Luca Werner

Embracing Lightness: A Dialogue With Luca Werner

Sharing one’s history is a challenging task. Yet, German photographer and filmmaker Luca Werner has skillfully and sensitively unveiled fragments of his past, capturing fleeting moments of youth, delving into the intricacies of relationships, and exploring the depths of his inner being. Transitioning seamlessly between photography and video, he showcases his expertise in both technical precision and narrative storytelling. With his recent project, “Pools,” garnering widespread attention, we were curious to interview him, not only to delve into the details of this latest endeavour but also to trace the roots and progression of his career.

I’d like to begin from the genesis, what sparked your interest in photography and filmmaking initially?

At the beginning, I wanted to become a professional snowboarder. However, my journey was cut short at the age of 16 after breaking my collarbone five times in a row. My doctor advised me to stop snowboarding for at least two years. Everyone made such a fast progress that I knew I will not keep up with a two year long break so I felt like my world collapsed and that my dream just faded away.

Somehow during my recovery, my interest in extreme sports continued. I watched a lot of GoPro and Red Bull films and I felt very connected to them. Their films embodied this feeling of being alive, they created this impression in their five-minute videos of “flying“ or being able to do whatever you want.

So after my recovery I convinced my parents to let me travel to Hong Kong with a roofer I met on Instagram. I think this ten day trip was basically the moment I understood I really loved photography and filmmaking. Being so young in a city that felt like a different world, climbing on rooftops, escaping from police, there were so many feelings coming up for the first time that I felt I needed to document everything to not forget it. On top of this, I had a very ill mother at that time, which made me reflect a lot, so I felt like after my snowboarding dream ended, I now had found something to hold onto again.

This is actually a link to the film I did in Hong Kong 9 years ago. 

Which project holds the most significance for you, and what makes it particularly meaningful?

I think it is probably one that I have not released yet. This February I have directed a film for a Japanese art collective called ME that will be shown in Tokyo this autumn, in the form of a three channel installation. It includes three different human stories of everyday life in Paris.

It was a project that is really close to my heart as it includes a message that is very important for me and to the art collective. I felt that for the first time in form of an actual installation we will hopefully tell something to an audience who will take the time to listen.

What does Italo Calvino’s quote, “Take life lightly, because lightness is not superficial, but it is gliding over things, not having burdens on your heart,” mean to you personally?

I am always coming back to this quote because somehow our western society is so good in making you believe that certain things and values are important and those are actually so incredibly unimportant. Everyone is so good in creating stress and making you rush. I am always surprised how easily cars start honking in Paris.

I like the idea of being light in life and not taking everything so damn serious, at least not things that are superficial and don’t mean anything to our world or life around. 

To what extent have the experiences you had in your youth influenced the approach you take in your current projects?

I am surprised that the moment I sit down, listen to music and try to catch a next glimpse of an idea, it so often leads back to my youth. I think when I am “fishing“ for ideas, I try with music to bring myself in an emotional state, where sometimes just for a few seconds a certain feeling comes up. Most of the time it is related to some kind of memory I had in my teenage days. As I mentioned before I believe it is because it was a period where we felt so many things for the first time, we were less rational and that somehow made these feelings so much clearer. That’s why I take a lot inspiration from this period of my life, it feels the purest to me.

When discussing youth, one of your recent projects, “Pools,” inevitably comes to mind. Could you share more details about this project?

The project was shot last year at the Barcelona olympic pool. We casted two swimmers and group of friends with whom we spend one full day at the location.

The idea was to rebuild Bel’s feelings and mine towards the ritual of jumping and swimming. We built a script but on location mostly followed our own feeling of what is essential to shoot. None of the cast had to play a role, everyone was just him or herself. The way we wanted to shoot was to recreate a real life situation at the pools so that Bel and I can observe and then pick the pieces that are the closest to our memory and feelings.

Could you share with us how your collaboration with Beltran Gonzalez came about and how you both embarked on creating the film together?

Beltran once assisted me on shoot in Greece 4 years ago. We had a lot of fun and became friends from this time on. Beltran started to make more and more films and as we both are in love with cliff jumping which again comes back to this feeling of being alive, we decided to make a film together at Bels home pool in Barcelona. At first the jumping part should play more of a significant role but during the process somehow the swimming part became an image that carried the strongest feelings for us. As it was all self funded, it gave us the freedom to do whatever we want. 

Same way jumping and swimming works, no rules and a lot of improvisation.

In one of your recent posts, you mentioned the “Pools” project and described swimming as something that now has become valuable. Could you elaborate on the significance behind these words?

I think swimming was always valuable but I feel when you were younger you were not so aware of it yet. I believe the older you get the more you need to plan your day etc. meaning you now understand more and more what gives you joy throughout the day and what not. Back in your childhood I feel a lot of things just happened to you, like swimming to me, you obviously didn’t overthink it as you often lived from hour to hour anyways and not like most of us now from week to week. 

I was in a swimming club for a few years and I never really liked it so much at least the pressure of it, but I still remember after I finished the class I always felt very good. Like you are in balance. I came home, I was allowed to have frozen pizza and watch my favorite films. The class became kind of a ritual.

I now also understand that breathing rhythmically which you are forced to do in swimming just calms you down so much. 

When you swim for an hour surprisingly your head often just goes blank and follows the rhythm. 

You are more likely to live from hour to hour again at least while swimming.

When discussing the ‘Pools’ project, I’m intrigued to understand the significance of water in your life.

I think there are two components to the meaning of water for me: one is completely personal which is again connected to my swimming practice in my childhood as well as the cliff jumping in my adolescence and I believe the feeling of holiday and leisure time in general. The other one is a visual aspect.

I was always in love with images of Herbert list, Olivier Kervern and Sergio Purtell, who in my opinion, all captured so well how it feels to spend a day at the ocean. There is this image connected to water which most of the times only comes with a positive connotation. When you see these images, it sometimes gives me the feeling that everyone can be themselves in water. The beach or the grass in front of the lake becomes a big living room. It’s the only time were people comfortably lay half naked next to strangers. Most of us know how it feels to completely submerge in water; even in a bathtub when you float, it becomes reminiscent to the start of it all.

I appreciate your time today, and as we conclude our conversation, I’m curious: Where do you see yourself and what are you doing in the year 2034?

I would love to create more “art films“ and installation works, I feel that it’s a kind of medium unfortunately not really often reachable as you are always limited by space and huge costs for video projectors or screens. In my eyes watching a video installation can really transform the way you look at things or can create a certain feeling in a way that poetry works, something that you cant explain but only feel.

This is the type of filmmaking I love and I will try to pursue.

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