Tell us something about you. Why and since when have you been photographing?
I started getting interested into photography when I became a teenager. I loved messing around with my friends in front of my webcam. When I was 15, I was dreaming about a real camera. Luckily, Christmas came up and Santa Claus had a good financial year: I found my first DSLR, a Canon 350D, underneath the Christmas tree. In the following teenage years, I became very left-wingy, joined the local Antifa movement and went to demonstrations every weekend. I liked taking portraits of my friends , but I took more pleasure in portraying Nazis and photographing riots. That was a very exciting time.
For your work, especially for your book NEVER NEVER LAND you travelled a lot. Has that experience changed your personality in a way? Would you agree that traveling makes you an enlightened human being?
Many books talk about how people go on a journey to find something. I am sure there must be something about it, that people from all walks of life have this urge to leave their hometowns over and over again. For generations, this is a thing and I can see how I did it and what it did to me.
For me backpacking, couch-surfing, hitch-hiking, road tripping, camping are fantastic ways to disconnect from the comfort zone and they helped me to discover myself. When I couch-surfed for two months on the west coast of the United States, I had to rely on the help of other people and learned what trust means. When I hitch-hiked from Germany to Greece and camped in the wilderness, I experienced how to be a hobo. It wasn’t easy to find showers at times and I only ate the worst food the highway had to offer. But I was happy, so happy, because I was surrounded by the most beautiful nature, people, stories, and no day was like the other. Living in New York was maniac, my life was like a movie, I interned at an amazing production company in Brooklyn, I met the most inspiring people, the parties were insane. The opposite was Melbourne. I worked at shitty jobs and was short of money. It was winter and for some reasons I had problems finding friends. Life wasn’t on my side.
And the island… yeah well the island. I came with a huge fascination for this place and its people. I thought people were wild and free. I wanted to be one of them. We were free and trapped at the same time. I started to observe hedonistic human behavior in its simplest way, how it makes people rise high and fall deep. When I came back to Germany, it left some marks, but the worst was that I lost all my interest into other people. Now, years after, I can happily say I am over it and the island taught me a lot.
It’s a place of escape and one of many. A place where people free themselves from their ego, feel accepted, drink, dance, and fuck as a form of expression. Another side of traveling culture which is not much discussed, but it is important to talk about.
I wouldn’t say that traveling made me more enlightened than anyone else. It just made me more self-aware, because I was lucky and not drunk all the time.
Container Love’s mission is to highlight the beauty in diversity, to change points of view, and stand up for more tolerance with the help of pictures and basses. Which part reminds you of yourself? When you think of your series BOYS, which statements are hidden behind your works?
I agree with all of your points. BOYS was a way of discovering masculinity for me. Losing my father at a young age, the only man around was my brother. He always appeared very strong and manly. Someone who fits into what people expect from a man. Deep inside of me, I knew he was different though, and being cold as ice was a way of protection. A thing I was experiencing with other men I got close to as well. With BOYS I wanted to play with the idea of genders and how much I can stretch it with posing and clothing. Girls can wear what the fuck they want, be what the fuck they want, and so can boys. In our western Society, we more and more break with the ideas of the past. Over the years, also my brother changed a lot, discovering the freedom of Burning Man festival additionally helped.
Given the situation about lgbt* people in Chechnya and other critical regions in the world, how can we support them?
It deeply upsets me to hear what people have to go through in Chechnya and other critical regions in the world. The only way to support the lgbtq community suffering from such violence is to listen to them. Ask them how we, outsiders, can have a positive impact on their situation.
I think putting things to light always helps, ignoring or forgetting the victims is the worst we could do. The dialog goes first and everything else follows.
What are your personal goals as an artist? Have they changed in the course of your career?
I always hoped that, someday, I will be recognized , that people feel something when they look at my art. Giving individuals a voice. Finding the right aesthetics was always the first step, the second was choosing the photos that not only look good but strange, intense or interesting. Not only art people should get something out of my work, everyone should. That’s why I enjoy working on projects with multiple layers and perspectives.
I was very fortunate that I somehow managed to succeed in so many of my personal little goals, and I can see how dreams died and new ones emerged. This can be very stressful at times, but for me, the journey is what keeps me alive. There always need to be goals, I don’t ever want to stop learning.
What are upcoming projects that you are currently working on? Have we forgotten a question that you would like to answer anyway?
I would love to learn how to focus on more simple ideas, because the things I want to work on get more and more complicated, heavy, and expensive. If I keep going like this, I will someday risk my life and be heavily in debt. It’s time to refocus a little on the small things in life. I know there a re so many great things in everyday life to discover and make projects about, it’s just harder to find them.
Thank you, Rebecca. Lots of love for you.
Check out Rebecca Ruetten on Container Love’ Editorial.