Photography by Carolin Walch
In Providence, Rhode Island, there is a hole in the wall of a shop that sells unclaimed photographs for a quarter a piece. The origin of these photographs is unknown; they might be collected from estate sales, garage sales, dumpsters or attics. In all cases these photographs that are not mine, but that depict a life lived by someone, are sentimental. Looking through Carolin Walch’s photographs is like looking through the pictures at that shop in Providence, which in and of itself is a nostalgic experience.
Carolin Walch, who lives in Munich, Germany, takes pictures that emanate a gaudy nostalgia that is innocent in a way that photos posted on Facebook are not. Walch is working in several ways, capturing unique perspectives to create unidentifiable environments and her subjects vary from human, animal to vegetable. When asked what role her subjects play in her work Welch replied, “The subjects are sometimes inspirations, but mostly memories.” The idea of having access to someone else’s memories through these photographs is intriguing and what makes these photographs doubly interesting is the fact that their context is (as a result of one of the limitations of photography) not readily apparent to the viewer.
Specifically, Walch’s photograph of a woman drinking tea with her spoon, where only her hands are pictured piques my urge to question what is happening in this moment. The first things I notice are the woman’s rings, her gold necklace, but then I am draw to the fact that she is indeed dipping a spoon into a tea cup– maybe to stir in a lump of sugar, maybe it is a nervous habit. Similarly, in her photograph of two sets of hands hovering over an ashtray, the eye immediately notices the shiny rings on one of the hands, and the red nail polish that stands out against a green sweater The red nail polish connects both sets of hands to each other– these hands are not strangers to one another– and to the red ashtray. Both photographs give the viewer a wealth of ammunition to let the psyche and the imagination run wild.
In many of her photos Welch’s design training shines through with a feel for light and color as well as an eye for composition. Her sensitivity to light is shown in the photograph of the two of spades; Light dances off its subject creating a vibrant shadow for this layered image. In her photograph of a black cat, light appears to be soaking into the furry animal, like a sponge keeping the eye bouncing between the cat and the unknown light source. Walch also captures an image of a bouquet whose flowers in the foreground appear so sharp that the soft texture of the flower petals is visible. As the eye moves beyond the foreground, flowers become out of focus and then dissolve into blackness– an echo of romance.
Carolin Walch’s photographs are completely entertaining, it is evident that she is drawing from many sources, trying her hand at a number of subjects and landscapes in order to discover just how distinct a memory can be.