Paul Herbst takes some curious photos. The chicken is in the tank and we don’t know why, though someone in the studio is convinced there is a snake in there with it. The flash gives them an uncanny look of all the detail, all at once so that the content of the image is not necessarily immediate, and so (as with the “snake”) they are easy to read into. It happens that the strangeness of these images allow for theories that are stranger still. With a new book pending with Morel Books, we spoke briefly to Paul about why things are, how they could be and what it is…
You seem to have an ability to find breaks in normality – do you go looking for these moments or do they find you?
I never consciously search for “weird stuff” or “curiosities.” In my world those things are not out of ordinary. I guess for me it was always was like that, even before I took up photography.
Have you always taken photos this way and do you think it could change if you willed it to (like handwriting)?
I don’t think I can or should force a sudden change in a way I produce work. The way I create and the way I perceive the world around me is constantly changing. For me this shift of perception happens naturally while I “grow” as a person and artist. I believe that my next book (the one after Portable Hell) will be very different, and, I would say, more mature than things I’ve done in the past. It will be much less of wandering around with a camera and more of carefully constructed installation-like images.
What is Portable Hell?
Portable Hell is a book which is coming out this year. It’s a collection of photographs shot in London between 2008 and 2011. The origins of the title are not exactly clear for me right now, as I already distanced myself from the book emotionally, but it has something to do with constant uneasiness I felt while working on it.