Jochen Lempert


Untitled (four swans), 2006 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, for Jochen Lempert Courtesy of ProjecteSD, Barcelona

As we discussed at length in this blog by Gareth, nature photography doesn’t feature much in photographic art magazines.  Perhaps that is all about to change as Jochen Lempert is nominated as one of this year’s Deutsche Börse Prize potential winners.

Lempert takes pretty pictures that’s for sure, but they are not simply that.  His work has been lauded among the best in publications such as Camera Austria and Art Review.  His work is often referenced alongside post modernist authors, such as Italo Calvino, likening his use of photography to their use of disparate and fractured texts.   Lempert’s images operate in much the same way.  By placing seeminly arbitrary texts (photographs) together associations are made in the mind of the viewer that cannot be predicted or ascertained.  The work takes on a life of it’s own as combinations and narratives play out depending on the individual mind of the viewer.

For example, my reading of this triptych will probably be completely different from yours and that is the strength of this work – it transcends experience and knowledge and draws upon personal histories.  That could be said of any photograph of course but the confidence by which Lempert presents his work, seemingly unresolved and fractured, reveals his belief in the open text and the power of the metonym.  So much so that the work speaks for itself and he doesn’t feel the need to explain it away.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 12.07.38

As post modernists refer to themselves and their processes Lempert’s photography is as much about photography as it is photography.  (A trait that seems to arise time and again in the Deutsche Börse selections for the prize.)

I was never any good at mixing science and art so I find it impressive intimidating to see people excel at maximising both left and right sides of their brain.  So often science and art are seen as mutually exclusive.  As a trained entomologist and ornithologist, Jochen Lempert challenges this notion. I hope the raised awareness of his work as a result of Deutsche Börse will be a point of inspiration for intelligently positioned photographic work about nature.

This is the second of our four opinion pieces on the Deutsche Börse finalists. To read Jesse Alexander’s piece on why he wants Richard Mosse to win click here


  1. Amano - Photographic Studies 11 April 2014 at 7:07 am

    “intelligently positioned photographic work about nature”
    thanks for this post Sharon and I agree with your hope …

  2. jamesjosephlloyd 11 April 2014 at 7:58 am

    It is a mistake to think of art and science using different parts of the brain. Both disciplines require use of the whole brain to be successful

  3. Keith Greenough 11 April 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks for the post Sharon..some interesting thoughts on open texts which I plan to follow up.

  4. jsumb 17 April 2014 at 7:05 am

    Leaving aside for a moment the notion of pretty pictures 🙂 it seems to me that there is a subtle difference between Lempert’s work and that of Calvino’s which might be described as the difference between what’s not been said and what’s been left unsaid. In Calvino’s short stories stories for example the reader is often taken to an ‘edge’, often precipitous, and the reader can explore whether to impel the next step forward or not. Whereas Lempert appears to provide the narrative elements, those ‘pretty pictures’ and encourages the reader to develop the narrative discourse, as Eco says about allowing the reader to abandon themselves to the free play of reactions…. From what I’ve seen of Lempert’s work it is also about about the joy and wonderment of image making and I look forward to seeing the work when I can.
    As for who ‘wins’, this maybe the year when they all could win; it is interesting to note that all these artist have, for one reason another, used film as their medium with Lempert perhaps the one that has fully embraced both the visual and haptic nature of the analogue process, so from that aspect alone it will be interesting to view these artist’s work.


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