Wednesday, 26 November 2014

People of the Sea

End of Season

"A boy stands on the beach and looks out to the sea. 
He observes the waves as they break, the passing clouds, and the wind that blows fine sand across his skin. He feels the salt in his nose. Spellbound, the boy pauses, feeling the power of his place that has taken hold of him and will never let go." 

This is how Nicolai Max Hahn begins his foreword. These lines immediately create strong images in my mind. And they evoke sensations that are similar to the ones that Ingo Gebhard's photographs bring up. It is an inspirational text of the kind that is rarely found in photo books, and by this I mean that it helped my imagination to open up. "The waters of the North Sea are among the roughest of the world. Ingo Gebhard mostly photographs this force of nature during hurricane-strength winds in order to depict the elements as intensively as possible."
Hermann Goldschweer, Harbor Master

People of the Sea shows not only people of the sea, among them a former maritime rescuer, a pastor, an equine chiropractor, a young Frisian woman and an attractive older lady of whom the captions says "headstrong" (and, needless to say, I immediately associate that with her), but also of coastal landscapes.

Ingo Gebhard grew up on the island of Wangerooge in the North Sea and has worked as a freelance photographer for the fashion and advertising industry since 1995. As this tome impressively testifies, he has also pursued his own work that mainly focuses on black-and-white portraits and coastal landscapes.
Jens Dorow, Beach Attendant

The sharp outlines of the photographs make them resemble paintings, and looking at these faces makes one automatically think, yes, it is obvious, the rough winds have left their mark on them. Hardly anyone offers a smile.

Spending time with photographs often brings up mental images that have only remotely (and sometimes nothing) to do with what is before my eyes. Ingo Gebhard's formidable landscapes make me remember a storm that I witnessed in Piriápolis, Uruguay. The sea happened to be across the street from my hotel and I was able to watch it from the safety of my room. It is the photo of the tidelands below that brought up this movie in my head.

The pictures in this thoughtfully composed work – portraits alternate with coastal landscapes – radiate an intriguing calm and that's probably to do with what the sea has taught these men and women portrayed here: that in order to survive you need to remain calm.

Ingo Gebhard's People of the Sea is a great book, and an invitation to contemplate eternity.

Ingo Gebhard
People of the Sea
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2014

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