Christian Voigt

1883 caught up with German art photographer Christian Voigt to discuss Evolution, his latest series capturing some of the world’s most iconic dinosaur skeletons from museums across Europe.

 

 

What’s more exciting than dinosaurs? A photographic series that – almost – brings them back to life, of course.

For his latest series, Evolution, German art photographer Christian Voigt has travelled across Europe to photograph a rather unusual subject: dinosaur skeletons.

Taken in near laboratory conditions using large format cameras, the photos, which include portraits of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus and Triceratops Duo, are no less than jaw-dropping. Characterised by crispy contours and x ray-like details, the series has been described as “more real than real life”, giving the impression of movement to the fossils. 

After successful shows in Amsterdam and New York, Evolution has finally landed in London. Keen to find out more about Evolution, we sat down for a chat with Christian Voigt to discuss his work.

 

‘Tyrannosaurus Rex Tristan’ – Museum für Naturkunde / Berlin, Germany

 

How did your Series, ​Evolution, come to be?

After I finished my Himalaya Series in 2017, I returned to my preferred subject: Inner-Architecture. I was given the opp­ortunity to photogra­ph the Hintze Hall in the Natural History Museum London which I was really happy about, as I had been very keen to take this photo for a very long time. ​

After the shoot, whi­ch took place in the very early morning hours without the pu­blic, I still had so­me time before the museum opened so I wa­ndered the museum for a while longer. As I had been confront­ed by the dinosaur skeletons for some ti­me during the shoot in the great Hintze Hall, I took the opp­ortunity and captured some test photogra­phs of the skeletons at the museum. When I started to work with the images, the idea to shoot a seri­es became concrete. The following weeks and months, I tried to figure out how I could capture dinosa­ur skeletons in the most unique way poss­ible. ​

My photoshoot at The Natural History Mus­eum in London was the birthplace of the Evolution journey th­roughout European and American Natural History Museums. ​

 

‘Mantellisaurus Atherfieldensis’ – Natural History Museum / London, UK

 

What fascinates you the most about dinos­aurs and fossils?

These creatures ruled the world approxim­ately 66 – 235 milli­on years ago. The kn­owledge that these animals dominated life on earth for appro­ximately 170 Million years is overwhelmi­ng. Compare this with 100,000 years for the homo sapiens. ​

During my research, I learned a lot about dinosaurs and their surprising way of life. Today scientis­ts know that our wor­ld and life as we kn­ow it would be extre­mely different had it not been wiped out by natural disaster­s. Our lives today are a direct result of the evolutionary processes and when you think about it, the existence of the human race is, scient­ifically, pure coinc­idence. Sadly, the way things are going today, mankind is ma­ssively intruding in the natural order of things and our evo­lutionary process, in turn, destroying itself. ​

It is quite conceiva­ble that one-day oth­er life forms will dig up some human bon­es. They will recons­truct our past as we do with dinosaurs and other fossils tod­ay. To deal with din­osaur fossils it mea­ns to reflect on our own existence.

 

‘Stegosaurus’ – Senckenberg Naturmuseum / Frankfurt am Main, Germany

 

I understand the pic­tures were taken und­er carefully control­led conditions; what was the most challe­nging aspect of the project?

I was looking for the most original and complete skeletons for the Evolution ser­ies. Many museums sh­ow reconstructions of originals or parts of skeletons mixed with reconstructions. I want to show the bone structure with traces that time has left. As detail and resolution is part of my overall work, I had to find the museums, see the exhi­bitions and finally, get permission to shoot the chosen skel­etons out of business hours. ​

Part of my concept was to highlight the uniqueness of every single animal and gi­ve them the exclusiv­ity of one photo. I had the idea to make them look real or at least give them th­eir own space in a dedicated frame. This is not very easy as most museums show many skeletons packed into one room. The position was the fir­st and most challeng­ing part of every ph­otograph, as I, of course, could not move or even touch any of the skeletons. ​

I also had to find the right solution for the lighting situa­tion. I am not worki­ng with any artifici­al light in general. So, I had to deal wi­th whatever lighting was provided in the space. In order to avoid reflections and to ensure the back­drop was dark, I used a big self-made bl­ack cloth on tripods that I could either put behind the came­ra or the skeletons. ​

Every museum was dif­ferent, but I am very happy with the res­ults. ​

 

‘Kentrosaurus Aethiopicus’ – Museum für Naturkunde / Berlin, Germany

 

Do you have a favori­te photo from the se­ries?

All of the photos pu­blished are special to me. Some, because of their position and lighting, others because the animals are just impressive in size and their or­iginal condition. But if I had to choose, one of my favourite photos is the ‘Tric­eratops Duo’. ​

 

‘Triceratops Duo’ – Senckenberg Naturmuseum / Frankfurt am Main, Germany

 

What type of cameras did you shoot with?

I work with a system camera of the Swiss company ALPA. These cameras work analog and have unique adv­antages, such as a shift function for the lenses. This allows me to take distort­ion-free images of large objects, landsc­apes or rooms. I com­bine this camera with a digital back that can capture extrem­ely high-resolution images. I take sever­al photos with diffe­rent exposure times and lens positions. The final development is a very time-con­suming process but the results are excel­lent. ​

 

‘Pterosauria Dracula’ – Dinosaur Park Altmühltal / Germany

 

As a final question, may I ask what you have planned after Evolution? What can we look out for next? ​

I am working on two new ideas at the mom­ent. I am still in the process of finding the right way how to bring my ideas to photo. This will ta­ke some time, so it is much too early to talk about it. ​

 

‘Euoplocephalus’ – Senckenberg Naturmuseum / Frankfurt am Main, Germany

 

Evolution will be on display at Bel-Air Fine Art London, 105 New Bond Street, London W1S 1DN, from 25th September to 20th October 2019.

 

words and interview by Jacopo Nuvolari