From time to time, I think about the nature of my photographic work, as a conscious and curious photographer ought to do. It takes a while before you reach the core of your own creations. Until now, I never found a description that really summed it up. Last month, after having discovered a discussion on the “class” concept of Martin Parr, I learned that the thing driving my work is not the depiction of the consumer society and the people in it. I discovered that the total motivation of my work can be summarized as a reflection on and a presentation of social stratification. The people and situations I photograph become interesting when seen in relation to the social hemispheres that surrounds and surpasses them. That´s why I love including the context of a subject in the frame. As a test, I looked at photos taken ten years ago and discovered they illustrate social stratification even stronger than my contemporary work. I am curious how long this new “best description” of my work will hold.
What exactly is, in my opinion, social stratification? Sociologists argue about the nature of the pertinent fractions in human populations, about the characteristics of divided and top-down-ranked human classes. For me, classes are defined by the work people are forced to do. There are those who have to accept any job available to survive. Then there are those who have the luxury to be picky about what job they choose to live in dignity. And then, of course, there are those who don´t have to work at all to live all of their dreams. As a result, social stratification is all about mental and physical mobility and freedom. Those who have a good income, related to self-determined work, feel more secure and have an open mind to build up their life as they would like it to be. Those who struggle to pay for their basic needs while suffering bad working conditions, feel tired and have only the power to focus on short term goals. Hence they might miss out on the flyby chances that could improve their life. The difference between a life spent in survival mode or a life spent with the energy to look at the world determines basically everything: self-esteem, social appearance, networks, strategic bargaining, social acceptance, etc. In the end, social stratification is not about the money people spend, it is about the ease or impossibility to attend the life they dream of. I believe most of my photographs are about the pathway of people towards their dreams or disillusions.
This new insight helps me to finetune my photographic practice more. I plan to visit fairs and public events more often again. They are the perfect setting to snap hidden aspirations and authentic happiness. In secret, I still hope to deliver a piece of work like Brandon Stanton´s: Humans of New York, the best stories. I am curious to see how big my own area of mental mobility is to reach this goal!