This is the second part of the Austrian Culture Channel interview with Heinz Stephan Tesarek, an Austrian photographer whose pictures have been printed by renowned publications such as Der Spiegel and the New York Times. His book “Zwischenzeit. Bilder entscheidender Jahre” (Interim. Pictures of decisive years) balances between images showing extreme poverty and despair and photographs reflecting reckless richness.
Did you release your book (“Zwischenzeit. Bilder entscheidender Jahre” / Interim. Pictures of decisive years) on your own, without the support of a publishing house? If so, how did that work – and how are the sales?
The reason for self-publishing the book was to be fully responsible for its content. Self-publishing the book was like signing it to me. If this book ever will be published again, this first edition guarantees the independence of its content. Now, having the book published, I am finding myself confronted with a strange, new task: Trying to sell something, I just wanted to put to discourse.
Is photographic art represented sufficiently in Austria? Vienna’s Westlicht and Ostlicht galleries are well known, but – apart from those two venues – there are no other big places where photographs are on display on a regular basis.
I don’t know, maybe. The gallery business is a strange land to me.
Are you just working as a freelancer, or are you also on contract with some magazine as your images appear quite often in (Austrian weekly) News?
For more than 15 years, News is one of my main clients. They assign me mostly with foreign politics stories, which is the focus of my work. However, I am a freelancer, and my clients include a variety of newspapers and magazines, but also corporations and individuals.
Is it possible to make a living by being a photographer in Austria?
I’ve been asked this questions ever since. Yes it is.
Newspapers editors and media company owners are resetting their focus from print to online due to dwindling sales and advertisement earnings. Do you think that photographs are getting more important in connection with news on the internet – or are the changes in the media business of harm to images and those who took them?
Pictures will be important, photographers not necessarily. Only on the first view a contradiction…
What is your opinion on today’s developments of almost everyone taking pictures everywhere and all the time with their smartphones? Do you think ‘real’ photo art suffers because of that?
Recently I found myself, not being able to find out if the pictures of a story on a major photo agencies website were the result of algorithm or talent. Algorithm kills talent. Not only in photography.
Is there a decisive moment in history you would have wished to be present to take pictures?
There is no time in history, which I would find more interesting to cover than ours. If I could travel through time, I’d like to shoot the same book as I did now, but starting 1925.
As a photographer, do you have an idol?
There are many artists, whose work I find inspiring. Some of them are photographers, others are moviemakers, painters or journalists…
Is there a certain person in the world you would like to spend a few hours with – to portray him/her in a setting of your choice?
US-dissident Edward Snowden, maybe. He is a bit pale, though.
There are so many kinds of photographic assignments – taking pictures for book projects, newspapers and magazines / red carpet shots / artistic and fashion photography. Which activity do you like the most – and which one do you despise?
I value every job I am assigned for. No matter, if it is a story in a crises area or a high-class wedding. As long as my work serves a good purpose, I am fine. But I despise, when my images are used to illustrate words, describing what I never witnessed.
Stamina, patience, intuition for the right moment, talent, readiness to compete with others – what’s most important to become a successful photographer these days?
Healthy, editorially driven newspapers and magazines.