Office supplies sweat, struggle and stress in Philotheus Nisch’s recent series for Die Epilog
- Ruby Boddington
- 17 June 2019
Die Epilog is a German magazine founded in 2012 in Weimar. Released annually, the team describes the publication as “a journal of questions, answers, punchlines and surprising twists about contemporary culture.” For the latest issue, photographer Philotheus Nisch has responded to the theme “Big Plans” (Große Pläne) with a series of still lifes, visualising the feeling of planning and the stresses associated with it.
“The initial brief from Die Epilog’s picture editors Diana Decker and Sarah Bergmann was to create a photo series about hands using different tools for planning in an office surrounding,” Philotheus tells us. From this, the Leipzig-based photographer attempted to plan his shoot but, ironically, he struggled. “To be honest I had a lot of ideas but no clear goal. And somehow I was attracted to the concept of non-planning,” he adds.
As a result, the series Philotheus has produced sees the tools we use to plan and organise our lives brought to life, as if working hard themselves, in order to embody the stress Philotheus felt while making the work. “I decided to just do whatever came to my mind and figure out later what it is about and how it will fit the issue’s topic. With the exception of the somewhat office theme I didn‘t set any guidelines or rules for the series,” he explains. While, on the one hand, this process is exciting because the final result is uncertain and so surprising, on the other, it was obviously a tense process for the photographer (and the photo editors). This was only heightened, Philotheus tells us, because the series was produced within a week and happened in tandem with the magazine being designed and finalised.
The images, whether they be of a stack of paper starkly lit with pins stuck into it, or a recreation of the Windows XP background using an office plant, all embody the ideas of “planning, struggling and being stressed at the same time,” Philotheus explains. The series zooms in on the tools, hands and materials we use to implement our plans, understand the world and bring structure to our lives. “I wanted the materials to look like they are doing some hard work by themselves. Whatever for, they are working, sweating, struggling, moving or just meditating,” he continues.
Several recurring elements appear throughout the work, including clouds, perspiring materials and holes to peer through. While somewhat abstract, these visualise ideas and concepts such as looking into the future (clouds seen through a hand), or the recreation of an ordinary, ever-changing and unpredictable moment (styrofoam clouds on cutting mat).
Philotheus’ process of working only furthered the shoot’s topsy-turvy, conflicting concept. He explains: “I like to work in rooms that have a certain level of mess. I’m not really attracted to work in big and clean studios. I like to be surrounded by lots of different objects materials, plants, pictures, backgrounds, water, fog etc to layer and experiment with.” In turn, his series for Die Epilog is a one of juxtapositions: it is a series about planning and the tools we use to do this, made with absolutely no planning whatsoever.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.