Set & Drift recently crossed paths with Oliver Weber, a German photographer and doctor who resides in the Spanish town of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. Weber has a penchant for slowing down his creative process through traditional photographic techniques, avoiding digital almost entirely. He begins by exploring human interaction, taking the time to walk the town and talk at length with neighbors–a habit that no doubt makes him a better doctor. In this fast paced world that we live in, we were intrigued not only by his perspectives on the importance of slowing the pace of his creative process but also his ability and desire to merge his vocation and creative pursuits. It is the pleasure of Set & Drift to publish this interview with Oliver, we hope you enjoy his images and insight.
What draws you to photography?
Photography, in my quite personal style, has become my elixir of life. It gives me strength and it makes me happy. Every little moment is important in itself and every photograph has its own little story in my head. The photo is not in the foreground but rather quite a lot of human interactions and meetings that originate from it.
Could you tell us the story behind one of your photos? How do you begin a conversation with the people you photograph?
With this man, I spent almost a whole afternoon in his modest home. I was invited by him, and we drank tea and entertained ourselves with our hands and feet. In the end I asked him if I could take a picture of him. What I want to say is: there are situations in photography which need time. In other situations, you have to be more quick.
This is a typical street scene. The group of children passed me. Here I was able to make eye contact with a child. Within seconds, there it was, the photo.
As a general rule, I drift along on the streets; things don’t come to me at a hectic pace or in a rush. Photography is not actually at the forefront of my mind, rather it’s about having a lot of human interaction. The image through the viewfinder creates a sense of eagerness in me, as well as a sense of relaxation at the same time. All events condense around me in one moment. Then it’s a matter of capturing it in such a way that it becomes something special. My photos aim to reveal deep insights into human lives. The situations embody what develops while watching people’s lives and tell unmistakable small stories. I’m never an outsider to the story. Photography is, for me, a picture language that everyone all over the world can understand. This makes it valuable as well as inimitable and this is why I love it so much.
What brought you from Germany to your current home in the Canary Islands?
My work as a doctor.
You are like a modern storyteller, documenting the lives of others through photography and human interaction. Why do you find this an important role for today?
Thank you for the “modern storyteller”. In our crazy world, there is such a hurry and bustle. Since 2002, I’ve pursued photography, if you want to put it this way, seriously. The so-called “street photography” has arisen through my creating different cycles. It comes to life through spontaneity and the feelings and recognition of situations and moods. You never know what will happen next. The art is to use foresight to grasp the right moment and take the picture. Once the moment is over, it is lost for good. If you have managed to capture this unique moment that makes you rest for a moment, then the picture has its justification.
If you were a mythological creature, what would you be?
Honestly I have not given this much thought. So I took a test on the Internet.
The result: I would be a Griffin: “Loyal hardworking, winged beast, the fierce griffin is a trustworthy friend. One of the more famous creatures, you should be proud of scoring this. You are valued as a tough fighter but are also dexterous in the ways of the world. You will look to the light to know what to do. You can become sulky and secretive if left without guidance though.”
What is inspiring you this week?
I am inspired by the crazy world we live in day to day.
What would your dream assignment be? Where would you like to go next?
I would like to make a picture story about my neighbor, a man who lives a very modest and hard working life. But he is happy and content with his life. Perhaps I will manage to carry this happiness through in my pictures. I will go out today and ask him...
What more do you feel you need to accomplish in this life?
My vocation is being a doctor, and my passion is taking photographs; the two together is my dream combination. There is nothing better than connecting work and hobby. The one can’t be without the other for me. For me personally, there is no absolute "need" to accomplishing something in my life. I am content as long as I have ideas in my head and the power to implement the ideas.
You can see more of Oliver Weber's work on his website.
All photos © Oliver Weber – from the series Marrakech and other collections.