Exhibition of works by German photographer Thomas Schaefer

Thomas Friedrich Schaefer from Berlin recreates his past to understand the present.

An exhibition of the German artist Thomas Friedrich Schaefer from Berlin opened at the Aurum Art Centre on Zhvanetsky Boulevard / Torgovaya. Presented a series of photographs ‘Experiential Spaces‘, 2013-2016. The initial inspiration for an image comes from his childhood, but the final scene, meticulously crafted over weeks, takes on a life of its own.

Schaefer, 33, moved to Brazil from Mainz as a two-week-old baby, returning to Germany five years later. And as a consequence, his memories are a mix of two countries, and two languages.

I’ve always been interested in how memories are formed and built up, and how they change over the years

Thomas Friedrich Schaefer
Making of Experiential Spaces #7: Direction, lighting
Experiential Spaces #7, 2015 © Thomas Friedrich Schaefer

What Schaefer is trying to show is that all our memories, no matter how vivid, are constructions – and these constructions change as we, ourselves, change.

Each scene takes between 200 and 500 hours to create. Schaefer, who studied architecture at Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule before switching to fine arts, builds the sets from scratch in his Berlin studio with the help of friends and assistants. He then scours prop shops, flea markets and eBay for objects and materials to decorate them.

I remember my dad coming home from work and encouraging me to sit at my desk and do my homework, because I was always playing football outside with my friends

Thomas Friedrich Schaefer
Experiential Spaces #5, 2015 © Thomas Friedrich Schaefer

For three days before production, I spend several hours a night making a huge list. Each pencil needs to be at the perfect angle. Every sticker is placed in exactly the right place. It’s artistic. I need to control everything; I want to eliminate the photographic moment.

A painstaking process. Thomas Friedrich Schaefer
Experiential Spaces #6, 2015 © Thomas Friedrich Schaefer

Schaefer has done commissions for the German Red Cross, for luxury hotels and Mainz 05 football team but his focus now is predominantly on personal work. Since winning the Felix Schoeller Photo Award in 2015, he’s exhibited in Latin America, Australia and Europe.

Thomas continues to stage images in his studio in Berlin. His work includes hyper-realistic sets that provide the narrative framework to moments of interpersonal relationship. 

The exhibition is supported by Bayerisches Haus and Goethe-Institut Ukraine. It runs until December 9, admission is free!