Sven Marquardt
I have always been a man who polarised people

Sven Marquardt
Photographer Sven Marquardt | © Ole Westermann

Over the last few years, Berlin photographer Sven Marquardt and his works have risen to fame nationally and internationally. In 2016, the Goethe-Institut presents his work as part of Head On Festival at Ambush Gallery in Sydney, and another selection of works in Melbourne. In addition to his work as an artist, Sven Marquardt is also closely connected to the city’s techno scene through his work at the infamous club, Berghain.

You are known for two separate things: there is your career as a photographer on the one hand and your involvement with Berghain on the other. Which of the two takes up more time, and do you prefer either
of these two professions over the other?

I’ve been a photographer for more than thirty years. In the early 1990s I put away my camera for a few years, but still photography was my entry into Berlin’s club scene. In a city where everything was possible, I didn’t need more than a camera. These days, projects related to my photos keep me occupied almost every day. To this day, I am strongly connected to the club scene.

Analogue images

For your photography you use analogue equipment, shoot in black and white, and exclusively work with natural light. How did you come to this decision in the digital age?

Apart from other things, the digital age stands for fast-pace, interchangeability and a flood of images. Anyone can capture every moment of their lives with their smartphones. As for me — I’m leaving a shoot after a day’s work, with the exposed films in my pocket. This way, the anticipation before seeing the results lasts for a few days — almost a luxury these days. To view 5,000 digital images during the shooting and to delete 4,999 because they’re crap, that’s not my cup of tea.

Your memoir Die Nacht ist Leben (The Night is Life) was conceived in a creative partnership with journalist and author Judka Strittmatter, granddaughter of legendary Eastern German novelist, Erwin Strittmacher. Please describe this collaboration.

I already got to know Judka Strittmatter a few years ago. At the time, she wrote a biographic article about me for a large Berlin daily. We got along well, and I didn’t care about her family background. For Die Nacht ist Leben, we engaged in an intense journey lasting nine months, which brought up a lot of emotions and memories. From the very start, it was my desire to work with an author from Eastern Germany. Somehow, we speak the same language. Judka Strittmatter was the right choice.

You have been portrayed extensively by the media in Germany and all over the world. Among others, the influential yellow press paper BILD published a lot of information about your professional and private life.
Has your life changed since these public revelations?

Shortly before the publishing date of my autobiography I was pretty nervous. How was the public going to react to
my story? What if nobody is interested in what was written? Now, if complete strangers approach me in some international location, and they ask me about my photos or my story — that’s a good feeling. Nevertheless, I’ve always been a man who polarised people. I can live with that quite well.

Shrine of Berghain

In articles about you, The New York Times states that “Berghain is to electronic music fans in Germany what Bayreuth is to opera lovers” while The Guardian mentions an app called ‘How to get into Berghain’. On the door you see every type of person who hopes to get into the venue. How has the clientele changed since the club’s beginnings?

Punters in the clubs have of course long moved on to be ‘The Next Generation’, and naturally they reflect a new zeitgeist. The club scene has an element of autonomy and independence, so it’s not surprising that it’s mostly youthful audiences who are attracted. At some point, new ways of life and new paths follow. I find the way of life of current generations always very inspiring.

We are excited to present your work and yourself to an Australian audience. Have you been to Australia before? What do you expect to find in its two metropolitan cities, Sydney and Melbourne?

It feels like an adventure! This will be my first visit to Australia, and most likely the furthest I’ve travelled. The decision to put on the show in two metropolitan cities, that’s a challenge! But I love challenges and am very happy about the invitation.