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Female Photoclub NRW - Connecting
Reading time: 12 minutes - May 06, 2024 - by Christina Thomas in an interview with Merle Forchmann

SICHVERBINDEN
A photo exhibition in public space

Interview with Merle Forchmann

Under the title "Sichverbinden", 13 female photographers from the Female Photoclub NRW and a guest artist will be presentingartist will be presenting their work in a window exhibition at 34OST Düsseldorf from May 16-26, 2024.

The exhibited works show a multifaceted approach to the theme of connection. The works tell diverse stories of interpersonal connections, cultural interdependencies, ecological contexts, the quiet seclusion of nature, arriving in a foreign culture, responsible action, commercialization of forests, artificial intelligence, mistakes, and much more.

One of the photographers whose work will be on display at the exhibition is Merle Forchmann. We were able to meet her in advance for an interview and talk to her not only about the exhibition itself, but also about her work as a photographer and the Female Photoclub.

Joanna Kischka - All my mistakes
Juliane Herrmann - Attitude

Hello Merle, thank you very much for taking the time to do an interview with us. Before we start, why don't you tell us a bit about yourself and your work

Hello Christina! Thank you very much for taking the time. What should I tell you? Well, I've been a photographer for more than twenty years now. Initially, I trained as a photographer with a reportage photographer in Düsseldorf. Then I went to Maastricht to study design with a focus on photography. I have been working as a freelancer for over ten years. In the meantime, I also worked as a photo consultant for a camera manufacturer for a few years and often worked at Foto Koch. To be honest, that was my absolute favorite business. My focus is on documentary photography and documentary film. I particularly enjoy working on long-term projects that are later published in the form of photo art magazines or books. For example, the photo art magazines about the Garath district or the photo book "Eulenkopf -Eine Wohnsiedlung", which was published by Verlag Kettler in May 2023 and recently won the bronze medal at the German Photo Book Award. The photo projects move between photography and social work, which is why I decided to study social work in 2020. In my bachelor's thesis, I used the outdoor staircase on Düsseldorf's Burgplatz to research the extent to which outdoor staircases in public spaces contribute to promoting a sense of belonging and social integration in urban communities. I am now also presenting the work under the title "The Stairs" in the group exhibition "Sichverbinden" with the Female Photoclub. I find this particularly exciting as the photos were not originally intended for an exhibition, but were taken as part of the research. It was therefore not so easy to integrate these photos, some of which I took with my smartphone, into an exhibition design. I'm very curious to see how the pictures will look.

At the exhibition, 13 female photographers and another guest from the Female Photoclub NRW will be presenting their work. What goals does the Female Photoclub pursue and how are you committed to promoting women in photography?

The Female Photoclub was initiated in 2017 and has been a registered association for professional female photographers since 2020. The club currently has around 500 members who are organized in nine cities and regions throughout Germany. The aims of the association are to increase the visibility of female photographers, to campaign for more equality in the industry and to draw attention to grievances such as fee inequality and a lack of representation.

What inspired you to become part of the Female Photoclub and how has it influenced your photographic development?

I was inspired by my colleague Jennifer Zumbusch, who is also taking part in the exhibition. We trained with the same photographer, so we already knew each other. She spoke very highly of the club, so I actually joined straight away and I'm very happy about that. It influenced my photographic development to the extent that I wanted to exhibit again. Last year we had an exhibition at the Kunstwerk in Cologne. That was just so beautiful! I experience the work within the club as very appreciative and empowering. So I'm all the more excited about the showcase exhibition here in Düsseldorf. It's going to be great.

The theme of the exhibition is "SICHVERBINDEN" - why did you choose this theme?

There were many different suggestions for themes from the group, which we then discussed. It was clear that the theme had to be chosen in such a way that it appealed to all photographers, regardless of their different genres. The theme of connection was ultimately chosen democratically. But it also offers a variety of narratives and aesthetic approaches and also opens up an individual space to reflect on our relationships in the modern world.

One of the many special features of the exhibition is that it is a showcase exhibition - what's that all about?

It's quite difficult to find exhibition spaces in Düsseldorf. When a space does become available, it is usually unaffordable. So I'm all the more pleased that we were able to win 34Ost as a cooperation partner. The window front proved to be ideal for us, as each individual window offers its own exhibition space. The number of windows is also perfect. Another great thing is that we are using the public space. The art will be visible 24/7. We are offering low-threshold access to art, basically for all residents and visitors to the city. This means that there is no need to cross an inhibition threshold, as is the case with a visit to a museum or gallery. Only very few people dare to visit a gallery.

Mareen Fischinger - Friends not food
Fatemeh Rezaei - The Stranger

What special highlights or elements can be seen in the exhibition and how do they perhaps also inspire you to engage with the topic?

I find the photographers' different approaches to the topic of connection very exciting. The photographic works are very multifaceted. From documentary photography to artistic photography and mixed media. To name just two examples. One is the work "FRIENDS NOT FOOD" by Mareen Fischinger, which depicts the special connection between a doctor and her chickens, or the work "All my mistakes" by Joanna Kischka, which deals with the connection between technology and people. It is about pictures taken with a smartphone that we would describe as faulty. In this context, errors are not seen as barriers, but rather as a "source of aesthetic experience". I think that our pictures, although they are so different, harmonize perfectly with each other. Anja Schürmann curated the exhibition and determined the order of the pictures. Jasmin Keune-Galeski 's exhibition design also links the works together. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the works connect with the public space.

Merle Forchmann - Stairs

How does it feel to see your works in this exhibition and what do you hope to gain from the vernissage on May 18?

I'm really looking forward to this day and hope that many interested people will come to the vernissage and celebrate this exhibition form in particular with us. But what I'm most excited about is that our pictures will be on display day and night until May 26 and will be accessible to everyone. Normally, it is advertising that accompanies us day and night in the form of images, always with the intention of consumption. Here it is different. It is also about art connecting with the public space and people without effort or exclusion. It is simply there.

About the FEMALE PHOTOCLUB e. V.

Together instead of against each other. This is the credo of the Female Photoclub, which has set itself the task of raising awareness of the grievances within the photography industry. Because it is still a male domain. Addressing issues such as a lack of visibility, lower representation and pay inequality for female photographers and, above all, initiating a contemporary rethink and driving change is an essential part of the association's work.

The Female Photoclub operates both nationwide and in local groups to bring women in photography together, to network with each other and to encourage them to work together for more diversity in the photography industry.


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