February 21, 2023

Photography & Text:
Maik Gräf



The Wasted Hour is delighted to present Maik Gräf at Hongkongstraße 3, 20457 Hamburg

Do you remember the picture that made you think: 'I’m good at this?‘

As someone who is their own biggest critic, I suppose I hardly straight away think: „Oh, I am good at this“.
Finding your own visual language and toolbox is a long process, but over time I certainly grew more confident in what I’m doing. With each print the visions of the pictures I see with my inner eye slowly turn into reality. I am materializing the invisible traces of light which are captured on light-sensitive surfaces and getting closer to the ideas in my head. Working with analog photography and the patience that comes with it, gives the pleasure and excitement of always getting surprised by the results. First I see a negative image on the strip of film and afterward translate it into a positive image.
So somehow, each time I am discovering a new film, I’m getting excited and often think: „Wow, these really are new pictures that I haven’t been taking before.“

Why did you pick up a camera?

Originally I am trained in graphic design but I soon realized that I need a different language to express my thoughts and emotions. It all seemed too technical and rigid. In the years leading up to my twenties, I discovered in photographs the soft tones of grey and it touched something in me. The fascination I experienced never left.

What do you try to capture?

I try not to think in clearly defined genres, even though certain subjects like portraits are often reoccurring. My work revolves around themes of identity, emotionality, and sensibility. What I am looking at are soft and vulnerable aspects, no matter if it is a stone, a leaf of a plant, or a naked body. For me, there lies a great power in showing vulnerability. Through the use of analog photography, I am able to translate this notion of sensitivity directly onto the material that I am working on within the red light of the darkroom. I love to spend long hours there and each time I am astonished by the translations of light into the material and how my hand, similar to painting, can interfere and leave a mark on the surface. I understand photography as a sensitive medium and for me, the surfaces of analog photography are as vulnerable as human skin.

How did your pictures evolve over time?

During my studies, I was experimenting with mostly every kind of photographic genre and slowly switched my interest to material abstractions of photography. The knowledge I achieved in that time serves the way how I am now printing my pictures in the darkroom. During an emotionally challenging time a few years ago I started to shift my interest to autobiographical views of identity and sexuality. Since then I incorporate my personal surroundings and the people I meet into my photographs. My aim is to evoke emotions in the viewer and talk about queer subjectivity by connecting my images with my interest in queer theory and history.

Do you use any special techniques to achieve your look?

Mostly I work with analog photography because it provides the ability to achieve those soft and vulnerable surfaces I mentioned before. Being in the darkroom I am thinking about how I can translate the captured image from the film onto the photographic paper. I am not a perfectionist that will spend hours finding the technically correct combination of settings. I much more work intuitively and when a result feels right, I just go for it. Sometimes I produce a lot of mistakes, but they are always worth it. I also love to work with old photo material that works in a completely unforeseeable way but it’s getting harder to find such materials these days.

Why do you want to exhibit 'FASCINATION‘ at The Wasted Hour?

I was excited when you asked me to work together as I just reviewed my whole archive of negatives from the last 14 years. So the idea for this collaboration came at a perfect moment. I rediscovered many photos that never made it to more than just a quick scan, sometimes not even that. There I had all this material from over the years in front of me and felt the urge to do something with it. I wanted to bring these images together and build an intuitive connection between them. I jumped right into the darkroom without doubts and at that moment it just felt right. It is also exciting for me to show my work in a space that is different from the exhibition spaces where my prints would normally hang and open up new potential. I’m looking forward to getting in contact with a whole new set of people.

Thank you, Maik, for being part of THE WASTED HOUR.

See more pictures by Maik here: