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"Paradise Found - East Indies Series" by Fred Stichnoth




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$2000 to
Monday, 6 August 2018 to Sunday, 9 September 2018

Press Release

Birds of Paradise: Preserving the disappearing tribes of the East Indies through portraiture

Some places are hard to find but there is little land left in the world that is inaccessible. Whatever we can’t see on the ground, we can probably see on a smart phone. And, as modern life has encroached on indigenous tribes in the name of scientific research and through land grabs, there are precious few un-contacted communities left in the world. While we can’t return the land and people to being untouched, Indonesian-based, German photographer, Fred Stichnoth hopes that by capturing and sharing the tribes he encounters, it might increase our awareness to preserve these ancient civilisations a little longer.

Growing up, Fred was always drawn to adventure movies set in tropical locations. “I love ancient themes, from Egypt to Indonesia. I’ve spent a long time travelling around the world, being drawn to what is considered taboo,” he says. So, it was a dream come true when he located from his native Germany to the Indonesian Island of Bali. From here he has been able to explore some of the remotest areas in the East Indies and the tribes that call these places home. A home that is fast disappearing, along with their customs, legends, ceremony and regalia.

Elusive, beautiful and hidden, Stichnoth’s images from his East Indies Series are like birds of paradise. Catching sight of these rare creatures, documented in their natural habitat against neutral backdrops, they are fragile specimens to observe. They turn their heads and bodies away displaying bright plumage. Shy, even a little frightened, but allowing the viewer to admire their exotic beauty. “Indeed, if you get too close though, it feels like they might fly away at any moment,” Fred agrees, explaining that it can take over eight weeks to prepare a shoot, earning the trust of tribes, understanding their customs and sourcing the correct motifs, sometimes creating headdresses himself guided by the keepers of tradition in each remote village he visits.

The results are stunning. “The idea was to create a special sound,” explains Fred. “The attitude and positioning of the female subjects was very important. East Indies women are shy and tend to hide, they don’t look at you.” Shot on location using natural light, Fred employs classic techniques to create a study of his female subjects without the resulting picture feeling invasive. “Around 1860 photographers began using things like a simple bed sheet to create a neutral background. I followed this old idea so as not to disturb or detract from the main focus of the image,” he explains. What is achieved is a portrait of a woman that is at once delicate yet strong, vulnerable yet mighty. Pops of colour delivered through the use of the foliage featured are a counterpoint to the largely neutral palette. But it is a reverence for the colour of skin that is striking.

“I wanted to inspire people with these pictures. Show them something beautiful of a fast disappearing world,” muses Stichnoth. “What does progress mean for indigenous people? We bring them diseases, prohibit their faith, we give them underwear, subdue them, steal their land and natural resources, destroy ancient cultures and habitats in the shortest possible time. I am entering a world that is getting lost more and more every day. I just want us to remember them before it is all gone.”

Artist ( Description ): 

Fred Stichnoth entered the world of professional photography in 1987, when he was hired as an assistant to the famous German photographer Walter Schels.

The 1990's saw Fred enjoying success as a portrait photographer, photographing the likes of director Wim Wenders; Thaddeus Ropac in his Austrian castle for Vogue; an exuberant Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders for EMI Records; Pink Floyd in Berlin; and numerous album covers for many artists and bands.

During the mid-nineties, Fred became enamored with fashion photography. His photos were used in high fashion editorials for magazines and catalogues for a plethora of brands.

The German-born, Bali-based photographer relinquished life as a celebrity and fashion photographer in the late nineties, where he was poised for popularity, in order to decamp to the East Indies - a home that is fast disappearing, along with their customs, legends, ceremony and regalia.

Stichnoth’s portraiture studies the beauty of women and ethnic culture using a unique combination borne out of necessity and unconcious influence. He employs an old fashioned technique whereby a backdrop is used to separate the subject from their surroundings. This juxtaposition is striking when the subject is so obviously separated from their natural environment. He also uses motifs and poses that echo the stylised productions in fashion magazines. The final picture comes together like an ethereal sculpture, caught on photographic paper.

Venue ( Address ): 

Online Exhibition

Addicted Art Gallery , Singapore

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