Judith Stenneken

BY Elisabeth Biondi, March 1, 2015

Judith Stenneken, a conceptual artist working in photography, started out in commercial film production until she realized that photography would give meaning to her work life. She grew up in Hamburg and studied in Berlin, then attended the School of Visual Arts in New York, where she received her MFA degree in photography, video, and related media. Step by step, she found her visual direction.

The seeds of Stenneken’s work can be found in her 2008 documentary essay on Berlin’s Tempelhof airport, which was closed down the same year. Journeys are the center of her work, and in her earlier photographs, the journeys were often literally filled with apprehension. In her recent work, Welcome Home, the apprehension is more conceptual. Stenneken draws on memories of places she’s visited (rarely tourist destinations), exploring such themes as nature in conflict with urban environments or people in transit to create moody abstractions. She frequently photographs herself in hotels, often engulfed in shadows. Impressionistic, open-ended images push against photographs that are tangible and finite, creating an evocative tension. The places in her photographs are transitory, expressing a sense of isolation and loneliness; she seems to be always passing through, never settling down.

Stenneken rejects the traditional notion of home in favor of a constant sense of uncertainty; every new turn offers a space for exploration. She purposefully leaves her comfort zone, exploring the spaces in between objects and thoughts, conflicting emotions, and a perpetual state of motion. Her narratives are not linear, but rather made up of loosely connected fragments. They are visual short stories, open-ended and unfinished, receptive to meandering. Along the way, she exposes unsettling emotions. We experience her work viscerally and are left with a sense of melancholy.