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What: Gallery Weekend in Berlin and the exhibition „Into the Light“
Who: Tom Jacobi, photographer
It’s Gallery Weekend in Berlin! Already last week the Hamburg photographer Tom Jacobi opened his exhibition “Into the Light” in the Berlin gallery SRC. Some of his large-format, black-and-white photographs were printed on silk by the Paris luxury label Hermès, which is unique to date. Tom Jacobi was a fashion photographer and art director for Stern magazine. Thereby he almost lost his passion for photography.
MyStylery: Congratulations on your coup with Hermès! How did that happen?
Tom Jacobi: Everybody takes photos on paper and so I had the idea to print on fabric, because I always look for a relation to nature. Silk was an obvious thought. Talks and tests followed and Hermès gave me an unexpected promise. Now the pictures are produced on original silk by Hermès in France.
MS: How old were you when you first held a camera in your hand?
TJ: 14 or 15. I was given a Novoflex and photographed the cat on the windowsill and sunsets.
MS: Back then, did you already have the idea of becoming a photographer?
TJ: Not until I was 17, when a photo of me was published in a book. It showed a Kendo master fighting with a Japanese sword. A sport that I practiced myself at that time. When you see a picture of yourself printed on paper for the first time, it’s a magic that I still feel today.
MS: Do you still print private photos?
TJ: Oh yes, I made a serious mistake when I gave my wife a photo album for her first birthday after we met, with self-adhesive photos, created layouts and handwritten comments. Since then I have been obliged to document our entire private lives and travels in old-fashioned photo albums. (laughs)
MS: Your father was the legendary journalist Claus Jacobi, editor-in-chief of Spiegel, Stern and BILD-Zeitung. Did that stop you from going into journalism yourself?
TJ: Totally. I would have exposed myself to the constant comparison. Through my friendship with Sven Simon, the son of publisher Axel Springer, I came to Bonn and worked there in his photo agency. I primarily photographed politicians such as Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl. Later I was a photographer for the “Stern”. With all the risks. During a reportage in Iran they put me against the wall and wanted to shoot me because I was considered a spy.
MS: Was that the reason why you haven’t photographed for 14 years?
TJ: No, that developed during my time as a fashion and advertising photographer. This commercial work and the wishes of the customers, to shoot the coat from the left or rather from the right, the car from above or below, completely drove me out of passion at that time. And why should a well-filled bank account be of any use if all creativity is lost? I just wasn’t happy with it anymore and even sold all my cameras because I was convinced that I would never photograph again.
MS: Now you’re back with the camera. For the current exhibition “Into the Light” you even travelled around the globe for two years together with your wife Kati.
TJ: That was an exciting time, also for us as a couple. We love to be together. Kati also has a big influence on what I photograph. She is my corrective. (smiles) You become humble when you are travelling in the White Desert of Egypt, camping there with two Bedouins, without worrying about safety. In retrospect, it was risky.
MS: It happens that you sit on a cliff for five hours waiting for the right light. What is the right light, the right moment?
TJ: That I cannot say. It’s a feeling. My work has a lot to do with patience and discipline, often I wait days for the right moment, although I have researched the motifs very carefully before.
MS: You are often far away from everything. How do you bear silence?
TJ: I like that very much. Not everyone can stand silence. Once I was accompanied by a friend who got nervous after a short time, which stressed me again. At that moment, I decided not to take anyone with me anymore. I am completely one with myself, there is something very contemplative about it.
MS: Was there a dangerous situation on your journey?
TJ: As a photographer, you’re always a hunter who takes risks. In Iceland, I wanted to go to a waterfall, where I fell several times over an icy surface and slid down a slope. A wasteland without a mobile phone net or the chance to be found. Then I bought a satellite-supported emergency call system. To die because of a broken ankle is quite unnecessary. BvH
Exhibition “Into the Light”
Tom Jacobi’s art exhibition in the Gallery SR Contemporary Art, Niebuhrstraße 11a in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Until May 20
Contact Tom Jacobi
More art stories you can find here.