"My art is an anchor for me and I would be happy if I could inspire you with my photographic art as well."
Born in Burgstädt on July 12, 1980
2020 Member of the German Society for Photography
Mr. Wagner, thank you so much for having us. May we get personal?
AW: (laughs) Yes, of course. Shoot!
Well then, let's start from the beginning: Did you have what you call a happy childhood?
AW: Yes well... In my family, unfortunately, everything always revolved around father's business. Unfortunately, that left little room for me. Only so much: To go on vacation, for example, there was never time. However, my mother had recognized my creative streak very early and always encouraged me. Even my first camera was a gift from her.
What did you do in your free time or in the afternoons after school?
AW: I was out and about with friends a lot. In the nearby forest I found my little bit of freedom and my own space back then.
Your works give the impression: Are you religious?
AW: A clumsy village priest drove out my attempted approach to spirituality. But a hard blow of fate steered me early on to thoughts around the meaning of being and passing, time and eternity.
May I ask what that stroke of fate was?
AW: There was a terrible traffic accident that took away three of my best friends in one fell swoop. It was quite horrible!
Besides the pain, what did that mean to you?
AW: It made me completely lose my footing. The day before we had played football together. And suddenly everything I had left of my friends was gone. Only a few photographs remained and, thanks to them, the memories. The fear of losing someone and then having nothing left of them moved me to photograph my friends in the aftermath. I wanted to capture them all for eternity.
I read that you were a graffiti sprayer.
AW: Yes, that's true, but legally! (laughs) Spraying graffiti gave me a new frame and space for my energies. Since the loss of my friends, my subconscious was dealing with the questions of impermanence, eternity, time and our place in it.
Legal graffiti, is there such a thing?
AW: Yes, it does. And even paid for. I guess they weren't all bad either, because both in my school and in other projects I experienced first artistic recognition. In the process I was able to develop and implement my very own idea of colors, shapes, some of which still accompany me in my photography today.
And how did you get into photography?
AW: My childhood trauma, the fear of losing everything, ultimately brought me to photography. I wanted to capture everything. My parents insisted on a manual apprenticeship, which I also slogged through for months. I felt like a fish in the desert.
AW: After half a year of feeling like I was in the wrong movie, I got lucky because a photographer and oil painter liked my graffiti pictures. I was able to start the much desired photographer training after six months of internship with him, even though at that time studio photography seemed extremely boring to me in its design and approach. I could not see any creative approach for me in such work
But surely that has changed?
AW: Well, I just experimented with unusual subjects and situations in my spare time. For example, in my second year of teaching (2000) I applied for the German Youth Photography Award with a picture of a sprayer friend, whom I had taken naked in front of Karl Marx Head at night at -20 degrees. I won the second prize (combined with exhibitions at the Photokina and the Martin Gropius Bau).
Great! How do you create your pictures?
AW: You won't see me chasing anything with a camera around my neck. It's the other way around. I have to be emotionally touched by a "something", I have to feel it. With the help of photography I can express the emotions that a situation has triggered in me and I can capture them over time. Therefore, I am particularly fascinated by places and situations that radiate something pure or powerful to me. Thanks to my well-founded training, it is then possible for me to transform this feeling - sometimes with very elaborate preparation - into a picture idea and ultimately to implement it in a technically perfect way. Each work tells a unique story, captured in a moment of infinity.
Whow! Where do you find such emotions?
AW: I feel these emotions especially often when I leave my comfort zone. This is why I love to travel, especially places that feel unfamiliar and where I hope to find adventure and insight. In particular, I am fascinated by Asian culture and tradition.
Many of your photographs are impressive and mystical nature shots. Why?
AW: I am always surprised by nature, which gifts us with inexhaustible inspiration. I had already mentioned that the mysticism of time is an important aspect for me and consequently for my work. Have you ever realized that we can only perceive time through remembering? Without remembering the past second, last summer, or events in the past, we cannot have a sense of time either. Many of my works, as well as my series, such as "Romance of Elements" or "Time Flies" deal with the movement of time and ask questions about our fast-paced society:
Who am I? Am I the body, am I my spirit, am I the soul?
What is left of me when the body dissolves in time?
What if people identify their lives by having, not by being?
These questions never leave me and so these spiritual aspects of eternity, being and time are found in my works. Time, spirituality and nature belong together for me as if they were siblings. Since my childhood days in the forest, nature is for me nothing existing outside of myself, but I feel as a part of a great whole. In my photographic work I will always take up and question these aspects. In particular, I have always been fascinated by time. What meaning does it have in general and specifically for us as individuals? Can we understand it? How I would love to decipher the essence of time.
Yourimages are alsosometimes photographically very different from what we see every day. Some of them make me wonder how they came to be.
AW: Yes, in some cases I actually developed my own new techniques and approaches as well as mental perspectives. Always to make my thoughts and feelings visible in my artistic photography. You know, a successful photograph has to trigger emotions, it should be an anchor for the viewer, just as it was for me in my time of disorientation.