The beauty of the trees in black and white

Hubert Perschke staged the forest and fleeting installations in the Hambach Forest

When Hubert Perschke takes “the thick one” into the forest, he embeds it on the dark cloth in the loading area of his station wagon. The photographer calls his specialist camera “the thick one”. It puts a lot of weight on the scales and in size it clearly exceeds its smaller counterparts. Once mounted on the tripod, it can be comfortably carried over the shoulder with the lens case in the free hand over short distances.

Photo Copyright: Hubert Perschke

Perschke does not need to look for the tree he wants to photograph today, he knows in which corner of the Hambach Forest he finds it. Even before the actual shooting date, he had already dealt with his photo motif: “I have to have in my head beforehand what the result will look like.” At most, Perschke admits a certain randomness to the light. The specialist camera is not suitable for quick trying, collecting photographic impressions or even quick snapshots. All that is supposed to make photography easier today is in vain: viewfinder, zoom lens, exposure meter, color display or autofocus.

“Time, leisure and consideration” he admits to the slow approach, perschke says. Perschke takes at most six light-tight cassettes, loaded with black-and-white plan film in the size 4×5 inch. Footage for a maximum of twelve shots, mostly with less. This is not least due to the cost of the film material, which only a few manufacturers supply and the attached, elaborate darkroom work. 

Photo Copyright: Hubert Perschke

That’s why every handle has to sit. Under the dark cloth, Perschke searches for his tree with an open lens cap on the matte disc. It shows him his motive reversed and on his head. With the magnifying glass, it determines the sharpness on the matt disc by adjusting the distance of the standards via a fine drive. With the hand exposure meter, it measures shadows and lights. Thus, it already determines the expected contrast range of the negative and the required development time of the negative in the later developer bath.

Then it closes and clamps the mechanical closure on the lens, adjusts the read exposure time, which often goes in seconds or even minutes, and the aperture. He pushes a plan film cassette between the holder and the matte disc, opens a slider on the film cassette and releases the shutter by wire trigger. Only when the mechanical siren of the camera shutter falls silent with a click, it pulls the slider again in front of the exposed negative, the recording is safe in the box.

Photo Copyright: Hubert Perschke

“If you want to cook properly, you have to organize everything you need yourself: fresh ingredients, the right kitchen equipment and a bit of craftsmanship.”

Hubert Perschke

Using his enlarger from the 1950s in the darkroom on photo paper, but also with scanned negatives on the screen, Hubert Perschke creates black-and-white images that are devoid of any randomness. In tree portraits and landscapes, they draw attention to the beauty of the remains of the Hambach Forest, which is endangered by lignite mining. Away from photojournalistic sensationalism, he also shows the ever deserted barricades of the forest squatters. In his high-resolution photographs, he shows them like aesthetic stagings, such as art installations in the landscape that require reflection.

Photo Copyright: Hubert Perschke

He refers to today’s cultivated digital photography as “bag soup”, with a broad grin. “If you want to cook properly, you have to organize everything you need yourself, fresh ingredients, the right kitchen equipment, and a bit of craftsmanship,” the 70-year-old likes to joke.

Photos Copyright: Hubert Perschke

He learned to take pictures. At the age of ten, he loaded his first Agfa box with a roll film and watched with the camera what was happening around him with friends and at school, Perschke recalls. A photo lab technician had trained his eye with cut-out enlargements, which directed him to the essentials of his photographs. At the age of 19, he won the first prize in the RuhrlandMuseum’s funding competition with scenes from the Ruhrpott: children, workers and their homes in the industrial landscape with vents and conveyor towers. At that time, he had overtaken photo students of the Folkwang School, who would later become well-known photographers, Perschke says with a little pride. Only as a pure photographer did he never understand himself, but always as a “photographing social scientist”. After his studies, he found his profession in the educational aid.

A self-conception that is reflected in the photographic works of recent years. In the exhibition and the book “Mein Manheim” in 2013, he documented the statements of the inhabitants of the resettlement site in addition to his paintings. He found access to autistic and behavioural children and adolescents in the healing educational institution of the foundation “Die Gute Hand” in Kürten Biesfeld for a travelling exhibition. Or portrayed homeless people on the street for a self-published book.

In the travelling exhibition “Hearing the moaning of the earth” of the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University, he critically deals with lignite mining in the Hambach Forest. As a member of the citizens’ initiative “Buirer für Buir”, where he lived for many years, today’s Girbelsrather has long observed the resistance in the Hambach Forest with the digital SLR camera. He has conceived an exhibition entitled “Pictures from the Precinct”. Here, too, he is critical of lignite. Hubert Perschke says that he is not concerned with actionism, but rather with information and the power of his visual messages. 

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