Interview Dominic Nahr
Dominic Nahr learned all about travelling from a young age: born in Switzerland in 1983, he spent his youth in Hong Kong and studied in Toronto. As a photographer he is also used to jetting around the world, but 2016 was quite an exceptional year. He explains in an interview how winning the 2009 Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award boosted his career, why 2016 was so special and what he is planning for 2017.
Q: In 2009 you won the first Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award. What did the award mean for your career?
A: The Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award was a big recognition for my work and it really feels like it was the moment my career really took off. I remember being quite overwhelmed in Arles, being on stage and receiving so much attention. From that moment on I knew I had to push forward as hard as I could to sustain the respect and work I had started out with. The changes came quite suddenly and I was soon working for big magazines, joining world renowned agencies over the years and becoming a contract photographer for TIME magazine. That said, the connection to the LOBA Newcomer Award is probably the strongest I have had to any award thanks to the family mentality created by the Kaufmanns, LFI and the Leica community.
The changes came quite suddenly and I was soon working for big magazines, joining world renowned agencies over the years and becoming a contract photographer for TIME magazine.
Q: You received the award for your Road to Nowhere series dealing with the civil war in Congo. Did you continue with this project?
A: I went back to the Democratic Republic of Congo a few times in 2010 and 2012. After working on my series Road to Nowhere, I ended up criss-crossing most of the country for National Geographic and other clients. I haven’t been back in a few years now, but hope to change that in the coming year. It is the country I can call my first love in Africa.
Q: 2016 was a busy year for you with a lot of festivals, exhibitions, Artist Talks, workshops, etc. How would you summarise 2016?
A: I think I felt a shift in my career starting in January 2016 with an exhibition in Zürich and being asked at the same time to present one of my largest solo exhibitions to date in Arles in July. By the time March had arrived, I had travelled to multiple continents and things didn’t look like they were going to slow down. I’ve become used to flying any kind of distances and I’m really lucky to have had such an intense year. I had exhibitions in Zürich, Hong Kong, Toronto, Hanover, Hamburg, Bern, Arles, Perpignan and Lisbon. I also started teaching a lot more and held workshops in Germany, Austria, Hong Kong, France and Mali. In Bamako I had the chance to teach 15 professional photographers, and to push their personal work to a new level, by introducing elements they might not have come across due to the lack of outside input within photographic education in Mali. My assignments this year were very interesting and they also gave me opportunities to go beyond the ‘crisis’ photography work people know me for.
Q: Despite the new assignments, your work has two main focusses: Japan in the aftermath of Fukushima, and the aforementioned crisis photography in Africa and the Middle East. Does your way of working change depending on the location?
A: Each place has its own energy and they both compliment each other well. Japan is where I can retreat within myself and have a lot of private moments, while in Africa I do the opposite and am usually never alone and always giving a lot of myself to the people around me. It usually takes a bit of time to get into one or the other mode, and I enjoy them both.
Q: What project are you currently working on?
A: I’m in the process of starting a new project, but I’m still at the planning phase. In 2017 I want to make sure I take as many pictures as I can. I would like to restart my work on the Great Rift Valley, and hit the road for several thousand kilometres of driving and working many months to produce a book and an online interactive journey, that hopefully shows this part of the world I have lived in so long - with all the excitement, magic and mystery it holds.