At some point, Katrin Koenning’s ongoing series Glow will come to a natural end. She’ll stop making her black and white photographs of ghostly light peering through faces, bodies and everyday ephemera, and will fold them into a natural conclusion. But for now, this work, which has been evolving for several years, will continue to meander in non-linear bliss, wrapped in various metaphors about impermanence.
Glow began somewhat randomly with a sun-lit photograph of a discarded fast food box, before expanding to other subjects one might not expect to be subsumed with light. “I’ve always been a rubbish kind-of woman,” Koenning tells us. “Back in Germany I built lamps from rubbish, for bars etc. The stuff you can find, it’s so interesting. And then the stuff you can make – even more so!” Giving a new pulse to something as simple as random trash was remarkably liberating to Koenning’s creative process. “The light bulb image,” Koenning tells us, “is a picture of a McDonalds burger box. There it was, forgotten on this neat and bright green bit of grass somewhere in the middle of the city, near the river. Everyone walked right past – but it was glowing! How can you walk past something that glows? You can only do that if you can’t see its glow.” For Koenning, this emphasized a selective process of viewing the world, one that if shifted, could have a life-changing impact. “We only see what we want to see,” writes Koenning. “If you free up your vision (physically and metaphorically), everything changes.”
In many ways, Katrin Koenning’s work is tied to her experience as a transplant from Germany to Australia, where she moved in 2003. Early experience of loss, and the move through culture and continent, helped shape the way she visualizes her world and continues to make photographs.
Her images, which feel fleeting and transient, reflect her history of movement, mobility, and a general lack of rootedness. While it’s easy to conclude that this could lead to an ambivalent relationship to life in general, for Koenning, it’s an outlook that has allowed her to see and experience the world more deeply and emotionally. Photographs of faces obscured by the same ethereal light as garbage, birds, or sea creatures draw an interconnected relationship to everything in the world, which for Koenning, has the potential to breath, or shine, if people just slow down. “I think understanding this can make you love fiercely (a leaf, a lover, a stranger, a meal.)"
Bio: Katrin Koenning is a German-born, Melbourne-based photographer with a particular interest in narrative, movement and place. She regularly exhibits both nationally and internationally, including at festivals such as the New York Photo Festival, Noorderlicht, FORMAT, Voies Off, HeadOn and others. Katrin’s work has been published in Photographers’ Sketchbooks, Hijacked III, The Guardian, The New York Times, GUP Magazine and Der Spiegel amongst others. She has won a number of awards including the 2014 Bowness Photography Prize People’s Choice Award, Australia’s Top Emerging Documentary Photographer (2011), and the 2012 JGS Award by the Forward Thinking Museum.