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April 05, 2010

Silent Warriors speak through Eric Klemm's Photographs

photo by Eric Klemm

On the weekend, I went to an exhibit of photographs by local Salt Spring resident, Eric Klemm, a photographer with an international reputation.

Klemm trained as a graphic artist and was a commercial photographer in Germany working for some of the top magazines there prior to moving to the Maldives, then France, Vancouver and Salt Spring, BC. When I asked him why he lives here now, he said he didn't know. He admits he could live anywhere and isn't sure why he lives on Salt Spring. I liked that answer. It's such a rare response.

His latest project, Italian Journey, is based on following the voyage in 1786 by the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Klemm traveled through Italy visiting the same places, on the same days, 300 years later.

When he retired from commercial photography, he found himself to be “very grumpy” and his need to create propelled him back into the creative realm in the form of Fine Art photography. In the six years since he began that, he  has produced an immense amount of work. His projects have included old cars found on Salt Spring in various states of decay or Metamorphosis to what he calls subject-less photographs that use only light and shadow to captivate, abstracts of coloured pencil shavings, and back alleys in Vancouver as well as his latest project, the Journey to Italy.

The exhibit at Mahon Hall on Salt Spring showed a sampling of photographs from these projects since he re-invented himself. Many more of the photographs (40) he has taken for the Silent Warriors project are currently being shown in Portland, Oregon. He is hoping to get a show of  them in Santa Fe at the Photo-Eye gallery.

In 2006, he travelled in Canada and the US spending more than $200,000 of his own money to photograph native people where he found them. On Vancouver’s Downtown East Side and at Pow Wows or outside stores in small towns such as Williams Lake, into the Shuswap and New Mexico, Texas, Florida. He worked with an assistant, Chris Taylor.

Sometimes, he'd take a photo within minutes of encountering an individual and other times he'd have to engage someone for a few hours to convince them to have their photo taken as part of the Silent Warriors project.  For these photographs, he used only natural light and a neutral white backdrop.

He photographed more than 300 people and Silent Warriors was published in a book by German publisher Steidl .

What I realized, as I spent a lot of time interviewing him, moving from one photo to the next, was how true professionals, regardless of what status they may have achieved as a result of their talent, have a passion for their work that is contagious.  They do not differentiate between whether you are from the New York Times or The Gulf Islands Driftwood. I liked that and I really appreciated the time he took with me.

Very inspiring!

To see the work of other Salt Spring artists, visit the Salt Spring Artist Directory.


Susan Main said...

Thanks Gayle. I like the idea of catching the "very grumpy" feeling inside and then finding a solution that adds a lot of pleasure to life for oneself and many others.

Gayle Mavor said...

Hi Susan,
Well, perhaps...
When you're stumped like a grump and you're acting like a humphalump, why not grab your trunk, give yourself a bump and find a way to trump! ha.