. Of course the beauty of these images is in their creative precision, their clear, vibrant colors, and perfectly executed compositions.
Voigt`s shots offer the viewer a perfect arrangement of harmonies and targeted dissonances. The passionate photographer composes complex symphonies for the eyes. He does not care wheater these locations have been frequently photographed or never been photographed. “I have taken pictures of New York`s Central Park. A billion photos of it have been taken already“, says Christian Voigt. “I’m not worried, because I know that my photo will look different“. The 20th century artistic genius Pablo Picasso once said, “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun. However, a painter that transforms a yellow spot into a sunrise is an artist“. Christian Voigt loves this quote. And transforms a single photo into an atmospheric picture that, using up to 30 exposures, condenses one shot into a newly enriched complete picture that reflects its pulse and attraction. The result could be photographs of the collective works of an ancient library or details of the street life of a faraway land. Chaos and order, opulence and simplicity are all equal in a pictorial cosmos that shows us the multifaceted nature of the world.
After his father died Voigt, the scion of a German upper-class publishing family, discovered among his things some photographs he had taken during his trips in the 1950s. He also found photographs from the 1920s that were taken by his grandmother showing the same photographic talent. They certainly were talented amateurs, but Christian Voigt has become a professional photographer and is now internationally known as a photo artist. “It almost seemed to me as if I had a karma to fullfil that has been in my family for two generations“, he says, smiling at the thought.
Manfred Zollner is a photo critic and Deputy editor in chief of the german fotoMAGAZIN