Schattenrisse from Kathrin Karras

Anke Zeisler

Technical refinement can always be found in visual media, including painting and drawing. The often well-protected technical secret and its unique results are given more room in photography due to the very nature of the medium. Originated in Ancient Greek photós and graphein, light plus drawing or painting – imply the fusion of two elements into one permanent meaning – a photograph. Logic concludes that creation doubles at least. But that’s not entirely the range photographer Kathrin Karras thrives for and explores.

Without a doubt on several occasions she has been asked to reveal her technical secrets. Let’s begin the questioning then: What is meant by Schattenrisse? Is it of technical nature, since it’s the title of a photographic body of work, or is it indeed a disguise and transformation, a form of magic?

Regarding the mechanical aspect, Schattenrisse speaks to the contour of a silhouette, separate from its background. Shadow also always implies light. And a tear isn’t only the abrupt fissure but could also refer to a slower etching where we originate the meaning of drawing. Schattenriss – Light drawing.

The spectrum of photographic techniques is astutely able to impress us. Because we assume to be seeing something credible, we take it at face value. By means of light, objects of reality are translated into 2D. Reality appears in its translation of form, well aware of the fact that through the photographic process they are subject to distortion. Space and object turn into surface, color into black and white, proportions, focus and depth are different. Ultimately the eye of the camera isn’t our natural eye.

Since its invention the intentional distortions became a means by which light painters transformed an ordinary picture into art. Schattenrisse then are poetic constructs? The question here is already the answer. Mechanical means is the tool, just like the pencil or brush. But with light, camera and chemicals uniting to a whole different degree. There is a potential to translate familiar reality into a distant dream, surrealism. Just as with Karras’s work it can visually morph different phenomena into one. Or by means of multiple exposures can trace time through space. Because what is time if not undifferentiated movement and transformation? It creates a feeling of union between otherwise separate moments, sometimes uncanny or even ghostly. Just as with word kinships we can deduct a broader meaning, the photographically technical process can create metaphors through interwoven layers that unite differences to make the invisible visible.

The artist says “at the center of my work resides always the human being”. And indeed he/she populates all of her Schattenrisse. She inherited hundreds of family pictures, rummaged through flea markets and made new ones.

Schattenrisse is still an ongoing project for her – it originated in 2010 and is being passionately continued to this day. She has also created differently focused work, namely her documentary style Black & White portraits titled Land leben (living land). But with her Schattenrisse series she began a new phase, it became, metaphorically speaking, a pictorial invention. Enigmatic, surreal, impressive. Abstractions – they ought to express something words cannot. Through this fusion of visual impressions we can instantaneously access something complex, entwined into a multi-dimensional moment. Kathrin Karras says: Photography is a searching for clues, within and without. What does she mean – clues of what?

She combines, explores, traces something that by means of words she can only outline. Within – Without – Center for example. Do her works require titles? The artist hasn’t decided yet, she says: Regarding the individual titles for each photograph I am not quite centered on a decision yet. She admits her attraction for Else Lasker-Schüler’s unique poetic genius. The renowned poet has famously inspired many artists through the richness of her literal worlds. Her ability to transform identities is reminiscent of magic – she unites aspects of the unknown into something so far, yet so near. Something we find in Kathrin Karras’s work. She quotes the poet: in the lap of timelessness, or thousandandthousandafar. That leads us to the recently published work by Francois Cheng About the Beauty of Soul. There he finds: Soul doesn’t live in the movement of time. She finds rest within worlds, that dreaming imagines … Thoughts refine and multiply in a dance of interrelating spirits. Images conjure in their luminescence a communion of souls.

Sunken into the visual worlds of Kathrin Karras, is following in the footsteps of her searching for clues. As though we’re invited to be in stillness ourselves, to look for that, which only ever leaves traces to begin with. That which the light painter herself is trying to reach. Today we hardly talk about it – there is a shyness surrounding that part of our trinity, the soul. Because other than body and mind we cannot measure or see her. Dreams and sometimes an image could potentially be deemed footprints or even shadows of her existence.

1 Kathrin Karras in einem Statement 2016
2 ebenda
3 Kathrin Karras am 27.6.2018 in einer E-Mail an die Verfasserin
4 Ruth Klüger: Else Lasker-Schüler, In Theben geboren, Suhrkamp 1998
5 Gaston Bachelard, zitiert von Francois Cheng in ›Über die Schönheit der Seele‹, C. H. Beck, München 2018