Anja Büehrer spends her days as a theatre lighting technician and her creative time making photographs borne from her own feelings of love, desire, peace, dreams, fear, loneliness, and frailty. The results invite a finish-the-story narrative that we love.
How long have you been behind the camera and what made you first pick one up?
It was on my first trip to Israel several years ago when I realized that I needed—and then bought—a camera. I didn’t have any intention of becoming a photographer or to devote myself more to photography. I just wanted to take a few vacation pictures.
Your work has a softness and yet a sense of mystery; where does that come from?
Maybe I'm a dreamer. I often put my feelings in my photographs, like love, desire, peace, dreams, fear, loneliness, and frailty. I think everyone knows these feelings. Some people sing songs about these feelings, or write poems or draw, but I express them photographically. Some people have said that I’m the photographic equivalent of Caspar David Friedrich, who is considered the most important painter and draftsman of early German romanticism. Of course, I like this comparison very much. I like his romantic paintings, my favourite being The Monk by the Sea. And if I could draw, I would paint images similar to his.
There's a quality to the settings in your photographs that's both playful and elegant, and occasionally, slightly haunting. What are you looking for as you're setting the scene for your photographs?
I often look for free-standing trees, but it isn’t that easy in and around Berlin. Somehow, I always see single trees when I travel by train and can’t get out, which is completely frustrating! This is the reason why I sometimes cut out trees and place a single tree in another photograph. I also look for good light for silhouettes and for shadows, and I look for reflections of any kind.
Tell us about your creative process. How much of your work is done in the camera and how much in the digital darkroom? Which tools are you using to make these photographs?
It’s different for each photo. There are images that aren’t edited much because some photographs speak for themselves. Sometimes I just add a texture or I may use motion blur. I might simply convert a photo into black and white and crop it. There are others that I edit more, where I create a single image from several of my photos: I put the different photos together and create a story. Thus, this is a difficult question for me to easily answer. For my work, sometimes it’s more post-processing and sometimes it’s more what I am able to paint into the photograph itself with just the camera.
Do you have any advice for photographers who want to photograph in a less tack-sharp focus, more painterly way?
I guess feeling is very important. In recent years I have seen many images that are based on my style, which makes me proud. However, I’ve frequently seen that the style has been copied, but it’s often too heavily edited, which leaves the final photograph without soul. I believe that less is sometimes more. It’s important that you can convey what you want. And above all, you must feel it. Don’t copy it; feel it.
To see more of Anja's work, see her full portfolio and interview in issue 5 of PHOTOGRAPH magazine.
Anja Bührer is a lighting technician in a Berlin theatre, which is fitting for someone who admittedly has a special weakness for lights, shadows, and reflections: the very things she searches for with her camera. Through photo editing, Anja creates her own worlds: a mixture of dreams and nightmares, of love and loneliness, and of fairy tales and reality. She can be found online at anja-buehrer-fineart.de.