As a first sentence I wanted to tell you what I feel when I look at Ben Krueger’s photos, but I think it’s best that you decide for yourself.
Ben grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, about thirty minutes outside of New York City. Even though you might jump to the quick conclusion that spending your childhood in this suburban town with 16.000 inhabitants might be boring, he’s lucky he grew up here. 'The town was and still is very diverse, socially and racially', says Ben. 'That element definitely aided my artistic growth. The friends I made since before I can remember are still my friends today.'
When he was four years old, his grandmother, who was an artist her entire life, introduced him to art: 'She taught me how to draw and sculpt, and what she described as "seeing".' That’s how he was taught an understanding for the discipline required to be an artist.
'Her apartment was filled with years of her work. My grandfather would polish her stone sculptures (I learned this later on), which my grandmother didn’t entrust to anyone else after he passed. On my mom’s side, my grandparents used to own an art supply store, so whenever I needed supplies for school or for some art project, they would be at the ready with leftover stock from when they owned the business. Through every turn of my art career they have supported me - family and friends have been super important to my art in general.'
Of course, living so close to New York has had an influence on Ben as well: 'It provided me with the idea that there’s a lot of cool shit out there.' Unconcerned about the sometimes strong rivalry between New Jersey and New York today, he’s in the big city a lot making photographs, and even finds himself classifying himself as a New Yorker now.
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However it was in Washington DC that he took the first image that he was proud of: one of the Washington Monument. 'The renovation of the reflecting pool in contrast to the normality of tourists flooding the area was a moment that will only happen whenever they renovate the pool.'
The image was later displayed at a charity event and gave his work more recognition. One of the reasons the photo stands out is that the renovation doesn’t happen very often. 'This made me realise that photography is a fleeting practice, in the sense that the moments I capture are sacred and won’t come about again.'
I can totally identify myself with this. Just last week I found a backup-folder on my hard-drive with old pictures, and got sucked into it. In these times, when you have the feeling that everything is moving faster and faster, it’s nice to have an image that captures a moment.
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'I think that everyone is somewhat melancholic from time to time. For me, I would lean closer to the nostalgic, because the art is a way to document something that will never be again, so there’s a positive nature to the photograph – in other words the moment was saved. Don’t even get me started when I miss a moment though! But in all seriousness, the way I look back on family, moments in time, or fleeting moments on the street is more nostalgic than anything – they can’t be recreated but they can be captured in photography or video, which I’m grateful for.'
If you visit his Instagram page, you can see that Ben shoots a lot out there on the streets. When I ask him if he has any second thoughts about the people he captures there, he replies, 'As far as my subjects go, which are for the most part people, any photographer’s instinct is to have second thoughts about making a candid image of someone. However, the more I shoot, I train myself to not listen to those instincts because I’ve learned that candid street photography can be the most rewarding and honest street photography. Although it can be hard to walk away from those second thoughts, it’s worth it in the end.'
To capture moments that will pass as fast as you can see them, it’s as important to have a good eye as it is to have a camera that you can rely on. 'My favourite camera (currently, because this changes from time to time) is the Leica M5 with a Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 lens. Shooting with a rangefinder is the best, in my opinion, for street photography. I like being inspired by the camera I am using, and the M5 does that. I don’t get too caught up in what camera I’m using though, as long as it’s functioning, and I can make good images with it.'
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