It is the longing for silence, untouched, loudly speaking silence. In the midst of this silence Jan Scheffler places himself, and his gaze touches: the sky, the earth, the water, the light. In the knowledge of this endangered beauty his pictures arise. In 89 Licht he tells of that north which he has been traveling photographically for 20 years.

Frank Meyer: Now, here we’ve got a bad book on the table. Bad, because when you’re looking at the photos, you just want to jump into your hiking boots and take off for the north, to Iceland, or Norway, or Finland . . . Mr. Scheffler, you’ve been traveling in the high north for twenty years, taking these pictures. Why don’t you start by telling us what keeps drawing you back there?

Jan Scheffler: My first trip to Iceland was in 1998. I’m the kind of person who always manages to stop in the countryside, in nature, whenever I can, to take pictures. At first it was just an idea to ask, okay, this northern landscape, how does it feel? My first trip took me to Iceland and right away I had the feeling that I had arrived somehow. The thing that you might dream of or imagine, this longing that you have, finally took on a face for me for the first time there.

Meyer: And when you say outdoors, you really mean outdoors. So, do you sleep in a tent or in the car?

Scheffler: Right. I can only take these pictures if I’m outdoors twenty-four hours a day. That means I live entirely outdoors, or else I sleep in the car. I don’t have a camper—it’s really just a car.

. . .

Meyer: There’s light even in the title of your book, 89 Light.Eighty-nine, because it contains eighty-nine photographs. Christiane Stahl wrote an afterword for it. And she writes that the radiant lights of the north leave an indelible impression; they’re addicting. Can you describe what’s so addicting about this light, why it’s such a special kind of light? 

Scheffler: In terms of physics, it’s relatively easy to explain why the light is so special. So, for one, because the sun is really so low in the sky, the curve of the Earth creates a different angle. That means that it takes longer for the sun’s rays to travel through the atmosphere, and because of that, there are completely different reflections, refractions of light, as well as so many wonderful, beautiful colors, along with this very soft light, or even very harsh light. That explains the pure physics of it.

But mainly, I’m drawn to it for purely emotional reasons. So, it’s an emotion; somehow, it feels very familiar to me. Of course, I don’t live all year round in this landscape, only during those months, but somehow it feels as if I’ve always been there, so it’s really something familiar, a sense of having arrived, when I see that light. 

. . .

Meyer:. . . Beauty is obviously important to this book, because you’ve uncovered a quote from an American photographer, Ansel Adams, who wrote: “As the fisherman depends upon the rivers . . . for his existence, so does mankind in general depend upon the beauty of the world about him for his spiritual and emotional existence.” A great sentence. Are you on the search for beauty in the world, through your photographs?

Scheffler: . . . I keep coming to a point where I want to show beauty. It’s a word that sounds a little bit hackneyed almost, but unjustifiably so, I think. I chose this Ansel Adams quote because I think it’s simply very important and apt; our intellectual and emotional existence depends upon this kind of beauty, not upon things. And it is precisely this beauty that is already in great danger.

. . . 

An interview by Frank Meyer. You can read the complete interview at Deutschlandfunk Kultur. In this context we'd like to thank Allison Moseley for the translation.

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