Artist of the Week: Olaf Unverzart

Olaf Unverzart lives and works in Munich, Germany.  He received a degree in fine art photography from Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in 2000.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am an artist and photographer mostly working on free long-time projects which end in books, exhibitions or in magazines.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger what would you say? I’ve always failed on this question. I would say have a look at the pictures, because I do not have the words. My pictures are one way to come closer behind the beautiful and cruel secrets of life.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? Usually I work with analog film cameras in different negative formats, making scans from the negatives and printing them. A lot of my thoughts and ideas end up in numerous sketchbooks.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? These things have only changed a bit over the last 15 years.  Music, literature, cycling, traveling, books, shared moments.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? After recently finishing my new book, I took a few weeks off to spend time reading, listening to old jazz records and staying at my flat for more than a week. At the moment I am an artist in residence in Vienna. My next planned project is to visit the Slowenian part of the Alps and do some research about chess.

How long have you lived in Munich and what brought you there? I’ve lived in Munich since 2000.  My friends and the mountains were the reason to come back after living in Berlin, Barcelona and Leipzig.

How has living in Munich affected your art practice? My studying at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig has influenced me a lot. Munich is more of a base for my trips all around the world. I have my friends there, my books, it’s close to my parents’ farm and the Alps are around—those are the reasons to live there.

How did your interest in art begin? After I failed as a professional cyclist, it was quite clear for me to make pictures.  When I saw magazines like Stern or Geo my wish was born to be one of these photographers.  What I quickly learned in art school was that I am not a typical commissioned photographer. Maybe more an author or an artist.

What artists are you interested in right now? The photographers who formed me most are Robert Frank and Stephen Shore. But there are a lot of great picture makers like Alec Soth or Jim Goldberg. I also like the work of artists like Roman Signer or Louise Bourgeois.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? The Red Bulli, an exhibition about Stephen Shore’s influences on the Becher School in Düsseldorf.

If you had one wish what would it be? Riding a bike like Jan Ullrich.

What are your plans for the next year? My plans for 2011 are quite fixed.  Another artist residency in Vilnius/Lithuania, trips to India, Usbekistan, Sardinia, Mali and the Alps.  In the spring I have a solo show at my gallery in Leipzig. Also, more cycling.

Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? jmcolberg.com (photo blog which is clever and interesting), spiegel.de (my daily news), radsport-news.com (all about road cycling).

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? If not cycling and not taking pictures, maybe I would have ended up at my parents’ farm. Farmer.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the world to be? The most beautiful and impressing place I have ever seen is Patagonia. But forget the weather there, it’s not made for living.

Any upcoming shows we should know about? The La Brea Matrix project, where I am one of six photographers working on Stephen Shores tracks, will be shown at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover in November.