Contemporary art and photography in artPublications


Dijkstra, Jorrit A., 2014.Thomas Kellner, genius loci. Maleny:

Here is the fully corrected interview:

Thomas Kellner - Germany

Genius Loci

Ever since Thomas  [] started studying art history, his main interest was experimental and conceptual photography. Experimenting with pinhole cameras, photograms and alternative techniques such as cyanotype and salt paper he acquired his own particular style. He combines a strong visual language with layers of content, so he started to work on photographing European monuments in 1997 using his own ‘contact sheet method’. “I deconstruct architecture as a visual language”, the German photographer explains. “Six years later, I was working on architectural exteriors and interiors around the world, this led to a guest professorship at university and invitations followed to travel around the world.” His journey began in the nineties when he received a Young Professionals Prize from Kodak; the young Thomas decided to dedicate his life to art and photography. He is now considered an expert and much sought after on the international circuit as a curator, lecturer, reviewer, jury member, teacher, editor, and of course a photographer with a very unique style.


“My interest is mainly in the image, not in the object itself”, Thomas explains. “How can we create images that reach beyond photography and show more than we actually see?” he questions. With that in mind he started working on his ‘Genius Loci’ [] series,  liberating photography from its renaissance period, he took inspiration from the Cubism movement and brought his work to a  ‘whole other destination’. “I wanted to create something comparable to Cubism, but developed that concept within a photographic contact sheet. That’s exactly what you see in this series, but instead of being a means to select images and then make a selection of what I shot, I made it the shoot itself.” Thomas photographs in sequence on film, processes his role and lays out his contact sheet. The big difference is the fact that this is the final image - he doesn’t choose just one.  


In ‘Genius Loci’ the buildings seem to be broken apart, dancing and reminding us of the vulnerability of our values and creations. Thomas moves the camera while doing his planned shoot to create movement in the image. Whether you call it distortion or deconstruction, the image in many parts still forms one picture. “After measuring out my subject, deciding the focal length and points, I shoot line by line. It’s a mathematical way of working, like a painter deciding what and where you place the brushstrokes on your canvas. Those are the aspects that need to be planned in advance.” And the buildings that Thomas shoots aren’t just any structures, they have a whole story surrounding them: Two German gentlemen of Siegen in the land of the Tsars.

Georg Wilhelm Henning

“This project is approached in an artistic manner using photography as the tool. Concentrating on two important industrial areas in Germany and Russia, which are linked to each other through the common history of industrial culture. Thomas specifically focuses on his hometown of Siegen and two of the biggest cities of Russia, Yekaterinburg and Perm.

There is something that scarcely anybody knows: Yekaterinburg and Perm were both founded by a prominent citizen of Siegen, Georg Wilhelm Henning. He was a German born officer and artificer, who was invited by Peter the Great to live and work in Russia because of his outstanding knowledge in metallurgy. In the 1720s he founded the first mining schools in Russia, travelled to Europe to promote specialized mining techniques and built new plants in the Urals, which developed very quickly to become one of the most important economic and educational centers: namely Yekaterinburg and Perm.”

For ‘Genius Loci’ Thomas followed in the footsteps of Henning and photographed important enterprises in Germany and Russia to show their similarity, namely the processing of steel and metal. The result is this series about industrial architecture in the Siegerland and the Urals, which portrays the relatively unknown relationship between these industrial areas.


Since 1989 Thomas has lived in the city of Siegen, hence his connection with the history and culture. Because of his location he was able to research and select his buildings carefully, such as the oldest existing blast furnace in Russia, built in the 17th century, which he combined in this series with postmodern buildings. “It’s about uniting the old and the new. They all get a similar treatment and are printed the same way: as contact sheets. Nothing is superimposed or changed - what you see is. what it is. And nobody else is doing it this way.”

Thomas Kellner is represented by Cohen Gallery [] in Los Angeles, United States