Interview Foam Talent Call: Esther Teichmann
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Esther Teichmann. I grew up in Weingarten, a village
in southern Germany in the Rhine valley near the Black Forest with
my American mother and German father. They still live in the same
house we (my two sisters and I) were born in. I left Germany
after high school to go to art school outside of London and have
been mainly based in London since, doing my MA and then later PhD
at the Royal
College of Art. This academic year I am on sabbatical from the
of Communication (where I teach MA and BA Photography courses)
and am spending the year in San Francisco as a visiting artist at
College of the Arts. Having the privilege to work closely with
students and colleagues in art schools both in the UK and
internationally has been incredibly important to my practice.
What inspired you to pick up a camera and start taking
Photography's (and film) relationship to transformation whilst
maintaining its inevitable link to reality makes it a unique and
endlessly fascinating medium. I have always loved images and have
been drawn to paintings, have collected and cut out photographs
from discarded newspapers and other found material, and have been
equally influenced by literature, writing fragmented short stories
as a form of sketchbook work (which enters the work more directly
in the film works as voiceovers). Changing lived experience into
fiction has always been part of my practice.
What (technical) gear do you use?
The technology and materials I use really vary depending on the
piece of work. I often use large format cameras (5x4 inch or 10x8
inch field cameras) shooting both black and white and colour film,
and love working in the darkroom. I am currently working on very
large-scale fibre-based mural prints, which are made up of several
sections to emulate the scale of painted backdrops I have used in
some of my recent works. Some of these mural prints are painted
into the prints with ink and acrylics, in the same way that I have
previously worked with them on colour prints.
I also work digitally, especially for moving image work
(recently on the Nikon D800E editing on my Mac laptop and
desktop) and work with editors and sound engineers (and actors for
Each piece is approached separately and I love learning new
processes. Iam lucky to be in art school environments that allow me
to continually learn from my colleagues and all the amazing
technical support and facilities.
Do you have other interests besides photography?
Besides going to museums, galleries and to the movies with close
friends, I am really happiest in or near water; swimming, canoeing
through back rivers and swamps and lying in saunas and steam rooms
thinking about new works and ideas. I guess everything that makes
me happy and the family and friends I love are all part of my work,
so there is very little separation in some ways.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? Who is
your favorite photographer or artist?
The bodies that I love and desire, the ones that are home and
the stories they tell are my main sources of inspiration. My
practice explores the origins of fantasy and desire and how these
are bound to the experiences of loss and representation. I am
interested in the dichotomy between autobiography and fiction,
reworking experiences into something else in images, films and
There are so many artists, photographers, filmmakers and writers
who I am influenced and inspired by. Some of my favourite writers
include Maurice Blanchot, Georges Bataille, and Marguerite
I saw wonderful Neo Rauch paintings in the Rubell Collection in
Miami last week and one of my favourite shows of the past year was
a show at Yerba
Buena in San Francisco by Nathalie Djerberg, which combines sculptures
and animations in an incredible installation. I have loved her work
since I first saw it at the ZKM in my hometown in Karlsruhe years ago. This
summer I went to the Museum of Fine Art in Leipzig for the first
time and think it has some of the most considered and beautiful
curated exhibitions (and amazing architecture) of any museum I have
ever been to. There was a great Lee Miller/ Man Ray show in San Francisco a few months ago
that was installed to echo and outline their relationship. I also
went to the Neue Galerie in New York for the first time a
few a few months ago and want to live there. Too many artists,
shows, museums, films to list.
Have you been working on any new projects this year that you
would like to share with us?
I am currently working on a new short film piece which is
similar in structure to the piece I made last, In Search of
Lightning, although with a very different narrative and shot
in jungle rivers rather than in caves.
I am also working on the large-scale wall mural prints I
mentioned earlier, and am painting more backdrops for new studio
pieces. I spent the last month photographing and filming in Florida
with family and am currently shooting new work in Tuscany where my
little sister lives on a beautiful mountain that is covered in
rolling fog and clouds and glistening olive trees.
I'll be back in San Francisco in a week and am looking forward
to working through the new material towards an exhibition and
What did the Foam Talent Call do for your career as a
Foam's museum, magazine and blog have a really exciting approach
to photography, combining exhibitions and features of very
established artists with emerging artists, creating a really
dynamic dialogue. I have been invited to write/ curate a monthly
feature on the Foam blog, which has been really fun.
Do you have any tips for the young photographers out there
who want to submit their work to the Foam Talent Call?
I guess the main thing that I try and remember and have learnt
is to keep enjoying and being excited about the work you make. If
it scares you, surprises you and makes you happy it might just be
good. And to work hard but to also be patient and not measure
yourself and the work based on a certain kind of success or
recognition. Surround yourself with friends and colleagues who
inspire you, and be generous in sharing your ideas with one