Around five years ago, when Andre Luetzen embarked upon an artist residency in Russia’s Arkhangelsk, a city he had little clue about, he was welcomed with a -25 degree Celsius temperature. Upon realising that winter exists here for more than five months in a year, he wondered how the inhabitants would be leading their lives in those months. The German photographer’s latest exhibition “Living Climate – A Tale of Three Cities”, at Delhi’s India International Centre, is an insight into those moments.
As a heavily decorated carpet adorns an entire wall in the living room of a house in Arkhangelsk, Luetzen captures the woman lying on a couch while her partner sits in its extreme corner. “I realised there are a lot of carpets on the walls. It makes the living room warmer and the decoration better. In fact, most of these carpets are very expensive and denote some form of wealth,” says the Hamburg-based artist.
Luetzen, 55, usually spends a lot of time talking to his subjects, getting to know about their relationships with their living space and between themselves. Through the exhibition of photographs captured between 2014 and 2017, the photographer has turned his lens to three different cities with varied climate conditions — the humid Kochi in southern India, the chilling winter of Arkhangelsk and Sudan’s capital Khartoum, where the temperature goes up to 50 degree Celsius.
In Arkhangelsk, Luetzen — whose work has been exhibited in several galleries in Hamburg and at the New York Photo Festival and Photo Espana — has also captured many houses built in Russian architectural style, surrounded by the water of melting ice, once the winter subsides.
As he pans on Khartoum, a woman sits in her sofa, clad in a burqa, with a dismayed look on her face. Luetzen says he had captured the frame when the woman was cleaning the house. “I first took her husband’s permission to speak to his wife, as per their culture. He asked her to stop cleaning and sit there for a photograph. He decides what she has to do. In our culture, men and women make their own decisions. I would never be able to tell my wife to do this,” he adds. Another photograph has a Sudanese man (excluding his face) sporting a traditional white dress, and wearing furry slippers with leopard print.
In Kochi, a superman towel coincidentally dries out on the door of a house, while a blue umbrella rests beside it, as if being a rescuer to its owner in times of heavy rain. With most clothes hanging from strings within the bedroom of a house, the leaking walls dotted with paint coming off them, speak of the aftermath of the monsoon showers. Luetzen says, “Mostly, people are inside their houses. Especially with what happened in Kerala this year, it is very close to this point.”
Luetzen says the show is an interplay between what a living space may look like in different climatic zones. “It’s about how people form their personal space and the effect climate has on their living standards.”
The exhibition is on at IIC, 40 Max Mueller Marg, Delhi, till October 10