295 Kilometers by 42 year-old German photographer Martin Friedrich is a landscape photography series shot following the route of the Isar river: “The Isar river has its source in the Karwendel mountain range of the Alps in Austria and flows for roughly 295 km through Tyrol and upper and lower Bavaria in Germany, until it meets with the Danube. On countless hikes along the river and through the towns and villages, I tried to find calm places of solitude, hidden or forgotten spots—things the Isar river is not necessarily known for.”
The river has a special place in Martin’s memories: “Being from Munich, the largest city on the Isar, this river has been a part of my life since I was a kid. We went there to have barbecues and parties, swim in it or ride our bikes on the single tracks along the river. It always was a spot of leisure, a total given: it was just there, always. A couple of years ago I became interested in what else I could find along the river besides the obvious recreational things. I set out to find the hidden places, the non-places, the wastelands. I became interested in what the lands along the very pretty Isar river look like outside of Munich and away from the people and the postcard vistas.
I am always looking for things that appear special to me when I am out taking pictures—views and things you would not see in a book about the Isar, places where you can see how we humans rebuilt the landscape for our needs, or just tiny traces someone left in the landscape. This is a subjective process of course, and while I usually start the day at a carefully selected place I want to take a picture of, my favorite images are often those I take of things I just find on my walks, things I did not expect and which surprised me. Many times I return to the same places to then take the picture in the light I like best for it, or even the season I think is appropriate.”
None of the images of 295 Kilometers show a direct human presence: “I hope that the viewers themselves get involved in my photographs by filling out the blanks I leave in them, by finding the traces sometimes only visible on a second look. The absence of people hopefully invites them to think about the relationship between nature and mankind, and make them fill the photos with their own imagination and stories. I also hope that viewers will react on an emotional level and feel something similar to what I was feeling while being out by the river, always on my own and sometimes just wandering without even getting the camera out the backpack for days. As much as I want to show my pictures and want people to react to them, this kind of photography also is some sort of self-reflection for me. Being a commercial photographer and director as well, doing projects like this is really important to not loose the excitement and happiness taking photographs gives me.”
While he had no specific reference in mind while shooting for 295 Kilometers, Martin mentions two works that have left an enduring impression on him: “Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi of course was an inspiration and will always be, again and again with every new project, as was Yangtze by Nadav Kandar.” Besides photography, he’s inspired by “anything from books to films to music or listening to a podcast. Traveling definitely inspires me a lot, spending time in unknown places. And talking to strangers is inspiring but also really hard for me as I am quite shy. To be honest, I also find the gear I use inspiring; it changes my approach to photography. Even if equipment does not matter for the technical quality of the work anymore, it does matter to me as it either slows me down and gives me time to think about the pictures I take, or it speeds me up and makes the process more intuitive and spontaneous.”
In general, Martin is interested in using photography to explore the idea of place: “At the moment my main interests are in contemporary landscape and documentary photography. For me places, regions, communities, whether geographically or historically defined or just held together by an idea, are especially interesting and how mankind shapes the look of those.” Some of his favorite contemporary photographers are Vanessa Winship, Alec Soth, Joel Sternfeld, Jon Tonks. The last photobook he bought was Out of the Ordinary Vol .2 by Iain Sarjeant.
Wander. Wonder. Work.