Art Director Gemma Fletcher examines the work of Photographer Ken Hermann, in the fourth installment of a series looking into new talent in photography, from recent graduates to photographers breaking into the industry…
Ken Hermann, a fine art and editorial photographer in his native Denmark, is keen to break into the commercial world. This transition is familiar turf for many photographers who are desperately chasing the sweet spot between art and commerce. His approach is well honed; a strong body of work shot in all corners of the world, covering unique stories and challenging subject matters.
Shown above: Flower Man
Hermann doesn’t worry about trends, and confidently stays true to his point of view as an image-maker across his portfolio. However, in some ways, this can make the challenge of finding a commercial audience even tougher. Finding one when what you’re doing is already resonating with the cultural zeitgeist is arguably easier than when it’s not, even when the quality of the work is of the highest standard.
Passionate about individuals and their unique history, he explores the fragile balance between people and their environment, between tradition and modernity. His subjects are often endangered or under threat from rapid development, westernisation, technological revolution, tourism or warfare.
His most recent project Flower Man is an intriguing series of portraits of the market sellers at Malik Ghat flower market in Calcutta. The market attracts more than 2,000 sellers each day peddling their blooms, which play a significant role in Indian culture. These images build on the idea of everyday heroes, a theme that runs through much of his work.
Hermann’s photography seamlessly weaves cultural and political content, blending documentary and cinematic portraiture. His application of lighting, combining artificial with natural, takes the images into a surreal space, creating dreamlike visions of everyday people, reminiscent of work by Julia Fullerton Batten and Erwin Olaf.
Survivors: Umma Aysha Siddike Nila
The Survivors series tells the stories of victims of acid attacks. Typically women, they are mutilated by men motivated by suspicions of infidelity, rejection of marriage offers, demands for dowry, and disputes over land. The project focuses on the shrouded relationship between victim and attacker, which is full of contradictions of love, possession and ownership.
Survivors: Monira Begum
Hermann’s portraits attempt to illustrate the strength and determination of people facing a lifetime of stigmatization – a difficult subject, but his delicate approach honours their individual stories with grace and humanity.
Hermann’s images are pathways, connecting us to micro worlds and challenging us to rethink ideas of photographic representation. It’s exciting to see a young photographer with such a strong sense of singularity when it comes to vision and approach.
Beauty of the Omo Valley