Jochen Lempert’s photographs show us life’s quiet, humorous moments. Most of the time, humans only appear indirectly: in the shadow of an airplane, behind doors, or in empty streets. Having originally studied biology, Lempert’s gaze is trained on plants and animals. They are the representatives of a world that becomes so tender and polysemic in his eyes that it withdraws from the everyday and transforms into a place of pure poetry. A butterfly sits on a door handle as though carefully placed. A pair of doves become flâneurs on a crosswalk. A fly single-mindedly advances toward the camera. A bellflower transforms into a designer lamp when seen close up. A cloud cast its shadow on the earth, as though intentionally. It’s the incidental moments between the natural and constructed environment that Lempert captures. He lends nature a sense of autonomy that holds us in its sway with a feeling of charm and wonder.
Always shot in black-and-white with a 35mm camera, Lempert’s images seem neutral at first, as though created for scientific archiving and research. And in fact, the ephemeral and coincidental aspects of his images are subjected to an order and seriality that exudes a love for ordering and reordering. Motifs that he accumulated over the years are always recombined and brought into different relationships, which constantly elicit new features from the images. The semblances that occur in nature—such as when a berry resembles the eye of a squirrel, or a leaf resembles a wing—suddenly become clear when certain images are juxtaposed, images that may have told completely different stories in another constellation.
Jochen Lempert’s world is sensitive, quiet, and humble in the face of nature’s grand system, which spans the planet like a magical web. The gaze of the artist and the biologist are connected by a curiosity about the deceptions of flora and fauna. This gaze has something innocent, almost childish—but also comes from a weightless wisdom that teaches us humility towards the world’s beauty.
Jochen Lempert, born 1958 in Moers, lives and works in Hamburg. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the Hamburger Kunsthalle; Lulu, Mexico City; and the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, among others.