Photographer Profile: Ralph Steinegger
“My name is Ralph Steinegger. I was born near Zurich/Switzerland. Due to my work I move around quite a bit. In the past 17 years, I have been living continuously abroad, on various assignments. The longest of them in Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, New York, Istanbul, and right now in Singapore.
When I was 19 years old, I started to shoot film with a Lomo camera. Lots of experimenting, blurry shots and so. From then on, wherever I would go, I would carry a camera with me. A few years later I bought a Nikon FM2 in a second-hand camera market in Beijing. I still shoot with that camera today. I would print out my photos and hang them up in my study room. Only recently I started to share them with other people through Instagram. But somehow it gave me the impetus to work more systematically on my photography. Since last year I am also shooting with a medium format Mamiya7. Photography gradually became a very important part of my life.
Right, I am drawn to urban landscapes, and I think part of it goes back to my childhood in Switzerland. I grew up in this well-organized, well-groomed, and often picture-perfect environment, where things are well maintained and each wall receives a regular coat of paint. On my first trip outside of Europe, I spent one month in Cairo and it simply blew my mind. It was like a revelation. The sheer size of the city, the extreme contrasts, fading colors, textures, etc. I loved the visual onslaught of the urban chaos. Until today, the fast-growing cities in the developing world hold a special attraction to me.”
“In Singapore, I am shooting a lot in the public housing estates (HDB areas). In Istanbul it was the down-and-out neighborhood, where the Kurdish and other rural migrants from Anatolia live. Each other weekend would I try to go out to explore one part. And by doing so, I would discover new places that I would return to the next weekend. I also travel a lot and developed a good sense where to shoot when I am in a new city. Generally, I would seek out a rundown neighborhood that has seen better times, the back street of an iconic building, an amusement or city center built in the 50s/60s. But it could also be a seedy red light district, or simply an exit road leaving town. Often I end up shooting the place next to the one I wanted to shoot.
I always follow my instinct and see where it takes me. I would get up at sunrise and walk around 2-3 hours, covering about 10-12 km. I like Sunday mornings when the city is quiet and most people sleep in. It’s a most precious time for me, where nothing else matters. Just me, my camera, and concentrating on the next image.”
On favorite photographers:
“My first photo book was from Lee Friedlander. Recently I bought the book “Minor Collisions” from David Wilson. And “Provisional Arrangements” from Martin Kollar. I think they are amazing. I also like Antoine Bruy, especially his series “The White Man‘s hole”. I feel that the social media age made it much easier to connect and keep track of other photographers. But what inspires me most, are the places I go to. The long walks make me see how people live, how they interact, what they like, listen to, and consume. Photography makes my travels, possibly even my existence, so much more meaningful.”
On this photo:
“This was taken in a parking lot at a public housing complex (Sultan Plaza) along Beach Road in Singapore. I was attracted by the red and white facade and tried to get a different angle of the building by walking up multi-story parking lot nearby. When I saw the curiously shaped opening I took the photo. And yes, when I feel it’s necessary I do light editing to straighten, crop, and adjust brightness. In this case it was not. ”
On his favorite photos:
“The first photo was taken in a rundown part of Ipoh, Malaysia. I was walking along a rather nondescript street, which made the bar in front of me, painted in blue, stand out even more. Except for three unfriendly dogs barking at me, the place was completely deserted. That’s when I saw the sign “After Five Bistro & Pub” and had to smile. I never went back, but I am quite sure that bar never opened after five nor on any other day. ”
“This photo was taken on the way to the desert in Morocco. The words view nice are hand-painted in French and in wrong order directly on the rock by the souvenir seller himself, who was patiently sitting beside the self-built toilet in blue and waiting for customers at this remote and lonely promontory. Coming across and trying to capture slightly surreal scenes like these, is what makes me feel very excited about photography.”
On what kind of photographer he would describe himself as:
“Hmm, I am not quite sure how to answer that. I would probably simply say that I am documenting the B-side of things. Worldwide.”
By Pixsoul. Photos © Ralph Steinegger.
Visit his Instagram for more work and info.