Ralph Gräf’s project “Vacancy” (”Zimmer frei“ in German) discloses empty rooms of abandoned houses and military bases waiting to be suffused with new life. In contrast to documentation of decay in hyperrealistic, plastic HDR images as they are often encountered in this photographic genre, he puts emphasis on the aesthetics of emptiness and abandonment.
Opposing aspects in his images generate suspense. The often almost clinical cleanliness of the rooms contrasts with an at best parenthetically noticed aspect of dilapidation. Image parts flooded with soft light stand in contrast with deep shadows. The often used symmetric, central perspective underscores the serenity of these interiors. Bright windows with no visible structures behind increase the mysterious aspect of these rooms.
Ever since Ralph was captivated by abandoned and decaying buildings with their own history and, thus, they belong to his oldest photographic themes that he pursued already more than twenty years ago when he was still living in the south of Germany, where such places and buildings are not existing anymore. His job-related move to Potsdam in 2006 quickly awoke his interest in this subject again, since the withdrawal of the sowjet military forces in Germany, the annulment of the NVA (army of the GDR) and the end of the cold war has left numerous empty, often historic buildings that are decaying now for more than 20 years. In many cases they have almost no chance of preservation as the required capital assets are not balanced by the profit that can be expected in a sparsely populated country such as Brandenburg. When taking photos in such places he does not just want to keep records of them. Rather his aim is to capture the special mood of these abandoned, quiet rooms, which due to their vacancy and darkness evoke associations in the viewer and send him on an emotional mind trip.
When his career as a cell biologist brought Ralph from Munich to Potsdam near Berlin, he found a great creative environment to spend a huge part of his spare time for his creative talents. Together with ten friends he is co-founder of the “Fotogalerie Potsdam e.V.” (http://fotogalerie-potsdam.de) a successful gallery project to promote contemporary artistic photography. With regard to his photographic subjects he focuses on his four serial projects (“The Traveller, “Bauhaus”, “With A Holga Through Brandenburg” and “Vacancy”). The former three projects have also already been featured in previous issues of “dodho”. Since 2010 he presented his photographic projects in fourteen well-acclaimed exhibitions in Berlin, Potsdam, Rangsdorf, Munich, Neubrandenburg and Milano (Italy). He won the Arts Award at the the 4th “Kunstallee Potsdam” (an arts fair) in 2011 and several of his photos won prizes and received placements in national and international photo contests such as the Trierenberg Super Circuit, Al-Thani Award, DVF contests and the Sony World Photography Award. [Official Website]