What I learned from EyeEm Open Master Class with Boris Eldagsen

By Sarah Luisa Santos . July 9, 2015

For all those creative types that, like me, can’t afford to study because they don’t speak German or work in those nine to five jobs (and simply can’t afford it), well here is a good alternative to expand your horizons: EyeEm Open Master Class.

eyeem open class
EyeEm Open Master Class with Boris Eldagsen

The project is pretty simple, one professional from the photography field gives about a one hour lecture on how he or she became photographers.

Last one was with Boris Eldagsen, photographer and teacher born in southwest Germany and now based in Berlin.

In a cozy room at EyeEm headquarters, with no more than 30 people, Eldagsen went on to explain how at first he was rejected many times by several art schools, a fact that led him to study first Philosophy, and then later visual arts in Mainz.

When we see his photographs, the style is not really the most obvious one and hard to categorize in any school of photography. He calls himself a “reality hijacker”, who produced images with the ambitious task of connecting with people on the subconscious level.

As I said before, I have studied philosophy and had professors standing there for two hours discussing ‘is that wall really white or not?’ (laughs). So this is my background. What I always try to ask is ‘what’s the limit? What can we understand? How much of the reality is actually a projection?’”

boris eldagsen photo
Poem #76 by Boris Eldagsen

Based on this principle, Eldagsen started to think about ways on how he could use the camera to do the job of capturing the many reality interpretations he had. The concept of a camera as a documenting device was definitely left behind.

When the ‘real truth’ is not enough to work with, there still a truth inside yourself. I started to be true to myself. You need to become more conscious of the world inside of you and how it relates to the world outside. I turned to painter Caspar David Friedrich, who has a beautiful quote I still like: ‘If a painter is not able to see the world inside of him, he should not paint the world in front of him.’”

boris eldagsen pic
Poem #102 by Boris Eldagsen

A fan of the dark, his photographs are mainly done during the night time, where he found a comfort zone to photograph without the chaotic daily doings, a characteristic he acquired while studying a semester in India.

In the middle of the ’90s I left Germany for the first time. I went to spend a semester abroad for university and I had no idea what kind of culture I was going to meet. And at first I couldn’t photograph. I was not that kind of street photography guy, so I started to work at night and that continues to influence what I do today.”

boris eldagsen photography
Poem #88 by Boris Eldagsen

When it comes to being creative, his technique for finding inspiration is very interesting: liking Tumblr images spontaneously and, at the end of the month, he looks at the pictures he liked, analyzes them and selects the ones that are recurrent in style or subject – from there he finds a motif.

A fan of Carl Jung theory of the Collective Unconscious, Eldagsen found within this method a way to connect with images on a subconscious level, and, according to him, that’s when interesting things start to happen.

Also a practitioner of staged photography, where you have absolute no budget to photograph with professional lighting or equipment, Eldagsen found another way to get inventive.

I use simple things. Sometimes just a piece of fabric as a filter, or just a simple wall with an interesting light. One time I even used glitter! Anything at hand can be helpful.”

Another valuable tip from the professor, who lectured at Melbourne University and recently conducted workshops at Photowerk Berlin, is to never be afraid. Don’t be afraid of taking photos or looking weird… just do it.

Last advice?

The most stupid thing I’ve ever heard is that you can only make it until you are 35. This is bulls*it. There are always exceptions, everywhere, always. Never give up.”

EyeEm has events every month. Stay tuned to their FB page and social media channels to learn more.


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