Just two hours after the photo editor at Die Zeit called Hamburg, Germany-based photographer Imke Lass, she was on her way to a quickly chosen location, with minimal equipment, ready to shoot Animata Touré, the Vice-President of the German federal state Schleswig-Holstein’s parliament (Landtag) and a member of the Green Party.
Imke is no stranger to being on the move. Educated in Germany, afterwards, she moved to the US at the age of 24 and never stopped traveling. After moving back home to Hamburg, she then started working for Die Zeit. She says they simply “clicked” after presenting a project on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill aftermath.
Now, Imke gets the call, drops what she’s doing, meets her subject, and begins her work.
I work for Die Zeit quite a bit, [but] this was a very short-notice assignment. I was called at 2 pm, shot in Kiel (60mi away) at 4:30 pm, processed the images in my car at 6 pm, sent everything over at 7:30 pm, and finally was home at 8:30 pm.
Meet Imke’s subject, Aminata Touré — your new favorite superhero. She fought for her seat at the table to consequently provide a voice for women, young people, and people of color. She became the youngest member of parliament at the age of 25. You can see why a photographer like Imke focused on emphasizing her strength and ambition.
They were hoping for an image that didn’t look too much like a location shot but played a bit more towards featuring Ms. Touré’s attitude and demeanor.
The article focused on Touré’s work on police brutality and racism in Germany and her experiences as a German politician of African descent. However, Lass refrained from asking too many questions.
I believe the “essence,” if you can call it that, of a person, reveals itself more effortlessly if they feel that the shoot is about them, not the subject matter they represent/the article is about.
I try to make them feel comfortable, relaxed, and open and then guide them a bit on their expression. This way the person photographed gets a chance to present themselves outside of the context of the text, which can be an interesting contrast.
The comfort of the subject is crucial to Imke. She arrived at the location before Touré and settled on an archway driveway, which provided some privacy. Without getting too deep, they did discuss Touré’s dislike for the classic icebreaker, “Where are you from?” As a young, influential black woman in Germany, Touré has to consistently and tirelessly reassure those around her that yes, indeed, she was born in Germany.
Imke mentions many times on her website her love for discovery and constant education, so she seriously contemplates what Touré has confided in her.
In the context of the current conversation about racism, I have started to check myself before I utter the phrase and am trying to better understand how the question might be perceived as racist when asked of a person of color or somebody who speaks with a foreign accent.
While Imke dropped everything and came prepared for a time-sensitive shoot, she left with much more to think about. She dwelled on the conversation with Touré and the article’s content.
When asked for her favorite lines from Touré’s article, she says:
She was asked about whether there is racism against white people, to which she responded, “If Whites had been enslaved, dehumanized, and robbed of their culture for 400 years, suffered systemic violence and had to bear being called worthless because they were white: then you could talk about racism against whites.” Bam, I say.
See more of Imke’s work on her website!
Photo editor: Jutta Schein, Die Zeit.