Bastian Thiery’s new book documents a mythical and curious search for a limping fox
After encountering the creature in his neighbourhood, the Berlin-based photographer set out with his camera to find it. But was he ever successful?
- Ayla Angelos
- 29 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
On a spring evening in Neuköllin, Berlin, Bastian Thiery encountered a limping fox in his neighbourhood. Intrigued, he began searching for it over and over. But, despite bumping into the fox on numerous occasions on his nightly walks, Bastian never got the chance to photograph it. “It was curious, and allowed me to photograph it, but it ran away when I came too close – just to wait again for me.”
This exact encounter is what drove the idea for his newly self-published book, Humpelfuchs. A strange and unsettling one, Bastian found it all rather odd that he had continued to walk the same areas in Neukölln but only saw the fox twice again. That was until some friends had told him how they’d spotted it nearby, which narrowed down his searching grounds and set up a parameter. “It was pretty much clear to me from the beginning that I was working on a book,” he continues. “It’s the way I prefer to look at photographs and I’m very interested in the storytelling and narrative capabilities of photo books.”
Bastian’s adoration for storytelling and first venture into photography came later on in life, and was something that was sparked after moving to Berlin ten years ago, from his hometown in southwest Germany. Although he showed great interest in visual culture growing up, he didn’t have much exposure to the arts. What’s more, he also struggled at school and thought that the whole studying aspect – “especially something creative” – wasn’t right for him. Hence, the thought of becoming a photographer was far-reaching and a career that he never considered until his mid-20s. “After high-school, I did an apprenticeship as a chemical worker at a factory, and then I moved to Berlin to catch up on all the parties that I missed while working night shifts,” he says. “In Berlin, I randomly started modelling and it was then that I first started exploring photography.”
Shortly after moving to New York in 2013 – armed with an old Nikon camera that was gifted by his father – Bastian started dabbling in the medium taking snapshot-style travel pictures of his new surroundings. “There, I often spent whole days taking pictures on the street, doing improvised street portraits and exploring the more classical street photography approach.” Adhering to a black and white aesthetic at the time, he continued his studies in documentary photography at the International Centre of Photography, before returning back to Berlin to pursue full-time education at Ostkreuzschule für Photography, where he graduated in October 2018.
After realising his artistic voice and passion for the medium, Bastian’s knowledge and style began to grow, alongside a keen interest in the “directness” that it provides. “You not only record or document life, but you actively engage in it through your work and even through the act of taking pictures,” he explains. By not taking himself or his approach too seriously, he seeks out the moments that will stick with his audience – the personal and immediate ones that linger with you for a long time after the event.
In the case of Humpelfuchs, this event comes in the form of abrupt, flash-lit nightly walks in search of a mythical creature. “I loved fables as a child and still do,” he adds, “and animals sometimes tell more about the human condition than humans themselves.” Although there is no clear sign of an animal in his imagery, you can certainly sense the presence of the fox either lurking in the shadows or out of the frame and the photographer’s sight. It’s a feeling brought on by the book’s four chapters, used in an attempt to replicate the “tense” experience of walking the residential streets at night, filled with spooky noises and swaying trees.
Split into four sequences, Humpelfuchs is like a fragmented memory; the pages are decorated with nonchalant moments and “banal things”, like his neighbours going about their nightly antics or the bonnet of a car decorated with flowers. Even if Humpelfuchs isn’t a direct ode to Neukölln – and more of a quest to find this strange creature – it’s still an inquisitive documentation of a photographer’s expedition through a neighbourhood in its darkest yet quietest times. So where is this fox, and does Bastian ever find it? Without any solid answers, it’s up to us to draw our own conclusions, really.