Peter Bialobrzeski (*1961 in Wolfsburg) lives and works in Hamburg. 1988–1993: studied communications design (emphasis on photography) at the Folkwangschule in Essen, and at the London College of Printing; 2002 on: photography professor at the Hochschule für Künste in Bremen. 2003: World Press Photo Award; 2004: Deutscher Fotobuchpreis, PDN Book Award, and award for the "most beautiful German book," for Neontigers; 2010: World Press Photo Award, category: Nature.
Photography as a cultural practice
"To me, it is very important for a picture to enchant the viewer. But it also has to give rise to questions, have another level. This is how journalism and art can be incorporated." (Peter Bialobrzeski)
"Bialobrzeski works in opposition to speed. His deserted photos show us the exact state of contemporary urban situations, oscillating between ruin and redefinition, between indeterminacy and construction site." (Michael Glasmeier)
“Aperture 11 . . . exposure time between two and ten minutes. And then rely upon experience, which might possibly work.” This is the way that Peter Bialobrzeski, in an interview, sketches the way he uses an analogue plate camera to realize his magical “jungle” photos of Asian metropolises, captured on the threshold of day and night, or in darkness. This is nature in the midst, or on the periphery, of stony, urban deserts, immersed in the artificial twilight of sodium lamps, automobile headlights, and brightly illuminated skyscrapers. The urban greenery glows as dreamily and surrealistically as the sparkling panoramas of the Asian mega-cities Bialobrzeski has made famous. In his prize-winning book, Neontigers (2004), the different cities of the so-called “tiger” nations blend into one gigantic metropolis, which could very well serve as the setting for a science-fiction film.
Bialobrzeski’s fascination for Asia goes back to 1986/87, when he first traveled across the continent. After working for a while for renowned magazines, such as Stern, Spiegel, Telegraph Magazine, ZEIT Magazin, and GEO, he has, since the 1990s, devoted several freelance, internationally acknowledged book projects to the Far East. XXX-Holy – Journeys into the Spiritual Heart of India was published in 2000, followed by Neontigers, Lost in Transition (2007), and Paradise Now (2009)—all of which examined a variety of Asian cities.
Mainly, Bialobrzeski concentrates on urban spaces and structures. Still, he regards himself as more than just a documentary photographer. Instead, he is also interested in “giving expression to, narrating” his “fascination . . . for finding the beauty in things.” Although his urban panoramas portray a kind of frightening growth and rapid transformation, as well as raising questions about the environment, energy, and globalization, we see photographs whose glitter and glow outshine each and every problem, at first glance. His book Heimat (2005) also oscillates between these poles—between critical documentary and aesthetic beauty—even though it seems at first to form a counterpoint to his previous body of work. In an homage to contemporary photographers, and with allusions to the Romantic paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, Bialobrzeski has created enchanting landscape photos, shot between the Baltic and the Alps, and in this way, he has come up with a very personal visual and cultural history of Germany.
In his latest projects, Case Study Homes (2009) and Informal Arrangements (2010), the photographer examines slums in Manila and Kliptown, on the outskirts of Johannesburg . His pictures are evidence of the way that residents there strive to create livable dwellings, despite the fact that they have only the barest means at their disposal.
October 25, 2010 Anja Breloh