Interview With Artist & Photographer Alexander Binder by Marc Santo


Alexander Binder was born on Halloween night in the Black Forest of Germany.  
His production process combines digital recording technology with self-built lenses that create a blurred, diffused and somewhat psychedelic look.







RINY: Alex, before we start, I'd like to ask you to pick a song that's inspiring you at the moment. Can you tell us about the song you've picked?

AB: I am just listening to Frédéric Chopins “Funeral March”, played by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Chopin had the unique talent to combine the most melancholic melodies with some of the most beautiful sounds. His “marche funèbre” is a very good example for this.


RINY: You studied economics and taught yourself photography. What drew you to this medium?

AB: I guess I was 14 years old, when my parents gave me a small plastic camera. Since then I never stopped taking photographs and portraying my own world. I also used to paint in the past but it wasn’t a real success. To be honest: I don’t have the patience to work on a piece of canvas for days or weeks. I love fast results and photography is a very fast medium.



RINY: What was your learning process?

AB: As you’ve mentioned previously, I never attended an art school. So the whole photography thing was a learning-by-doing process for me. I tried to read some books about the technical aspects of photography, but they bored me. And so I decided to spend my time in museums and libraries, studying the works of artists I really love.

RINY: Do you currently support yourself financially through your work?

AB: At the moment I have a regular job to finance my whole art stuff. From time to time I am able to sell a piece – and I am lucky enough that the group of people, who likes my works is slowly growing – but this just helps to fund new projects.



RINY: Your work includes themes of spirituality, occult and psychedelics. What attracts you to these themes?

AB: We are living in a world without mysteries. Sometimes it seems to me like there’s a scientific explanation for just everything. This makes life rather dull and so I drew my attention to all kinds of esoteric, occult and psychedelic themes.     



RINY: Are you influenced by other photographers?

AB: I guess the works of Henry Peach Robinson, Man Ray, Hans Bellmer, Miroslav Tichý and Bill Jacobson have influenced me the most.


Henry Peach Robinson - Little Red Riding Hood Arrives at the door...                                                Man Ray - Marquise Cassati                                           
Hans Bellmer - 'Poupee' in Hayloft                              Ken Jacobson - Song on Sentient Beings            Miroslav Tichy - ?           

RINY: Are you influenced by books and films?  

AB: I don’t read many books, but I love films. I spend a lot of time at the cinema and my local video-rental-store. It’s very difficult to say which films had the strongest influence on me, but I guess the works of Kenneth Anger were very important for me (mainly “Lucifer Rising”). And I really like the rough aesthetics of the 70ies/80ies horror genre with films like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. I love all kind of movies, which establish strong, iconic symbols.



RINY: Some of your work seems to have a Scandinavian black metal aesthetic?  Are you involved with this scene and does music influence you?

AB: I used to listen to a lot of Black Metal when I was younger. I went to some concerts and collected a lot of records – but I didn’t perceive myself as an active part of the Black Metal scene. Today I am more into classical music or dark ambient by acts like Vinterriket. What still fascinates me about Black Metal is the strong visual language of the genre and the attempt of this scene to escape from modern realities. For me it always was some kind of romantic approach and I guess there are a lot of parallels between Black Metal and Romanticism. Black Metal focuses on very strong emotions, nature and ancient myths ¬– these are also key-characteristics of Romanticism.


Vinterriket - Lichtschleier 2006

RINY: What are you trying to convey through your work?

AB: My whole body of work is some kind of modern interpretation of the medieval “Memento Mori” idea. Like the works of early Netherlandish painters they shall remind us in a certain way of our own mortality – and further on – motivate us to think about our afterlife and the spiritual powers, which influence our life. Therefore I often combine beautiful images with symbols of fear or death. 



RINY: I’ve read that you modify your equipment and build your own lenses?  What type of  modifications are you making and what’s the end result?

AB: To some point I am a child of modern times. Therefore I use standard digital single reflex cameras, but I build most of the lenses on my own. The easiest modification is a self-built pinhole lens or a slit cam made with two razor blades. The more advanced modifications are based on old Soviet glass or acrylic lenses.
But no matter which kind of lens, the end result of all these modifications is the same: a diffuse, blurred and psychedelic look. So some of my images look rather like a painting or an acid trip than a typical photo.



RINY: According to your bio, you use digital recording technology? What exactly is this used for? 

AB: I used “digital recording technology” as an umbrella term for my digital equipment. To be more precise: It’s an Olympus digital single reflex camera for photo projects and an old Canon DV camcorder for film. By using self-made lenses for both of them, I am able to achieve a unique look.  




RINY: How do you go about conceptualizing your photos? 

AB: Most of the time I have only a vague idea at the beginning. For example I find an obscure painting, a film still or a text, which captures my interest. Then I start to read more about this subject and I collect all kind of images or background information. Finally there comes a point when I've seen and read enough. And this is the time to start taking photos … The inspiration for my latest photo series “Traum” was for example a text of Sigmund Freud which dealt with dreams, their meaning and their interpretation.   




RINY: How do you direct your subjects? 

AB: I don't direct my protagonists at all – it’s more about improvisation and spontaneity. I just let them wear my costumes and go with them out in the woods. There I observe them like a hunter and from time to time I'm taking some photos. That's it.



RINY: With and an unlimited budget, what type of scenario would you like to create? 

AB: Hm, good question. I guess I would try to make a photo series inspired by Dante Alighieri's “Divine Comedy”. I love Gustave Doré's illustrations of the “Divine Comedy” and I think it would be a great challenge to translate the atmosphere of the text into photos. 





RINY: Who, if anybody, would you love to photograph and what would those pictures look like? 

AB: I'm not a typical portrait photographer. Thus I don’t have a list of people who I’d like to photograph. But I’d love to meet the Alien designer H. R. Giger – and a photo shooting could be the ideal occasion.  



H.R. Giger source via Authentic Society


RINY: What are three books everybody should read and why? 

1. Dante’s “Divine Comedy”
(Surely one of the most influential works of world literature)

2. H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”
(Lovecraft created with his Cthulhu Mythos not only a great classic horror tale but also a whole universe of fear) 

3. Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” series
(As Stephen King once said “The Future of Horror”) 



RINY: What are three albums everybody should listen to and why?  

1. Rachmaninoff plays Chopin (best classical record)
2. Aphex Twin “Selected Ambient Works 85–92” (best electronic album)
3. Ulver “Shadows of the Sun” (best combination of classical and electronic music) 




RINY: What are three movies everybody should see and why? 

1. “Lucifer Rising” (Kenneth Anger’s short film is my personal benchmark for occult movies. The majestic pictures create in combination with Bobby Beausoleil’s soundtrack an unforgettable experience. Definitely a must-see for all people who are interested in video art.)  

2. “L’Inferno” (A great adaption of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The film was created 100 years ago and it still looks amazing. Especially the famous scene where Satan is eating the human bodies.)

3. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (The 1974 movie by Tobe Hooper is simply the greatest horror film of all time. Leatherface has become a true icon of the whole backwoods slasher genre.)

RINY: What other artist or photographer’s body of work do you most admire? 

AB: I deeply admire the oeuvre of Norwegian illustrator and painter Theodor Kittelsen. He lived from 1857 to 1914 and you can easily feel his close connection to nature in all of his works. Most of you may know his fairy tale drawings and his illustrations of trolls. But he also had a very dark side. Especially his book “Svartedauen” (The Black Death) is full of sinister creatures and it’s not by accident that Black Metal bands use his works as album art. This year I am going to spend a few weeks in Norway just to visit some of the places where he had worked and lived.  





RINY: A lot of your work has creepy undertones, but is there a funny story behind any of these images?

AB: I had some funny encounters with hikers during the production of “Maleficium”. Most of the photos were made in the Black Forest ¬– and some of them not too far away from famous hiking trails. I remember a situation when my masked protagonist stood right in the middle of a picturesque wood glade when suddenly a group of senior hikers appeared. The whole group was completely flabbergasted. And it was a tough piece of work for me to explain to them that a goat-headed psychopath has something to do with art & photography.



RINY: Aesthetically where is your work going in the future? 

AB: I don’t have an aesthetic masterplan for the future, but at the moment the works of the symbolist art movement fascinate me – with painters like Arnold Böcklin, Edvard Munch or Odilon Redon. I am just starting to discover their philosophy, their aesthetics and their techniques. I guess this fascination for the symbolists and my growing passion for images from the early days of photography may have a strong visual influence on my future work.


Arnold Bocklin
edvard munch

odilon redon

RINY: What are some images that have inspired you?