Evan Dale // May 27, 2020
Sometimes, clarity itself is an opaque casing of chaos. These days, so many urban photographers are hyper-focused on the details of exactitude, that the realm of urban and architecture photography at a macro scale has itself become dizzying with vertigo. Everything about the human brain is not so black and white. We understand the subtleties in the confusion, the unclear, and the grey. We search for it and impart meaning where it isn’t laid out for us. It’s the exact reason why impressionism was so successful – an audience finds more truth and relatability in the things that aren’t perfect portrayals of what we actually see. So, why wouldn’t an urban photographer building out a new era of impressionism for the Instagram generation find relatability in a lane all her own?
Meet Stephanie Jung.
The German photographer is an experimentalist to say the least, and to say the most, is one of the forefront figures in changing the guard for a generation of urban photographers mistakenly hellbent on formulaic methodology. Where blue & orange filters and bumped clarity have driven the Instagram spectrum of urban photography to a standstill of creative invention, Jung has flipped the script, implementing confusion and chaos to paint a clear portrait of urban life.
She’s a purveyor of multiple exposure, oftentimes folding in as many as four unique photographs into one finished frame. And the result – founded on the fact that those photos are nearly sequential images from a mostly standalone spot – is a coalescing image of urban space; urban place that brings life to an image that anyone familiar with the dizzying nature of density can relate to.
Life, movement, breath, and the natural blur of it all, paint Jung’s portfolio with a vivacity, inventiveness, and understanding of her craft and its relation to existence unparalleled by any other modern urban photographers. There aren’t many if any doing what she’s doing, and that’s because her formula is not exactly that. As she spoke about in her interview with The Phoblographer,
‘my work is a lot about everyday scenes from a city, I take the images during a walk through the cities. I do not plan to take images from a special motive, it happens very spontaneously, I walk around and see scenery or moment I really like and then take a picture of it. That could be a beautiful romantic street or a busy square somewhere in the middle of a city. I find beauty both in calm and busy moments, as I think both represent life at its best.’
It's that willingness to improvise her work; that natural space of urban existence from where her work is born, that grants it such a breath of individuality, yet tethers it all to the reality of urban life as her viewers know it. And it’s her capturing of moments that aren’t necessarily special, that makes them more so than the staged and the planned.
Take a look at her series from New York and see not streaks of yellow taxicabs like one would with long exposure, but partially opaque trails of yellow taxicab movement, like one ant marching with itself in multiverse, giving not the impression of many, but capturing the reality of movement. See the unpredictability of that movement, and that of other subjects – bikes, pedestrians, the effects of wind on a flag, the effect of Jung’s own movement while capturing the physical plane of storefronts and building walls – exaggerated into the existence of hear moving, dancing frames.
Through the dialed refinement of her style, Stephanie Jung has garnered a knack for capturing city life in a way that impressionistic painters captured rainy days and strolls the park in the late 19th century, and that’s through a lens not exact, but dreamily open for interpretation and imparted meaning.
Beyond her capturing of urban life, which began in La Defense in Paris and has since documented the vibrant urbanity of Tokyo, Osaka, New York, Berlin, and London, Jung has also captured the forests of Germany, the cherry blossoms of Japan, and the suburbs of Scotland, granting to each a particularly unique exhibition of life and mystery. But, back to the city, her work to capture not necessarily cityscapes brimming with life, but skylines and architectural moments alone also dons new perspective on the realm of architecture photography.
Like streaky, vibrant paintings, Jung’s architecture centric portfolio brings life to buildings in a way that no other photographer’s style is capable of expressing. Her ‘Urban Movements’ collection in particular is reminiscent of preliminary architectural sketches, where long building lines are made even longer and sharp building detail, made less detailed. It is a portfolio capable of reversing time – taking something designed and built, and deconstructing it to exist as something raw, imaginative, and not quite yet shaped into the predictable, solid world we live in.
Instead, her work is not quite liquid, but certainly fluid, moving, twisting, and contorting with the alien precision of mercury until it fits a perception of reality less clear, but more human than her peers. Her nighttime collections explode with the layered intensity of neon lights and urban billboards. Her daytime work grants impressions of hard lines and singularity without ever caving in and doing it directly. Layered colors of the same swatch explode; layered opposites blend. Twists, angles, and movement bring subtle trippiness to some shots, while others disassemble cityscapes with the subtlety of an earthquake. Just like life itself, the portfolio of Stephanie Jung is unpredictable sans the predictability of constant movement and constant change.
To wit, Jung’s work captures life – not how it subsists by its own standards, but how life lives in the eyes of living beings – chaotic, unpredictable, in constant motion; but through that lens clear, impressionistic, and relatable. Imperfect and breathing, the portfolio of Stephanie Jung is one unparalleled in its honesty and inventiveness, while also necessary to further propel the creative spectrums of photographers who, at a time of lightroom presets, perfectionist clarity, and social media, have forgotten the beauty in being different than your peers.