Juliane Herrmann’s project Man among Men aims to capture an alternative perspective of the Freemasons – the ancient fraternity that traces its origins back to the late medieval Stonemasons. Freemasonry exists across the world, which we’ve touched upon previously on the site. Seeing the organisation as evolving from a “secret society” to a “society with secrets”, Cologne-based Juliane has spent the past five years documenting Freemasonry globally, going “beyond the secrecy and occultism that usually frames public perception of the group”.
Man among Men aims to shed light on what continues to draw people to join this society as well as breaking down some of the prejudices that surround it. “When I got to know the Freemasons better, I soon figured out that most of them were just normal people… In general Freemasonry has a quite theatrical appearance. The rooms and ‘uniforms’ people wear look very staged, so I had to find a way to show both the normality of the people and the made-up settings, but also find a balance without being too boring,” explains Juliane.
As a result the photographer has captured the familiar extravagance of the lodges – the main meeting place for Freemasons – and intersperses the series with the less glamorous backdrops of Freemason life along with still lifes and portraits of members. “For the work I photographed very different aspects of the same theme. The lodge rooms for instance are always photographed in landscape format and in a central perspective to make them comparable,” explains Juliane. The portraits were fairly straightforward as this format fits in the information I wanted to show. In general I don’t stick with one format but instead choose one that fits best with what I want to portray.”
In the series, strong colours and high saturation plays an important role in each image bringing about a consistency. “There are some colours that always reoccurred when working on the project – gold, royal blue, wine red and light blue. Even when photographing very different aspects, whether it’s architecture, portrait or still life, colour is one parameter that helps me to form these into one coherent body of work,” she says.
Juliane has worked with graphic designer Emmy van Thiel to turn the project into a book, and it’s enabled her to really convey the story she set out to tell. “If you work on a long-term project – in this case five years – it’s not easy to tell a complex story with a few images, in the book I can tell the story,” explains the photographer. “The cover is made of blue velvet, one of the fabrics you can almost find in every Freemason lodge. The form and layout reminds about a holy book. And in between the images there are quotes in spot UV, which just can be seen if you have a very close look.”
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