THE LIGHT SCULPTOR FROM SALZBURG, WITH JOACHIM BERGAUER

Published by INSPADES Magazine, “Issue Cinque”

BY ANISSA R. STAMBOULI

It takes a sensitive eye to arrange luminescent light for a black and white image, to capture the various shades of grey and translate them into texture and charisma within the world of two-tones and contrast. Despite the challenges of black and white photography, Austrian artist Joachim Bergauer draws a veil of vibrancy over his monochromatic collection with remarkable aptitude and ease.

“Contrast photography is a form that I have preferred for over 30 years,” says Bergauer, whose predilection is made clear by the distinct lighting choices of his portraits.

With a “main focus on human photography”, Bergauer spent six years scouring the globe for striking portraiture, finding countless telling faces in places as remote as Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands off the North Atlantic coast of Africa.

Motivated by the desire to “strengthen the strengths of people,” similar to a painter, Bergauer highlights the greatest attributes of his subjects, extracting an empowering image from the individual with his lens in each transient moment of candid expression.  

In his portrait of Hedy, shot in Bergauer’s Studio B in Salzburg, the dark background and rich tones of the subject’s skin create a luxurious visual within the contrast of softly glowing light. The depth of shades induces a compelling image, made striking by Bergauer’s ability to sculpt the subject with strategic lighting. “Studio photography is designing with the light,” he explains. This strategy saves time during post-production, resulting in an editing process that Bergauer usually completes in fifteen minutes.

Since the age of twelve, Bergauer’s constant companion was his camera. “I learned the craft—learning by doing,” shares the self-taught photographer, who developed a knack for photography through media work. When he was twenty-years-old, Bergauer avidly pursued sports and entertainment photography, including the prestigious music and theatre festival in Salzburg, Salzburger Festspiele. Some of Bergauer’s work has also been published in The New York Times.

In addition to press photography, Bergauer entered the world of advertising, where he quickly found his niche. Working with companies like Ogilvy & Mather and KISKA as an artistic advisor for global campaigns, and having his photography featured in anecdotal advertisements by notable brands like Hasselblad, Bergauer quickly made his rounds within the industry, leading to the launch of his own advertising agency in 2000.

While advertising brought Bergauer a reliable means to make an income with his camera, it also expanded and built on skills for his personal art, especially portraiture. “I used my advertising photography as a base [for learning],” he shares, “So I was able to deal with the light well and make pictures that met the beauty of the people in a respectful way.”

Applying his experience in commercial photography to images like Fuerte and Katia, which encapsulates his creative flare and an editorial style, Bergauer has found a way to apply the technicalities involved in his professional photography to his creative work.

With prestigious marketing and advertising awards from organizations like the Salzburger Landespreis, Bergauer has achieved worldwide recognition in a trade where photographers rarely gain the freedom to apply artistry to their commercial work.

Currently, Bergauer is labouring over a book that explores life on leper colonies, a project that he has been following for six years. In the meantime, he continues to show his work at exhibitions and accumulate new techniques in photography, ensuring that his dynamic creativity never “stands still.”

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