Between Worlds

The travelling life, lingering on the edges of cities and the spaces between them, the scenarios and situations of a small circus family, are the subject of the picture essay Between Worlds by Yvonne Salzmann. The photographic artist accompanied the Lauenburg family of artistes and their traveling circus “Baronesse” on their stops in northern Germany over a longer period. It is a reportage-like insight into another life, a view that explores, discovers and is very close to that life. Her pictures are also a reflection on our cultural categories and systems, about the subjectivity and objectivity of perceptions and structures.

The world Yvonne Salzmann reveals to us here in her pictures is not one of fairy-tales and dreamy imaginings, nor a photographic tale of gypsies. We learn very little about the artistic performances and the magic of the circus ring. Instead, the photographer focuses on the bonds between / what lies between these people, on what holds them together in their restlessness and their hovering existence between worlds.

Salzmann’s view of reality is unbiased – she only shows it, refraining from comment as she develops her own documentary style that combines accuracy with a non-subjective view of the family in between travel and performance days, between the daily routine and the circus program, and a reality between magic and hard work.

The making of these images was a unique process. These aren’t snapshots stolen on the sly, or poses – they are portraits, captured unnoticed, almost close enough to touch the people. They preserve the unfamiliarity of the face, meticulously capturing its impenetrable surface, and thereby merely hint at an inner state. The photographer achieved their characteristic tension, a balance between tactful distance and analytical precision, without the use of artificial means. The daylight shots of the circus camp, in dialogue with the animals, and in the darkness of the tent during rehearsals are imbued with realism, with overtones of poetry and poesy.

The narrative Yvonne Salzmann sets in motion with her pictures is buoyant and bright. It is one that initially searches for support in the faces and then gradually captures the tone, and sheds light on the episodes and moments of everyday life with all its peripheral phenomena, one small stage at a time.

Her pictures abstain from any superficial social criticism. Instead, in factually describing the phenomena, with insights that are close to the people – without judgment and with great empathy – they offer viewers a chance to arrive at their own observations and insights about the fringes of our early 21st-century urban society.

With this form of photography, Yvonne Salzmann has achieved an unexpected proximity to literature. While language is the material from which literature is crafted, photography works with images. Here, the photographer uses the images as if they were elements of language. The smallest unit is the image, containing everything that constitutes a motif. But by joining the images, she forms sentences and establishes relationships – giving rise to her text, a photographic picture essay.

Dr. Ute Maasberg