On photographer Frederike Helwig’s website is a long, long list of clients. From magazines such as AnOther and Apartamento, to Giorgio Armani or portraits of Taylor Swift, the editorial photographer has a mass of projects to explore. However, it is a recent publication from Frederike that caught our eye at Offprint, Rundgang a series of images of Nicaragua finally published from 2004. Frederike was originally sent to Nicaragua by a glossy publication, who at the time didn’t find what they were looking for within the photographs. Now 13 years later, the photographer has published the photographs with Here Press, in a publication that acts as a snapshot of time, of both Nicaragua and photography as a medium. Below, Frederike tells us more about the project.
Can you tell us in your own words about your book Rundgang?
Rundgang combines a body of work that was taken during a one week trip to Nicaragua when an American magazine commissioned me to document US real estate development there in 2004. The year also saw the 25th anniversary of the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s victory over the dictatorship of the Somoza family that had ruled Nicaragua for over 40 years and was largely backed by the USA. This conflict was covered by Magnum Photographer Susan Meiselas in the 1970s and it is through her images that I was introduced to Nicaragua many years ago before. During my stay I covered the assignment and spent one afternoon in Granada, taking a portrait of every person I met walking around the town. Rundgang shows the portraits, the images I took for the assignment and the journey through the land, ultimately making the work a very personal point of view of a specific place and time, recording visually my thoughts and emotions.
What were you looking to capture in the portraits?
The portraits taken in Rundgang was my way of connecting with the country and its people. Travelling through Nicaragua I felt a connection to the countryside and its people – having spent a considerable time in South and Central America in previous years. In the portraits of the people in Granada I wanted to document the place and its people at that specific time in the history of their land. I took one exposure of each person and although the encounters were brief, I felt that we connected as human beings.
Why have you decided to republish the photos 13 years after they were taken?
During my 20-year editorial career I have visited many places in the world and have worked , in conjunction to my assignments , on personal documentary projects throughout recording the journey or specific events and places. My editorial work was always fluid responding to assignments and preconceived ideas, whereas these projects developed as a point of view/state of mind of the places I visited. A way of recording my personal journey, more of a conversation with myself and a diary of thoughts. It is only now that I have started to publish the more personal side of my work in zines and book projects.
Do you consider the photographs differently to when you first the took them?
The photographs were taken in 2004, when photography was not yet something everyone had access to through mobile phones cameras and/or showed any interest and need in having to record their lives visually. Photographers seemed more of an oddity and most people were amused and interested in being asked to be photographed on the street. In that respect, the photographs represent a time without any visual digital data of human beings and something I couldn’t have foreseen.
What are you working on next?
Currently I am working on a long-term project which started in 2014 and explores identity and the personal history of people who grew up in post war Germany. It is set to be published later this year.
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