AIKO is the new photobook of the German photographer, with a special dedication. The loss of his father, the leitmotiv of bodies and the beauty of colours and light in still life
AIKO, the ballad of life and loss of a photographer
AIKO – the latest photobook of photographer Florian Hetz – is a voyage through the aesthetics of life and death. «Sometimes it’s just about the broken little things on the corner of the street.»
Florian Hetz’s AIKO photobook, published in December by Paper Affairs, celebrates life through still life, the human body, and moments where natural light takes the scene. «What emerges in the interaction of these works is nothing less than a ballad of mourning, loss, and death, of isolated bodies, nakedness, and traces of closeness, of tentatively-determined confidence,» wrote Daniel Schreiber in the foreword of the book.
The latest work of the German photographer recounts an intimate voyage in the folds of beauty and sorrow, with a special dedication to someone who left – after a long disease – and only appears once in the book, in the picture which is the best-kept secret of the photographer. «If I can ask something» – he said at the end of the interview with Lampoon – «I’d prefer not to feature only one picture, where you see my father’s hand.» Letting go and acceptance are two words that resonate with Aiko.
Aufgeben ist keine Option. ‘Giving up is not an option’
«When I used to walk in the evening, in my neighborhood, I used to cross a big printed poster on yellow background: ‘Giving up is not an option». Within the acronym that gives the title to his latest publication, much is hidden of Hetz’s life: «It’s about the way I have been raised. I came from a sporting family; when I was a child, I had to play tennis, which I hated. My father was quite strict: ‘There’s no option for giving up if you start something you’d better finish it, he used to say. It was hard for me as a child, but as a grown-up, I somehow appreciate that».
The start rhymes with the end of the publication, a text written by Hetz’s father, a very intimate insight ultimately included in the publication. It gives the perception of something that gets into your light and changes it entirely—a separation between who receives a diagnosis and who continues with their lives.
«He sent me the text in 2018, with not much information about it. Sending me this was a big step because he was not an emotional person. He gave me an insight into his feelings when he got diagnosed with cancer, also telling about the impact that he suspected on friends and family. When we talked about it, I suggested making it shorter and publishing it; he said, ‘You know what? You do whatever you want with it’».
Subjects and composition
AIKO has some prominent features, which already characterized Hetz’s work, the spark attention details, the place given to the human body, and its elements. But there’s something different that makes AIKO a practical way to drive the ‘looker’ into an aesthetic and intimate voyage at the same time. «70 percent of the pictures featured are the daily photos I take. It happened I combined these with other photos I took of people last year, in 2020. There was a lot of hesitation with AIKO: shall I open my life or not? Finally, I decided to give people a chance to have a glance into it.»
In terms of compositional structure, the book follows a seasonal logic, though not temporal: «I composed by looking back at the pictures. For me it was a special year because my dad died, so I structured the book loosely, through seasons. The structure gave me a little guide; it doesn’t mean that every photo has been taken in winter, but it gives the sense of the season».
Aesthetics of AIKO: similarities in contrast
Some pictures associate human bodies with inanimate objects, somehow generating a contrast between the inanimate and animate world. But the photographer sees in a slightly different way: «Bodies and fruits become similar. But not only: the skin, the inside, the light shining through. I wouldn’t make such a distinction between the two of them. These things exist perfectly next to each other. Sometimes there’s a similarity between the shape and the form, the color, and the texture. I’ve always been interested in this, in the similarity between a body and objects». Impressively, none of the diptychs have been shot on purpose: «In the photos, the bodies have the same form of the objects, but I didn’t take them on purpose, I took them in a different time and a completely different mindset. With a bit of humor, little things».
Two specular ways to approach the confrontation of two subjects. The sensational approach holds the contrast/similarity dichotomy to reality, an impulse rather than a rational approach to photography. «Photography is seeing through a camera. It’s the close look and focusing on the detail that I consider interesting. It’s not about great sunsets; sometimes, it’s just about the broken little things on the street corner. If you look closely, an object thrown away has a lot to say about our society. We all tend to look at the bigger picture but not the small, the detail.»
The photographic process as a trauma healer
Most of the pictures in AIKO are Hetz’s «daily observations or things that make me remember certain moments or certain situations.» It is a practice which had been necessary to the photographer in a particular moment of his life: «I started taking pictures in 2007. I lost part a big part of my memory due to encephalitis, and in order to remember my life, I started taking photos. I kept doing that, even after the hospital. No matter where I go, I bring a tiny Sony with me, one of my best friends».
In 2007 Hetz lost part of his memory, a big part. «It’s not that until 2007, everything has been wiped out». What was affected was especially his shorter memory, this is why the photographer used photography as a visual diary: «When I was in the hospital, you would visit me, and then the day after I would not remember that. If I had taken a photo of you I would have remembered». Hetz went through a process of reappropriation of his life using photography. But now? «I don’t need it, but it helps a lot. I immediately get the day back if I look back on my computer and iPhone photos. Without it, I can’t say where I was. The photo brings me exactly to the moment. To activate my memory, I need to see. Friends of mine can recall everything. Without ‘I was there’, that’s all I know».
German photographer from Berlin. In 2007 an encephalitis destroyed parts of my memory. In order to remember, he started to take diary photos with a small point and shoot camera. After years of working at Berghain as bar manager, Hetz bought a slightly better camera at the end of 2015 and started to create photos, rather than just documenting his life. His first book The Matter of Absence was published in 2016 and his second book “ZWEI” in 2020. “AIKO”, the new book released at the end of November 2021 by Paper Affairs, publishing house in Vienna.
All the photos of AIKO were taken in the year his father died