Late last year FotoZA, a gallery in the Mall of Rosebank in Johannesburg dedicated to photographic fine art, presented DriftArt by Markus Wörsdörfer – a fascinating exhibition formed from early morning walks on a beautiful tropical beach in Zanzibar.
DriftArt looked at what happens when a piece of clothing washes ashore. When the sun, sand, wind and water, the ebb and flow starts to play with it. Shaping it, moving it around, washing it, tearing it, bleaching it.
When man meets nature. When we keep our eyes open to even the smallest detail and let our imagination have free reign. Look from a distance or go in close, we all might see something different and our mind plays tricks on us.
DriftArt was accompanied by an extensive interview with Wörsdörfer by Fujifilm South Africa for their podcast series SOOC Straight Out Of Camera, which gave special background information. ‘I was fascinated with nature at first. I did a lot of travelling in South Africa and that’s how my interest in photography grew. I bought my first camera, which was not a Fuji, but that was a long time ago, and that’s how I started. I did a couple of courses in photography, both in South Africa and abroad in Germany, and I started exhibiting in Germany. I photographed architecture, which I exhibited in Düsseldorf, Germany. But I don’t have a fixed subject; I like to explore all genres of photography. I don’t like to be put in a box; I’ve done various other things. I did a photo shoot with Fujifilm a couple of years ago on a completely different subject – nude photography – which we did for the World Cup in 2014 and that was very successful I think, and it was well appreciated. I like to do different things, so I change it all the time.’
Are there certain similarities between his profession as a watchmaker and photography? ‘To me it is similar. I think what watchmaking has brought to me in photography is a very detailed approach. I like a lot of detail in my photographs, so especially with DriftArt, it’s well worth seeing – you can stand at a distance and look at it and you’ll see something and then when you move very close, you can see all of the beautiful details, the sand, the textiles, all the fabrics, and I think it is there that watchmaking has helped me a lot.’
Wörsdörfer explains that DriftArt came about during a holiday in Zanzibar. ‘I was actually just enjoying the beach and walking around and taking images of the fishermen going out to sea when I came across a piece of fabric sticking out of the sand. I started looking at it and walked around it, and looked at it from all sides and suddenly I saw a fish in it and that’s how it started. it’s all about fabrics that have been washed up onto the beach and where the tides flow, sun, sand, wind and water has shaped it around and turned it into real pieces of art.
‘Zanzibar is an awesome place and you can easily overlook the details that are around you, it has so many beautiful places and it wasn’t easy to find these items. They’re not just lying around, so… I started looking for them.’
How did Wörsdörfer go from seeing at first a piece of fabric in the sand to creating this exhibition? How did he go about distilling a thought process into a creative process, especially given that though these works are very distinctly his, there is still a commonality in the way that we see the things around us? Wörsdörfer compared it to looking into the clouds ‘you know when we grew up, we used to lie on our backs and look at the sky and we saw all sorts of things appear in the sky like dogs and Mickey Mouse and that is what happened to me when I was walking on the beach. Suddenly, these items of clothing and textiles appeared to me as more than just pieces of clothing – they suddenly had an identity. There was a howling wolf; there was a couple dancing.’
DriftArt allows everybody to see something else in the images. ‘I deliberately left the images on exhibition without titles so that whoever came to see it could use their own imagination to see something different. We don’t need to agree what we see; it’s all up to the imagination of the onlooker.’
The photographs are for sale at FotoZA and Wörsdörfer has taken great care in the framing process to ensure that the images are the centre of focus and not the frames. For him, the transition from a snap or a straight photograph to fine art is that an image needs to be printed to be fine art. When it’s on Instagram or a social media page, it doesn’t have the same feel to him. For Wörsdörfer, only a print can show the real textures and fine nuances of a photograph and any subject to him can be a fine art photograph if it’s appreciated.