Thank you for taking the time to find out more about me and my work.
In short: I like to create narratives, primarily visual, and often with materials I unearthed in places that have had some form of conflict.
These narratives could be a small photo series published in a book, a large-scale archive research with institutional support for a web platform or an artistic rendition of a subject close to my heart that I turn into an exhibition.
Hashtags to describe me would be #storyteller #conservator #publisher #traveller #photographer #maker #rethinker #afghanboxcameraproject #fraglichpublishing #myanmarphotoarchive #recollective
In a few more words: My grandfather and father were both very much into making things, documenting their world with a camera and exploring other cultures. Although they did not become professional photographers or voyageurs, their lives were very much engaged with their passions, and my father had passed these onto me from a very young age. I reflected on this deep influence in the project FERNWEH with the help of curator Natasha Christia.
I started my current journey of transforming experiences into stories with my first long voyage through India, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia in 2001 and 2002. At that time, I was still engaged with radio and hosted shows in Austrian public media. Although very young, I was given the opportunity to become a TV host but turned this down in order to move to London for studying digital media and photography. A move that sealed my interest in the visual arts for good.
Most of my work since then deals with archival material I collect through travel or while delving into my own background. My narratives tackle recorded history by creating alternate storylines and fictional elements, alongside commonly accepted facts. I often research my imagery through explorations into cultures that have been affected by conflict. My created ‘archival artworks’ have little to do with institutional processes but rather center around personal stories, the desire to preserve their place in history, and of course my own emotional attachment to them.
My research in Afghanistan, alongside Irish Ethnographer Sean Foley, and the subsequent book, Afghan Box Camera, has allowed me to give a voice to Afghan photographers and have inspired a global audience to keep a vanishing form of fascinating image making alive. This research has lead to a further publication titled Photo Peshawar exploring photo culture in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Sean and I first collaborated in 2005 on a project called Kafkanistan, a mixture of documentary materials and performance on tourism to conflict zones around Afghanistan. We released a book, films and a travelling exhibition.
I moved to Beijing in 2007 rather by coincidence. I met an Irish journalist (Mark Godfrey) one morning in a restaurant in Esfahan, Iran. He was reading a book in Chinese and I asked out of curiosity what he does for living. I had run out of money and he generously lent me the train fair from Tehran to Istanbul. Along the way we became friends and he invited me to Beijing.
While living in Beijing, I produced a photo series titled Polaroids from the Middle Kingdom. A reflection on how I experienced the rapidly changing Chinese society.
The materials and experiences I collect through my extensive travels around the globe are transformed into everything from artist books to sculptural objects and are merged with Polaroid images, prose writing, and poetry or anything else I might come across. In x=y – an ongoing project conceived from another travel experience at a border crossing in Iran, I started to explore the concept of crafted identities… since 2008 I have created more than 100 identifications and have used some of them. The project also culminated in a book.
I co-founded the Austro Sino Arts Program in China with Karel Dudesek in 2009. We published 5 annual books and organised exhibitions, film festivals, and large-scale installations across China and Hong Kong. In Yogyakarta, Indonesia we founded SewonArtSpace – a residency program that hosts artists from our native Austria and other countries, creating a space for collaboration with the local arts-community in 2013.
I studied art and photography at the London College of Music and Media (2004-2007) as well as printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design (2015-2017). I was fortunate to receive a Fulbright fellowship and other grants and awards from government and private institutions such as the British Library, the Goethe-Institut, the Arts Council of Austria, the European Union. Often these grants are due to individuals within the institutions that foster creative growth and allow for rich opportunities. To these individuals I owe my gratitude.
Over the years I have exhibited my projects in galleries and museums around the world and my work has found a way into private and state collections in Europe, the USA, and Asia.
Having always been interested in books and book-making I started my own publishing house in 2007; Fraglich Publishing. In the first 10 years I released sporadically books and zines of my own work and research. In the last years, I invested a lot more energy into the publishing house and started to release books by other authors with a focus on photographic history as well. Examples of books released so far are: Gülistan, Chongqing Souvenir, Fernweh – a man’s journey, My name is Noor Mohammad Khan, My Universe.
My main efforts these days go into the Myanmar Photo Archive – an endeavour to re-interpret and tell the story of Myanmar’s photographic history. I started to collect photographs around the country in 2013 and have since gathered more than 20.000 images. I set up exhibitions and publish books locally in Yangon. Franz Xaver Augustin (former director of the Goethe-Institut) and Christophe Loviny (director of the Yangon Photo Festival) have been great supporters of these public displays. Currently, I am working on a bilingual archive platform and App that will allow public access to the entire archive; currently the largest in the world. This will be the first time that the Burmese public will have an open resource to their recent photographic history. The project is supported by the Goethe-Institut and the European Union – to be released in November 2020.
Myanmar has a thriving culture in literature but photo books are not common yet. I have trained book-binders and print studios in Yangon to create photo book objects and hold workshops to aspiring photographers regularly. The photo books released with the Myanmar Photo Archive are amongst the first photo book objects produced locally and sold internationally.
I am also working on a community platform for Box Camera Photographers around the world www.boxcameranow.com. This is a project growing out of my research on Box Camera Photography in several countries. There will also be a book available mid 2020.