Alexander Binder is a wizard creator of imaginary worlds. Growing up in Germany’s Black Forest in the 1980’s, his pre-internet (and pre-Kanye West) childhood and limited athletic abilities sparked a love for old fairytales, comic books and fantasy literature, as well as science fiction and horror movies. Over the years, these obsessions accumulated into a mental archive of psychedelic stories and imagery, which have had a major influence on his photographic practice for more than a decade. Binder’s upcoming book with Tangerine Press, Kristall ohne Liebe, meaning "The Crystal without Love,” uses various mystical symbols to draw an ongoing tension between competing forces of darkness and light. From a distance, this might sound like the perfect recipe for a late 1990’s mall-goth picture book, but it’s executed with a sensitivity that is smart, thoughtful and aesthetically riveting. And it's even stranger when viewed while listening to Black Sabbath’s N.I.B.
Binder’s pictures are littered with ominous symbols: moths, spiders and other insects loaded with spiritual metaphor. Like the dichotomous crystal in the book’s title, Binder is drawn to the wealth of historical and cultural contradictions associated with them. “In some countries moths are an omen of near death,” says Binder, “other cultures associate moths with intuition and clarity. It’s the same thing with spiders. Some people see them as mystic architects; others condemn them as deadly predators that wait patiently for their prey.”
Nearly all of Binder’s subjects appear in soft focus, often whisked with splintering light or other visual accidents resulting form his use of cheap toy cameras. “I don’t plan my shootings in detail.” he says. “Everything is very amateurish and I love to improvise. Chance plays an important role during the production process.” Binder likens these to text fragments or abstractions of ideas, which leave them open-ended, without contrivance.
Kristall Ohne Liebe’s cultish themes are also inspired by Binder’s interest in late 19th and early 20th century occult phenomena, ghost hunting and spirit photography. While in no way rejecting modern day science, his attention to these spiritualties, which many might consider “irrational” today, represent what he sees as an escape from the limitations of the natural world. “My fascination with the surreal and the occult is a joyful escape from this kind of rational thinking,” says Binder. “I want to bring mystical ideas alive in my artistic work and I want to show that there’s a mental refuge outside the limitations of our visible world.”
Bio: Alexander Binder was born on Halloween night 1976 in the Black Forest/Germany. He’s a self taught photographer using vintage, glass & plastic lenses, prisms and optical toys. Alexander’s photos have been exhibited internationally (Germany, France, UK, Poland, US, Canada, Northern Ireland, Italy, Netherlands). The images were published in VICE, SLEEK, TUSH, TWIN, GUP, Clark, Fotografia, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin and was included in Humble Arts Foundation's 2014 online exhibition "Occultisms."