Where Worlds Collide
Better Photography|January 2022
Katrin Koenning’s soulful visuals tell a nuanced tale about our troubled times, discovers Nilofer Khan. Her project, The Kids are in Trouble, is currently being exhibited at the third edition of the Chennai Photo Biennale.
Nilofer Khan
The beginning of Ludovico Einaudi’s song, Experience, commences with soft notes from a piano. Gradually, other instruments, such as a classical guitar, a synthesiser, a cello, a violin, intertwine with the piano to form a symphony. The music gracefully, almost playfully, begins to pick up the pace. Each note seems to race with one another akin to waves crashing on a shore. The exhilaration rises, reaching the crescendo, then falling back to a slower pace, eventually ending on the similar piano notes as the start.

When you view Katrin Koenning’s work The Kids are in Trouble, you can’t help but draw parallels between music and photography. One instantly notices the rise and fall of light, with stark pockets of whites and black colliding with each other. The elements, too, complement one another and form a visual melody. “The notion of putting the project together in this particular sequence was much more to do with inter-image dialogue— the way the images speak to each other and extend each other—and how spaces are interconnected. The single images then become interrelated too. When you pull the work apart by disrupting the order, it somehow offers new narrative spaces,” she explains.

Merging Art and Activism

The series elegantly portrays daily life— graffiti on the wall, a balloon behind the curtains, or a shattered window. We all have witnessed these moments over the years, either during our commute or evening strolls, but haven’t quite noticed them in their entirety. “Mostly, I work in my backyard. I don’t get jaded seeing the same things. In fact, everything is always a little bit different from one day to the next. It is an enormous privilege to be able to observe things to time. For instance, you can see a pile of bird shit on the ground, you can toss it, or you can see it as a work of abstract art or the universe. It is the idea of reseeing what is familiar or deemed unworthy of being seen. Much of my work rotates around the idea of returning to things. It enables me to know, the knowing makes me love, the loving may help author me,” she says.

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