Alle Beiträge von Jannis


Interview by Sofia Bergmann, Photos by Tony Luong

For our sixth tIR Spotlight article, we spoke to the Boston-based freelance photographer Tony Luong about his work and navigating the industry while harnessing one’s own creative footprint. 

It often starts with: “Hey, how’s your week going?” before the camera even clicks. Tony Luong has photographed in just about every situation, always striving to find a common ground with even his most difficult subjects. His photos lend a glimpse into his pursuit in capturing the human experience. “Whether commercial, reportage or portraiture and what not, a lot of it is rooted in my interest in the human condition and how that is portrayed. That can be kind of applied to any job, it’s more about my interest in how we navigate interacting with others,” he said. He has worked as a freelancer since 2015 and has cultivated an aesthetic that is somehow both foreign and familiar, making sure it always shines through in his work no matter who the client is. 

His journey started in 2010 when he opened up a tumblr page. “To be frank I didn’t think it would work,” he said, “I knew I had an interest in photography, I also kind of took things in stride and I understood that everything small or big, is some kind of step forward to having some sort of career.” After graduating from Massachusetts College of Art in 2009 with a Masters in Fine Arts, it was thanks to tumblr, following newsstands, and growing a community that he first got his foot in the door. He has since been commissioned by some of the magazine-greats: National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Die Zeit, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal Magazine, The Atlantic, TIME, The Guardian Saturday Magazine, among others.

His commission for TIME covering the Democratic Primary elections in New England was one his most exciting recent projects. “That was a very reaffirming assignment because it granted me so much freedom to fulfill. It gave me the permission to do what I really like to do,” he said. He also photographed the artist Jenny Holzer this year, first for a commission with The Guardian and a second time as per her own request – a testament to his ability to put people at ease in front of the camera. 

Gaining people’s trust is perhaps a prerequisite for a portrait-photographer: “Nobody really likes being photographed. I wouldn’t like it and I know the person that I’m typically photographing won’t like it either. It’s always been in my best interest to be as present and be as much of a regular human as possible. At the end of the day, people just want to feel like they have a good foundation of trust.”

Regardless of the job at hand, Luong likes his photos to be intriguing, maybe even confusing. “I’m always trying to think about how to make you exist within a gray area when you’re looking at a photo…I don’t want you to have full answers.”  


By the Image Report Co-Founder Sofia Bergmann

A story from a nation that faces extinction. tIR Co-Founder Sofia Bergmann lived in Armenia and worked as a journalist for EVN Report in 2019 and traveled to the disputed region of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh,) where the conflict has recently reached a tipping point. These photos from Artsakh were taken in 2019, the last year of peace since 1994 before the 2020 war with Azerbaijan broke out, followed by regular violence, encroachment in Armenia-proper, a debilitating blockade which deprived what remained of Artsakh from food and supplies since December, 2022, and most recently, an attack by Azerbaijan on September 19, 2023 in what has led to around 100,000 Artsakh-Armenian refugees fleeing to neighboring Armenia. Most of Artsakh’s territories fell to Azerbaijan in 2020, and now also the capital city of Stepanakert — Artsakh is now virtually empty of Armenians for the first time. Azerbaijan is conducting what many consider to be ethnic cleansing. The places depicted have been destroyed in a conflict that goes back to the Armenian Genocide and is also rooted in Soviet-era geopolitics. The people in this essay are either displaced, currently on the front-lines, in bunkers or worse. 

“I knew they were killing the children” — Galia (first image) describes sending her children on buses to safety during the first war over her home of Artsakh between 1988 and 1994. Artsakh (Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh) is an ethnically Armenian autonomous nation currently under attack by Azerbaijan and faces extinction. At the time of these photos, Artsakh had rebuilt itself in a 26-year ceasefire issued in 1994, and developed subcultures and a sense of hope in the absence of bombs.​ The people lived in constant fear and preparation for the fighting to start again but continued to push for a dignified future. While extremely layered and complex, the conflict’s impact on those living on both sides of the border has caused them to live in fear and hatred. Although now largely destroyed, the restoring of cultural sites, the sweeping mountainous landscapes, the emerging subcultures, and the people like Galia represented a thread of hope for Artsakh. 

Thousands died on both sides during the 2020 war. Tens of thousands in Artsakh became refugees, including people in this series, and seven territories were lost along with almost 4,000 Armenian servicemen – among them teenage soldiers – and 80 civilians, maybe more. Footage has since surfaced such as the point-blank execution of Armenian prisoners of war, or the mutilation of dead soldiers, including the vulgar desecration of the soldier Anush Apetyan’s stripped body.

Heavy artillery and support from Turkey leaves Armenia and Artsakh largely outnumbered. What’s left of Artsakh is the capital city, Stepanakert, connected to Armenia through the Lachin Corridor mountain pass. The Lachin Corridor has been blocked by Azerbaijan since December 2022 and has deprived Artsakh’s population of food and supplies. Along with violence, starvation is being used as a war-tactic. War crimes commited by Azerbaijan are pending at the International Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights while Azerbaijan continues to violate ceasefires, including the resumed attacks on Artsakh on September 19, 2023. This is all happening parallel to an EU agreement with Azerbaijan who is now an alternative gas-supplier to Russia in light of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Background: Turkey, who fully backs Azerbaijan (a Turkic nation,) never having acknowledged its genocide on the Armenians in 1915 during Ottoman rule in which it wiped out most of Armenia’s population and territory at the time, has created long lasting tensions in the region between Armenians and Turks, which exist vicariously in the conflict between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. These tensions led Artsakh to gain independence from Azerbaijan when the region was under Soviet rule. As the Soviet Union collapsed, a brutal war over the autonomous but internationally unrecognized Republic of Artsakh broke out. Armenia was Artsakh’s only ally but was able to defend the territories, leading to a ceasefire agreement that lasted between 1994 and 2020. Artsakh has had its own democratically elected government and stands independently, using Armenian currency, and sharing a religion, history and culture with Armenia. Since Artstakh was declared autonomous, many Azeri families who returned to Azerbaijan have suffered tremendously as well, and continue to live in what have been considered to be slum-like conditions in Azerbaijan. President Aliyev has been criticized internationally for not taking action over the decades to help those families, in a way, using them as a symbol for Armenian aggression. But the lack of independent free media or democratic elections in Azerbaijan, along with an unfavorable human rights reputation and an information war on social media, has fueled the narrative in Azerbaijan that Armenia is the aggressor although Azerbaijan has been named as the aggressor by the United Nations, The United States, France, and others.


By the Image Report Co-Founder Sofia Bergmann

the Image Report co-founder Sofia Bergmann traveled through Argentina between January and March photographing different projects – one question that stood out to her while visiting both remote and crowded places was: should these places even be visited or just left in peace? The Human Saturation collages question our role as human beings who have the power and desire to travel and therefore enter and disrupt different biospheres which ultimately leads to a form of exploitation we deem necessary for our existence, whether for harmless leisure or ruthless extraction and consumption. 

The fourth tIR Spotlight takes a turn to multimedia photography and how digital collages can speak on larger themes. The collages have been shown in exhibitions in Berlin and online, now making their way to tIR Spotlight to offer a new approach to photographic methods. Sofia Bergmann being both a journalist and photographer, these collages incorporate informative aspects through a journalistic lens and play with photography to create otherworldly yet plausible scenarios. Made as an exception to her usual work, they contemplate her experiences and senses of guilt as both a consumer and someone who uses travel for her own creative work. 

Just a reflection.

Why do we visit places when we are complicit in their destruction?

In traveling and photographing throughout Argentina, I was confronted with humans’ ability to unapologetically saturate our surroundings. This permission we give ourselves to enter ecosystems whether they be in nature or communities, created the basis for this series which shows a progression of cavalier human invasion and exploitation for leisure and consumption.

Playing with my photos from indigenous communities facing increased tourism in northern Argentina, melting glaciers and endangered species in Patagonia, combined alongside an ever-present saturation of humans, my collages are self-critical surrealistic representations of our unhinged role in the world and the irony of tourism.

Just a game.

Just a Holiday.

Just a cruise.

Collages include: The Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the world’s most important sources of water which has recently started to recede due to climate change. It is also catered to massive crowds of tourists who fly from around the world just to see its size and beauty as it slowly melts.

Penguins and sea lions on Isla Martillo in Patagonia, where tour boats pass regularly. The King Penguin seen looking upwards is one of only two on the island — they have failed to successfully hatch an egg because of rising temperatures.

Jujuy and Salta, Argentina. Desert mountains and indigenous towns in northern Argentina are seeing an increase in tourism. The turquoise pools in the Las Salinas Grandes salt mines are one of the biggest attractions, even though mining has contaminated and depleted groundwater for local farmers.

Crowded beaches near Mar del Plata — one of the most popular vacation areas in Argentina about 400 km south of the capital, Buenos Aires.

Human Saturation invites reflection on the ethical implications of traveling and its consequences on different ecosystems and communities. The collision of natural beauty, human invasion and exploitation highlights the discrepancy between our wish to explore and its consequential damages which we knowingly or unknowingly cause. 


Zine by Thejaswini Chandran (they/she)

Berlin-based photographer Thejaswini Chandran shares the zine ‘within/without,’ which was created during Covid-19 lock-down while living back home in Bangalore, India. Like many people during this time, Chandran took a step back and looked closer into home-life, personal curiosities within found-objects and drew from dreams and the idea of one’s own body as a subject.

For our third tIR Spotlight series, ‘within/without’ lends us a different glimpse into the use of photography as shown before on our blog: the medium’s ability to make us creative with what is available, process varying emotions, and express one’s thoughts when presented with an uncertain future and limited resources, as with the Covid-19 Pandemic. Chandran’s photographic work revolves around blending fantasy with social justice, which includes feminism and intersectionality.

Thejaswini Chandran: The within/without zine started with an exercise in stripping back my conceptual process and making use of whatever my parents had in their house. The Covid-19 pandemic had just hit and I was stranded back home. I mulled over the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’, the ‘mental’ and the ‘physical’, the ‘us’ and the ‘them’.

Some of the spreads were taken directly from my dreams. Others were inspired by events in the news and my immediate surroundings. In dreams and reality, my memory clings to textures and colour. They fill in the blanks, flesh out experiences.

Movement is another frequent theme in my work. Perhaps this comes from loving movies and being awkward with the video medium myself. Thinking about inside and outside, I couldn’t help but address movement and stillness, consequently connecting them to productivity and rest.

The zine is a conflation of all sorts of binarised thinking, made in a period of collective panic and stress, reflecting the hyperobsessive state that I was in. Although the photographs are hyperrealistic, they are surreal as well, creating a world populated only by myself and my fixations.

I was born and raised in Bangalore, India and now live in Berlin. Instilled with feminist values from childhood, my best friends growing up were books and the internet; through them I learned the facts of the world while keeping an open mind to fantasy and creativity.

My creative practice as an adult combines these childhood fascinations: telling important stories with a touch of fantasy (mainly with photography and collage). Veganism, feminism, queerness and intersectional revolution are my core values. Lately, I’ve been working on a documentary series exposing the murky world of passports, visas and mobility inequality. I’m on the look-out for more people to photograph for this series.


Photos: Volker Kreidler, Interview: Sofia Bergmann

Volker Kreidler has specialized his photography in Eastern Europe for over 30 years. His most recent series, Border Areas, aims to capture how people near the Polish and Hungarian borders in Ukraine live. The project started in October 2021 through March 2022, just before the Russian invasion. He then managed to return in September 2022 and again in March this year, joined by his now-colleague Anastasiia Kuznietsova, a Ukrainian photographer who fled to Berlin. 

Kreidler’s photos are not sensational and do not depict a Ukraine which we see on the cover of newspapers. While some elements of the war shine through, his methods are centered around showing reality point-blank. A mixture of street and landscape photography from these regions, the series aims to visualize not only what these places look like, but the complex relationships between people and their surroundings and how they coexist.   

For our second tIR Spotlight series, the Image Report sat down with Kreidler to chat about his work and Border Areas. 

“You can’t just photograph around because everyone here is super nervous. They will think you are Russian spies and you don’t know who might have a gun in their basement.”

tIR: Can you first tell us about your journey to photography and what kinds of topics interested you most until now? What drew you to working so much in Eastern Europe? 

Kreidler: I have been photographing for 140 years in principle – my father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all photographers. We have been doing this since 1860 and I’m not kidding when I say that I basically grew up in the photo lab. It was all about photography. There was only one photo shop in the Swabian Province, and my mother worked there while my father went around to photograph. I told myself that this is what I wanted to do because I found the medium so interesting. But I didn’t want to be an artist, rather, a photographer. I did an apprenticeship with my father which didn’t last long, so I spent most of my time in the early 80s in Stuttgart where I did a lot of commercial photography. Photographers would go down into these posh underground garages….those were the good days.  

I realized that commercial photography was never enough so I enrolled in  photo design in 1988 at the Fachhochschule Dortmund. That was the school to be at. Somehow, it was such an awakening experience for me.

As Germany unified in 1989, East Germany was for us photographers like some sort of movie. It was basically the same country, same language, but everything was just different. Of course we all wanted to photograph the former GDR, so I went to Dresden with a friend. We wanted to photograph 1930’s architecture, and I photographed the German Hygiene Museum. The director then told me ‘just stay here, we have an old studio in the Museum, about 600 square meters, it’s all yours.’ He later went to Kyiv in 1991 and came to me and said: ‘you have to go there, it’s absolutely absurd. We need to come up with a project for you to do there.’ So we immediately thought of Chernobyl…and I flew to Kyiv. That was my first Eastern European project, and I have basically stuck to it ever since. 

Your most recent series Border Areas documented daily life in Ukrainian border cities before and during the ongoing war. How did this project unfold? 

I have been doing similar things for the last 30 years, and it’s all about social topography. In other words, the interaction between city, man and society.  

In principle, it’s all about a viewer and to transmit not what something looks like, but rather how such a system, how a country or a city functions. It’s all based on that – I transport, I don’t do any journalism. Border Areas was a project where several universities from different countries wanted to do a project together about people living in border areas in Ukraine, and what drives them. There were scientists who always did interviews in selected cities: two at the Polish-Ukrainian border, and two at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border. 

And then you joined Anastasiia?

Exactly, Nastya [Anastasiia] is essentially a refugee and she now works with me. I insisted on bringing a Ukrainian photographer with me because I didn’t want to embody this typical Western European photographer who goes to Ukraine. I went back in September and I brought her with me. 

What were some of the moments, emotions, places or people you encountered while photographing this series that you will never forget? 

Nastya fled to Berlin about a week after the war started…she is normally very cool-headed but one meter into crossing the border into Ukraine [in September, 2022], she just broke down.  

I was in Lviv and the whole city was full with soldiers and I was wondering why all these soldiers in battle uniforms were around 17, 18, 19 years old.  An hour later they all got into a bus and slowly drove through the city….and everyone who stood around got on their knees. I still get goosebumps. There were so many situations, the first time I heard sirens I was laying in bed in the hotel. 

And in that case, you would wake up and go to the basement, or just wait? 

So I went down and they said: ‘Volker what’s wrong?’

‘The sirens!’ I said.

‘That’s no problem, go back to sleep!’

What did you learn from Border Areas that was different from previous projects? 

The main difference is that the photos that I took were taken in a war context and that it sometimes also got dangerous to photograph. Nastya once got in a lot of trouble. They followed her in Uzhgorod and when she went to the supermarket, the police came and arrested both of us. They didn’t want to scare us, they simply said that you can’t just photograph around because everyone here is super nervous. They will think you are Russian spies and you don’t know who might have a gun in their basement. 

Did that maybe change your role as a photographer a little bit? 

No, I am always doing the same as before. You just have to be careful of course, it just has to do with respect. You have to behave in a way that doesn’t interfere with their sphere. You just have to work differently. 

You photograph in a way that includes a lot of minor details, often shooting from a distance to capture surrounding elements. Can you tell us more about your photographic methods? 

I come from a [Andreas] Gursky schooling. Back then, one strived to make big photos: maximal information, show all the reality. That has changed over the years. At the moment I am trying to get close, I used to never photograph people. 

That also relates to what you meant before about showing daily life and not just war. 

Right now there isn’t even war in those places. That was the problem: As I went to Ukraine the first time, everything was normal. The second time [in September 2022] the war had started, but in the places in western Ukraine where I was, there was no war. So I walked around a bit unsure, because I wanted to actually show a juxtaposition which just wasn’t there. It was almost better, because it was summer and everyone was outside and it was warm. And I thought, what should I photograph? I wanted to photograph bunkers, but that just became so cliché. So, I photographed what was there: daily life in the summertime.  

What are some of your frustrations with photography today? What are some things you’re looking forward to in your work? 

I am always working on about five or six projects, so soon I am flying to Athens and am doing a book project. Then I am doing a project about my family’s story and all the photographers in my family. I have over 400,000 glass slides from that time and I want to rework them somehow and try to recreate a reality from 100 years ago which no longer exists, with the help of AI.  

Frustrations are always money. People never pay enough and it’s somehow laughable. You can be happy when just the travel costs are covered. 


By the Image Report founder, Jannis Chavakis. 

The photos in this first series for tIR Spotlight are dedicated to my friend and distinguished architecture photographer Robert Conrad, who recently passed away much too soon. For five years (2005-2010), we photographed some 70 former military installations in the five new German states during the fall and winter months. Neo-Baroque buildings of the Wilhelminian period, village-like Nazi barracks, socialist functional buildings of the postwar period — Robert had a plan. This plan convinced the Verwertungsgesellschaft Bild-Kunst (Art Collecting Society) in Bonn to finance the project for us. Robert knew these places, he had visited them all in the nineties several times. His secret paths led us to abandoned places and he was obsessed with detail, always wanting to learn the story behind the facades. What were their purposes, what materials were used, who was the architect — he knew everything. I just pressed the shutter button. Robert took the photos.

During the last decade of the 20th century a large number of properties, which had until then been used for military purposes, fell into the hands of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal states after the withdrawal of the allied forces. We photographed some of the almost endless surfaces, previously excluded from every public civilian sector. Construction plants and sites formerly kept under strict secrecy fell into the responsibilities of federal and communal city planning, along with state development constructions within only a few years after having been blank spots on the map. 

Within the boundaries of the new federal states, the western group of the GUS troops, or rather the Soviet units of the People’s Army, left behind huge unexploited areas after the sites were dissolved and the troops withdrew. Due to the termination of military usage and the former secrecy, numerous structural bodies of evidence of the military apparatus of the German Empire, partially also the Weimar Republic, but most of all of the National Socialist [Nazi] State, and the Soviet GDR [East Germany], were made accessible to civilian recording, assessment and possible use. 

“To this day, many of the areas have remained in a quasi-original state, still displaying a rich brew of historic and sociocultural authenticity due to the decades of hidden existence. Historic relics range from urban development designs to the still-existing interior decoration, awaiting their rediscovery and documentation.”

Not only do the sites consist of the technical military installations with the cleared out weapon depots, the workshops, the garages and hangars, but they also comprise of an overwhelming apparatus of administrative social buildings and housing: On the deserted barrack grounds we found men’s quarters, sports arenas, office buildings, theatre centers, military settlements with garden plots and high-rises in the socialist building style (Plattenbau). The spectrum of the newly discovered architecture ranges from the conservative historic-academic school of the German Empire in the style of ancient palatial structures, to modern absolutist styles of architecture, with concrete skeleton buildings, and Bauhaus elements as well as industrial slab, or flagstone buildings of the GDR (Plattenbaus). On the grounds of the new Federal States (Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Lower Pomerania) in particular, many typical military installations were erected at the time of the National Socialist armament policy. 

Traditionally, these grounds were structurally weak and at that time strategically interesting for the Nazis to comply with the armament policy of the National Socialists. The military enjoyed high financial support for its constructions, which expressed itself also in its constructions and in the claim to use an especially “progressive architectural language.” To this end, and contrary to official state propaganda, construction departments also employed Bauhaus architects who created very modern architecture within the framework of the “blood and soil aesthetics”, which were oriented towards international standards, particularly Scandinavian and British. Among the architects who were employed by the National Socialist military were also well known planners such as Hans Poelzig who re-planned the “Scheunenviertel” in Berlin at the time of the Weimar Republic, Egon Eiermann who designed the plan for the reconstruction of the “Gedaechtniskirche” in Berlin, and Sergius Ruegenberg — later an exhibitor at the “Internationale Bauaustellung” in Berlin-Hansa neighborhood. Without a doubt, the main purpose of the military construction programme was to indoctrinate the soldiers and the civilian employees to make them obedient to the inhumane regime.

“Without a doubt, the main purpose of the military construction programme was to indoctrinate the soldiers and the civilian employees to make them obedient to the inhumane regime.”

After 1945, most of the grounds came into the possession of the Soviet army and later in-part to the People’s Army of the GDR, who used these areas for their many purposes. The grounds underwent certain architectural alterations which partially led to a deformation of architecture and city construction. Thereby, the existing grounds sometimes extended to further structural bodies of historic evidence of the occupation of Eastern Germany by the Soviets. To this day, many of the areas have remained in a quasi-original state, still displaying a rich brew of historic and sociocultural authenticity due to the decades of hidden existence. Historic relics range from urban development designs to the still-existing interior decoration, awaiting their rediscovery and documentation. 

A systematic and scientific inspection and examination of these architectural ensembles had not occurred when these photos were taken, as such plants were generally seen as solely economic resources. People also shied away from occupying themselves with the architectural heritage of the Nazi-Regime and of the Soviet period. However, there has been profound comparable research in the field of architectural history by Prof. Dr. Winfried Nerdinger from the Technical University of Munich and by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schaeche from the Technical University in Berlin. Most notably, Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz from the University of Potsdam conducted a thorough and commendable research project concerning the National Socialist settlement architecture.

Further studies on a federal scale on behalf of the authorities for monument preservation were restricted to an initial and incomplete inventory archive of the architectural stock. A number of separate buildings and ensembles were classified as historical monuments in the meantime, but have struggled to be upheld due to the continuing decay of the buildings, and an increasing regional economic stagnation and decreasing population in the five new federal states. On the economically attractive parts of the grounds, for example in proximity to cities, conversion programmes by the government have modernised some of the sites. Modernisation however, does not always mean that the sites are being preserved — it can also mean their loss and deconstruction. 

For many of the properties, the hopes for a peaceful civilian and community use will unfortunately not come to fruition. In the context of demographic and economic developments through the shrinking of cities that are expected in Germany, an execution of new uses for the closed sites cannot be counted on. They are lacking investors and concepts. Meanwhile, the municipalities overtaxed by the upkeep of these ruins have turned to demolition of the historical sites, which are supported by the financial aid (and development) programmes of the European Union. 

The sites will have likely vanished within a matter of  years — their documentation is critical for the sake of architecture, history and learning from the past. While my partner in this project has passed away, our series aims to keep alive these bodies of 19th and 20th century important historical evidence for the future.

Note – Between 2005 and 2010 we exposed around 600 large format negatives with the aim of showing a traveling exhibition accompanied by a catalog to a large audience.