“My gender may have made me more persistent than if I were a man.”

© Vera Lutter, ADAGP 2021 / Courtesy Xippas

You first trained as a sculptor, how has this practice influenced your visual work?

Engagement with any medium informs the mind and trains the eye, but in addition to this, my work requires an ability to create physical structures and turn objects into cameras or modify already existing ones to suite my projects’ needs. The three-dimensional aspect of my practice may not be seen in the final product, but it’s still part of the work.

What sparked your taste for photographic experimentations?

When I moved to NYC, I lived on the 27th floor of a loft that was full of light and surrounded by budlings. The view from that apartment was so compelling to me that I wanted to document it, but in a way which fully captured the striking impression I had each time I looked out my window. I wanted to capture all of it, the life, the light, and the architecture.

You’ve turned your own apartment into a pinhole camera, why did you move away from the ‘classic’ camera?

A conventional camera implies working with an optically refined apparatus and a negative which will subsequently be printed. Both aspects require additional mediation. Pursuing an immediate approach between seeing and recording made me turn to the camera obscura, eliminating more traditional steps. The inversion of my images gives the viewer reason to slow down, to scrutinize the image and experience a suspense in the uncertainty of the familiar.

Would you say your work has a performative dimension? Why?

Of course. And my presence inside my cameras is hardly a passive one. I’m there to care for the image and physically control how the light inside interacts with the photographic paper.

New York is a recurring subject in your body of work, what is it about this city that fascinates you?

New York inspired me to start working with this process. The city is my home, and it continues to inspire me every day.

Why do you focus on light and architecture?

Light is the force behind my work, without it there could be no image. I’m always paying attention to how the sun is positioned in the sky, as it can change my subject’s appearance in a matter of seconds, which is one reason why my presence in the camera is important.

As for architecture, its role is embedded in my practice. As I mentioned, my work requires structures in order to achieve the scale of image I want to make. These structures are architectural and as such they take the role of what is conventionally understood as a camera. Sometimes those structures can be around 10 x 9 x 6 feet tall. Just like light, my work couldn’t exist without it.

How has being a woman influenced your work as an artist?

Being a woman hasn’t affected my practice, but it has affected my career. My gender may have made me work harder and be more persistent than if I were a man.

Any advice you would give to young women photographers?

I’d advise them to follow their vision. To be true to themselves and no one else, work hard, be unphased by fashions and trends, they come and go, what remains is their work. If it is unique, it will be recognized. To look at art, think about art, read. They will be in favor for being a woman, sometimes, and they will be discriminated for being one. They should take notice of both, both will pass. To always return to the work (not the person). If they can, to ask for equilibrium. To speak up for justice (not just their own), always engage, always be alert. To not be intimidated. There are situations that are hopeless, they should learn to recognize them and withdraw.

Vera Lutter © Marco Anelli


Born in 1960 in Germany, Vera Lutter now lives and works in New York city. Working with a camera obscura, the artist reinvents the photographic medium and questions the nature of the image by creating new approaches to space and time. Fascinated by light and architecture, she inserts herself into her own camera to control each parameter and develop a story from within the medium. Her body of work – coloured with eerie tones – has been exhibited internationally: at the London Gagosian Gallery, the Carré d’Art in Nîmes, the LACMA in Los Angeles, etc. Her pictures can also be found in numerous collections. Among them, those of the Centre Pompidou, the Brooklyn Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the New York Public Library.

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