Hannah Schemel & Steffen Diemer
© Nicole Malek

Over 2 years ago Hannah Schemel and Steffen Diemer crossed paths in Mannheim, Germany at Andrea Schröter’s Business Club Speicher 7. Andrea introduced them to each other and asked Steffen, whether he was still looking for an intern. Schemel was 22 years old at the time and in search for a topic for her bachelor thesis. After giving it a good thought, Diemer decided to take Schemel in as his scholar. They intensified their collaboration even further after Schemel got her degree as communications designer with focus on photography.

Today, Diemer and Schemel are running their studio together, in a small and isolated palatinate village named Hochdorf. After a long phase where she experimented a lot, Schemel now has found her way: She works exclusively analogue in large and medium format, among other things with a Sinar bellows camera. On the especially handmade paper by master John Gerard images come to life through a mixing technique, e.g. through the precious metals platin/palladium. This way, they create a one-of-a-kind symbiosis. Through the fine application of the precious metals with a Japanese goat hair brush, a unique picturesque feel and her individual signature is created. Because of the wide tonal range, the fine surface and the unmatched durability platinum palladium works are much appreciated by collectors and museums.

The platinum and palladium metals are more chemically stable than gold, therefore the half-life period of the platinum palladium is several hundred years. The same goes for the paper used by Hannah Schemel, produced without any optical whitener, thus it can’t go yellow. Basic ingredients are natural materials like hemp, flax and cotton. This special mixture is produced especially for her by master John Gerard with a secret recipe. In combination with the platinum palladium, the paper’s half-life period is at least 500 years and due to its durability, it even withstands nuclear radiation. Important to mention is, Schemel’s images are not located on the paper, but in the paper. This combination creates the soul, the poetic picturesque. Thus, the atmosphere of the works can unfold to the fullest. Also, the images’ framing has been specifically agreed upon with the frame manufactory Conzen Düsseldorf, Germany.

Since 2011, Steffen Diemer is working with the wet plate collodion process and producing one-of-a-kind pieces on black glass, using ambrotype. “I’m always looking for the secret within all things and beings,” this is the motto of the 1966 in Grünstadt, Germany born photographer. He has worked for international established magazines like: Der Spiegel, FAZ, Grazia or The Guardian. Due to this, Diemer has already seen a lot of the world.[LS1]  Until this day, his fascination for the Japanese culture and people brings him back to the Land of the Rising Sun again and again. He also photographed in Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes for several months, mostly for reports in crisis and war zones. Other photos are characterized by social injustices in his homeland. Most of the times, the human being is the center of Diemer’s visual world.

What makes his works special is not only his fondness for beauty, but also his fascination for the technical development of photography. Diemer does not advocate the digital age – on the contrary, he loves using the ambrotype, which was invented around 1850. Today almost forgotten, the procedure is complex as well as worth mentioning aesthetically. It’s a technique where a collodion layer is exposed on a glass plate, which has been made light sensitive in a silver nitrate bath before. Almost every time Diemer chooses high-quality black opal glass as an image carrier. Thus, he creates unique masterpieces with a special feel to them, which wear his individual signature. The result is a unique piece. This way, Diemer photographs objects, fish, food and especially flowers, which since his childhood he feels a special draw to. „My silver images radiate an aura that is one-of-a-kind with an almost three-dimensional feel. The silver’s vibration, the texture of the glass and its deep black color fascinate me again and again,” the artist says.

Diemer is also fascinated by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s essays “Praise of the Shadow” and “Praise of the Mastery”. In his work, Steffen Diemer is really inspired by them. „My images are a journey into the world of beauty. A hymn to light, to darkness and to the shadows in all its facets. Only in the play between the natural light of its surroundings and that of my work can the fine nuances fully unfold their power and poetry. My works stand for simplicity. Partly hidden in the inconspicuous, they combine with the change through time, the patina of life, to an aesthetic concept in which beauty also lies in the inconspicuous and asymmetrical. Perfection in imperfection.“

His works have been bought by collections and museums worldwide: Germany, France and the USA. Steffen Diemer is a partner of Canson Montgolfier, one of the world’s oldest paper mills and inventor of the photo paper.