Why do you work with images? When children are told stories, images are created in their minds that connect them to the chaos and experiences of their first impressions and later experiences. Storytellers can send out key stimuli that then trigger certain chains of associations. We know this from advertising, when images and text trigger desires. The same is true for producers of paintings, photographs or films. Young children constantly scan their surroundings for the familiar and unfamiliar. This doesn't stop with adults either.

Production, Los Angeles 2015

Solinger Küche, Solingen 1993

What interests you in this? It's the manipulations and I try to extract them. The pictures in the family photo album I grew up with showed only what was chosen by my parents to consolidate the happy moments, but with a few exceptions, concealed the moments experienced negatively by us children. What exceptions, for example? Well, when my grandfather died suddenly, we went for a walk and from this we ended up with some photographs in the album, where you could see us children suffering.

Darkness, 1989

Agent Provocateur, Frankfurt 1986

Ideological Morning Show, Berlin 1982

What other pictures did you grow up with? On the one hand, there were photographs and illustrations in encyclopedias and atlases on the shelf of my father, who was a prosecutor, and on the other hand, there were many fashion magazines next to the sewing machine of my mother, who was a dressmaker. I distinctly remember an illustration of "La Liberté guidant le peuple" by Eugène Delacroix that I found in an encyclopedia. It was a pasted-in picture that I could unfold. In fashion magazines there were pattern sheets that you could also unfold. I can hardly categorize the variety and difference of my impressions at that time. Pictures were always part of my environment and so later I got into the habit of reacting to my environment with pictures again. There are many different approaches.

Music, Austin 2016

Forbidden Area, Palma 2019

Was it always just images that inspired you? No, also real things of course, that is, things that happened right in front of my eyes. In the trade union youth, in which I was active during my apprenticeship as a concrete builder, our social system was critically reflected upon, and the temporal context in which this took place, the time of the actionism of the various communist groups, the militant RAF, but also the emergence of other movements such as Bhagwan or social experiments such as Otto Muehl's Actionanalytic Organisation (AAO), had a lot of explosive power for me. These different things were real experiences, yet I perceived them more like images that I was somehow involved in because I knew a lot of people who were active in the different movements.

Deutsches Bild, 1998

Obviously it's social and political contexts that made you take a position through images? Yes, it was exactly at that time that I started making images with photography. I took pictures at demonstrations against nuclear power plants, and I also always had a camera with me at the various trainings of the trade union youth. I began to question my environment with images that I made myself. There were sometimes absurd situations in which I was involved. In the back rooms of bourgeois pubs, students read the writings of Lenin and Mao in front of a big red Flag, and, depending on the group, also of Stalin. The meetings began with raised fists. In addition, the "Einheitsfrontlied" was sung at the beginning and "The Internationale" at the end. At these meetings it was decided who would soon have to distribute leaflets in front of a factory or who would have to infiltrate the working people or who would have to go into the factory for six months to study the working conditions. The fact that I myself worked as a concrete worker made me a welcome outsider among the comrades. It was only later that I saw through many of the indoctrinations that I and others were exposed to. All of this made me bright-eyed and led to a basic attitude of distrust. A distrust of manipulation, advertising, agitation, lobbying, seduction and incitement. I still work from this basic attitude today, which also means that I also distrust criticism itself.

Appellplatz, Marburg 2020

Autopsy, 2021

Do you distrust your own work? Always! I'll go back to 1971, I'm 16 and just in art class. The teacher has brought two record players and two records. From one of the record sleeves he pulls off a sticker with a banana, on the other he pulls on a sewn-in zipper. He explains that art evolves from the invisible. A printed pink banana appears under the banana sticker and a printed white underpants can be discovered behind the zipper. Now he darkens the room, turns on a UV lamp and starts both records simultaneously. The songs overlap and we begin to paint in this strange light. Shortly before the end of the lesson, he pulls up the blinds. Now all the painted colors appear changed. Everything is psychedelic. I would say: that was the moment when I started to be interested in art. However, I never painted again in the context of UV light. But I responded to my environment through montage, appropriation of images, and a lot of deception. I never met Andy Warhol, but later I photographed Lou Reed, John Cale and the Rolling Stones. But that's another story and this one doesn't really have anything to do with what happened in 1971. It really doesn't? Who can say. Anyway, the fact is that I once met Lou Reed in Frankfurt at an exhibition of his own photographic art. It is hardly known that he was also active in this field. During the event, someone gave him a banana peel with the request to sign it. He did so, because he must have known that in the future the banana peel would turn so brown that his autograph would no longer be visible.

Lou Reed, Frankfurt 2012

John Cale, Austin 2019

Mick Jagger, Dusseldorf 2014

How do rock'n'roll photography and art actually fit together? You seem to operate in two completely different worlds. Do you sometimes feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Ha Ha, No, because there is no conflict. In fact, it's a solid relationship, like that between egg whites and yolks. I've done all kinds of things in my life. I've built roads, bridges, houses, and I was even a gravedigger once. And I've always taken pictures while doing it. These days, when I travel from one rock festival to the next, I automatically get around a lot. I take photos everywhere. But I don't get up in the morning with the thought of developing any concepts that day. That's not how it works. The picture below, for example, was taken one afternoon in Los Angeles. In the evening I had a fixed appointment with the New York band "A Place To Bury Strangers". Before that, I was able to do other things. On previous L.A. visits I had taken a few snapshots at this location, and later in Germany I came up with the idea for a picture of people taking pictures of the Hollywood Sign. Although the pictures are millions of times on the Internet, they do not show the act of taking the picture. I was now interested in how the pictures are actually created. I wanted to tell a story. Hollywood stands for fiction, and the tourists who photograph the Hollywood Sign every day want to become part of the dream factory and all the stories they grew up with for a brief moment.

The Call (A Place To Bury Strangers), 2018

We believe in the truth of press photos, but a press photographer also stages by framing. He blocks out everything left, right and behind the camera. From the grounds of Griffith Observatory, there is a great view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign, which is on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills. I observed the visitors over a long period of time. There are 5 groups of people in the photo. People are taking photos or checking photos on the displays of their cameras. The group of two women in the foreground is moving away. Was there a call that caused a sudden departure? We don't know. The title of the image "The Call (A Place To Bury Strangers)" interrogates the situation. And it was actually the New York band I was in Los Angeles for that day.

Series Instruments, 1994

In many of your early works, you used chemicals to alter the images. Why did you move away from that? Well, there was no Photoshop yet, and through chemistry I could disrupt or destroy images. That came about by accident at first, and later I kept developing it. I worked a lot with potassium permanganate. A strong oxidizer, a basic material for bomb making. The latter interested me, because by etching the pictures, I attacked the pictorial content of the originals. I photographed a lot from newspapers, magazines and television, made pictures out of pictures, so to speak. Nevertheless, there were many pictures that I did not destroy. Especially those that I staged myself. Whereby I must emphasize, of course, that the destruction through chemistry was also a staging: a staging of power. I was able to create new images by destroying them.

Backstage Pass, Liverpool 2016

Glory Hole, Austin 2017

Many of your pictures are about violence. Can you also photograph a meadow of flowers? You can photograph anything. I have also photographed a flower meadow, yes. However, the flowers were blooming on contaminated soil of a former military training area. Only I know that. Basically, I don't want to reveal everything to those who will look at my pictures later. It is enough to give a hint in which direction one could think, but does not have to. And are the hints always there and how can you approach them? Well, I'm not doing crossword puzzles. It can work through an ensemble, through the title or other things. There is an idea and at some point a result. Only I myself have to accept this result.

Targets, Los Angeles 2018

Missing Tree, London 2014

There are some films that made a great impression on me in my youth. For example, "Blow Up" by Michelangelo Antonioni, "Planet of the Apes" by Franklin J. Schaffner, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Miloš Forman or "Targets" by Peter Bogdanovich. I visited some of the filming locations of the movies and stayed there for some time. Was that like traveling in a time machine? Yes, maybe. At least I wanted an answer to something that the movies hadn't given me before. I wanted to experience the environment in a real and three-dimensional way. I had used aerial shots of the places a few years earlier in my "Cinema" series. So I knew where to go. I found the oil storage tank from "Targets" in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. In the movie, the main character Bobby shoots from the top at people in passing cars. The area was pretty run down. It was a little creepy. There were knives, syringes, mattresses and lots of trash on the nearby street, which I collected and piled up in front of the compound fence. I took the title "Targets" from the film. For "Missing Tree," however, I didn't use the film's original title, "Blow Up." I noticed that a tree was missing from Maryon Park. Approximately where David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave were looking from to a spot where a murder occurred in the movie.

Area, London 2014

And are these always films that you would like to discover again for yourself? No, of course not only. I mostly prefer things that have touched me somehow. For example, Abbey Road Studios, where many records were recorded that I grew up with. All the bands went through the entrance to the various studios, and by now thousands of people have left signs on the wall in front of the entrance. The magic interests me. The whole area is not just a myth, it's real. Why did you leave out the the street's zebra crossing that the Beatles walked across for their album Abbey Road? ... well, the crosswalk is part of our collective memory. We can easily associate it with Abbey Road Studios. But I don't have to show this cult site and I didn't want to satirize it, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers did in 1988, for example. Meanwhile, on the Abbey Road Sudios website, there is a live camera that shows the crosswalk permanently. This is a good example of how to demystify something.

Basement Connection, Las Vegas 2015

Dreamland, Liverpool 2017