Joachim Brohm LESSMORE Interview


Joachim Brohm’s work has influenced my way of thinking about photography, particularly his work regarding architecture. Though Joachim might not say that his work is directly about architecture, how he photographs sites and buildings has been vital in opening my eyes to new possibilities for seeing potential subject matter. Known for several high-profile and essential photobooks, including Ohio, Ruhr, Fahren, and Areal, amongst others, Brohm’s work feels at home in the format and medium of the photobook. His later book projects have been characterized by smaller and more limited editions, making the work/book more of a multiple art object than a mass-produced photobook.


I was fortunate to see Joachim this September and receive his beautiful new book LESSMORE, published/self-published, on his imprint BR-ED. The book examines many Ludwig Mies van der Rohe buildings. The photographs explore the everyday application of the buildings, but also some fragmented images and images of construction- a type of fly-on-the-wall experience. Joachim graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the work.


LESSMORE Interview December, 2023

Brad Feuerhelm and Joachim Brohm


BF: With your book/series Areal, you began a relationship with site-specific models/looking at the materiality of building and construction. This may have been a catalyst for your more recent work. How far back does your interest in architecture precede this work?

JB: I started photographing architecture in the mid-to-late 1980s by working for a few architectural offices and pursuing a career as a specialized photographer. A highlight of that time was the publication of my photos of the Stone House by Austrian architect Günther Domenig in the renowned Japanese magazine A+U, No.254/1991 (16 pages plus cover!). But it must be noted that the building was still under construction and far from being finished at the time of my observations between 1989 and 1992, which made it even more exciting for me to find photographic ways of representation. A constant discussion between the architect and me was the use of color photography, which he wasn’t very fond of because the concrete colors in a particular light mostly looked awful to him.



BF: Yes, I can imagine there to be a preference for architects to see their works in black and white, full chiaroscuro, and perhaps closer to their “planning imagination” of the images. Interestingly, the Stone House shooting also corresponds to Areal in some ways, as you often seem to be catching buildings during construction/change/progression over that of the final completed building. In some respects, this also goes against the perception of how we think of architectural photography…in its finished glamour.


JB: I know I hardly included photographs of complete Mies buildings. One reason was that plenty of documentation of his buildings is available in many monographs and catalogs, not to mention the net. Another reason was that I was much more interested in what happens to all these buildings and sites of the ongoing developments of refurbishing, replacing, reconstructing, imitating, and interpreting, as well as forced museumization and mediatization. Every one of these buildings is a regular candidate for optimizations to live up to the requirements of a new century. So, a common state of all of Mies’ work (and all the classic ‚Modern Architecture’) is currently to be ‚in process, and I wanted to be a witness of these developments with my camera. So, I am looking at the in-between ‘state of things, which has become the normality of most genuinely modern architecture.



BF: What attracted you to Mies’s buildings? Is it the story of the architect from Aachen who fled Germany during the tenure of National Socialism only to land and work in America? Or is it specific to his work and use of materials over his biography?

JB: I grew up in the Rhineland (as did Mies), close to the city of Krefeld, and since my adolescence, I was familiar with the two Mies villas, Lange and Esters, serving as exhibition spaces for the Krefeld art museum. – In my archive, I have a series of photos of the 1987 exhibition of Claes Oldenburg in the Esters Building, called “The Haunted House.” – As a photographer/artist, I admired Mies as the most rigorous and formally precise modern architect. I found it challenging to photograph his buildings in ways that didn’t reproduce the stereotypes of classic, modernist architecture photography with its standard wide-angle views, perspective corrections, and clean-up measures…

BF: Which buildings did you focus on? There must be quite a few…

JB: I visited all the Mies buildings I could, some of them various times, but couldn’t complete the list, which was fine for me. The most time-consuming project was the refurbishment of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin by David Chipperfield Architects between 2015 and 2021. I collected a massive archive by visiting almost every month and photographically followed all the changes. – But apart from this, I also researched and looked at remote places where Mies had planned something that couldn’t be built for various reasons or where buildings that once existed had been erased during the bombing in WW2. – A few temporary constructions, some works of artists and scale models, caught my interest. So, I did not focus on the buildings but rather on the states and circumstances, the uses and surroundings of what belongs to the heritage of Mies.




BF: A process orientation toward his work! We consider accuracy and proportion when we think of architectural photography. Photographers often employ technical cameras to correct lens shortcomings, etc. How do you approach making photographs of architecture? It does not seem like you are after proportional accuracy and that you have a profound interest in details.

JB: In contrast to the classic architectural photographers with their wide-angle tilt-shift devices and photoshop-tricks I prefer a simple method: walking around and into a building like an everyday user of the provided space and experiencing how it functions and looks from that perspective, using just a simple, standard lens and also very often, no tripod. This essentially worked like the Areal project, where I used one camera, one lens, and one type of film for the whole of 10 years so that the emphasis of my doing was simple and concentrated on what I could see through the viewfinder at a specific moment and how it transformed into a photograph which I liked to take. So, the actual work for me is to spend time and give attention to a specific place, to experience it as intensely as possible to find what I need to see, which is mostly very different from the results of the “professionals.”


BF: This “site consideration” seems to be a vital element in your work. I think this is what I appreciate: the uncomplicated look at the backside and mechanisms of buildings and sites. It feels like it reduces the severity or profundity of how we associate the loftier ambitions of modernist architecture. It is as if to bring the relational down to the commonplace level using the equipment and photography. This is also true of these images ending up in books and not specialist architectural journals (solely).




On the topic of books, you have begun to self-publish your books in small editions. As someone interested in the economy and culture of photobooks, why have you decided to become a photobook publisher? Is it due to a lack of publishers or wanting more autonomy? I champion this move, to be precise.


JB: I was a bit underwhelmed with how exhibitions worked for me during the last years, especially when the pandemic had started, and I decided to pause with the usual procedure of producing prints, having them framed, showing them, and then putting them back into storage. I was looking for a different way to get work to be seen, which was more effective and direct. I concluded that I wanted to present a straightforward, complex, unique artistic product that could be distributed like multiple works of art in a defined edition. And yes, I am still photographing directly and descriptively as a photo-person of the 20th century. Still, in LESSMORE, I take the freedom to construct chapters and sequences of photos in a non-narrative way, at least not in any classic way.


That’s why we don’t have an actual photobook; we have multiple original works of art as an edition in the form of a book/magazine. The photographic findings are presented as single works or small groups/sequences. They follow my choices and decisions by employing formal and photographic means in an unorthodox way. Still, they never entirely lose the connection to the oeuvre of Mies, changing its effects as we speak. That was when I started BR-ED, my self-publishing project, where I did not need a publisher or a gallery to bring my work into the reach of those interested in looking at it!



BF: Yes, I read these as an art book, as they are signed and limited. It is a good decision for artists to take more chances at producing art multiples in the form of a book as it gets more of their projects out the door and can be a way for work to circulate for longer. Even though there are few copies, the critical idea here is longevity.


Where do you see your interest in architecture heading next, and do you feel a responsibility to continue documenting the buildings of Mies, to build up a significant single source of images, or have you finished this part of your work?



JB: I am not sure if it’s the architecture that is my main point here. I want to keep practicing photography as a visual language of complexity to overcome stylistic categories and stereotypes, as I tried to do with LESSMORE. I am still very motivated to focus on the real world as a subject matter as long as I can witness something progressing and changing. It’s the ‚presence of transience ‘, as Maren Lübbke-Tidow called it in the title of her essay for LESSMORE, which stirs my attention and keeps me going!


In collaboration with Fotohof-archive in Salzburg, I am currently working on a newly conceived presentation of work I did about 30 years ago for one of Austria’s most prominent architects, Günther Domenig, on his most extraordinary Stone House; whatever will come out of it after all those years… – so there is more than Mies for sure and tomorrow I will take out my dog and my camera to the city-limits and we’ll see what happens 😉

Joachim Brohm




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