At times there are thick brush strokes of paint on the prints, at others the motifs are printed on cloth rather than paper, and at others brightly-coloured mist wafts through the images – photographic artist Henrike Stahl likes to try out new ideas. In 2023 she took part in the Instants residency programme at Château Palmer. The unusual methods used in the castle’s bio-dynamic farming operation, inspired her to carry out new experiments. The outcome is her L’arc sera parmi les nuages series. She spoke with us about what photography means for her, what inspires her, and why nature takes on the role of curator for her.

What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a way of entering into a dialogue, building bridges between worlds that lie far apart, or that are separated from each other by prejudice. It pulls down walls and opens up the path to new ways of thinking. You can approach them with gentleness, which is very important. I think it’s far too easy to use trashy images to shock and make people aware.

In general, what inspires you?
When I started out, it was Wolfgang Tillmans, Rineke Dijkstra and Nan Goldin.

You also do commercial photography – fashion series for example. To what degree has this kind of work influenced your personal visual language?
I had the stubbornness or the luck to be able to stick my nose into everything. It took me longer to make a name for myself, but I can’t go on doing the same thing forever. I think you have to be very open and take an interest, because everything changes so quickly, especially in photography.

What relationship do you see between your work and other art forms?
Music is always in my ears, I paint on prints…

…as can be seen, for example, in your Le Phénix series. How did you develop that?
I wanted to develop my pictures by hand. I started out with analogue photography; then came photoshop and digital technology at the beginning of 2000, and many embarrassing attempts initially with all of that. I find perfection irritating. Beauty retouching as well. And sometimes, when something in a picture bothers me – a blue sky, for example – then I prefer to brush a thick stroke of colour over it. Holding something in my hand again, tactile work… that’s the only way to produce a one-of-a-kind.

You also enjoy working with paper.
Yes. And I like to cut out with a scalpel.

What role does digital picture-processing play in your work?
As I said above, I like to introduce more colour. But, in general, I do no – or as little as possible – beauty retouching. For example, I didn’t change the colour of the waves in the book, but I simply oversaturated the existing colours. It’s funny to see how many colours are hidden in a grey-white sky. It’s also connected to the birth of my daughter: I can’t support the search for the ideal physical image; why not just be content with who you are or how you were born? Everyone is here for a reason.


What does the title of your most recent series, L’arc sera parmi les nuages refer to and where did it come from?
We found many parallels to the story of Noah’s Ark that fit with my pictures. The attempt of couples, or equals, to save the good for later, after the imminent flood ahead. The book is not supposed to become a religious amalgamation, but the title comes from there. It was a kind of peace announcement, to say that from now on there will be no further flood. “There will be a rainbow in the clouds” was the statement.

What is the series about?
It’s about how we can save our planet from this fear of a flood, which is always present in a place like Château Palmer, as the vineyard is very close to the sea. And what we can do to save our social values beyond that. Dialogue is very important. To pass on what you’ve learnt.

Passing things on to posterity.
That was what really struck me when I saw young people from the suburbs of Bordeaux working there. Crossing boundaries and teaching each other something. Making each other larger.

Where and when did you photograph the motifs, during which opportunities? How do you discover suitable motifs?
I was at Château Palmer four times, and covered the complete cycle of the seasons, from the beginning of the preparations following winter, the burying of animal horns and the tying together of branches to share their memories, all the way to the grape harvest and preparations for the next winter. I was there three times for a complete week, out and about with the winegrowers in the vineyards and in the wine warehouse, from sunrise to late in the evening.

Why did you decide to use colour for this work?
Because I want to bring colour into the world. As far as I’m concerned, you only opt for black and white if colour in the picture is disturbing.

Which Leica and which lenses did you shoot with, and how was your experience with the system?
I was travelling with the SL2-S and Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70 f/2.8 Asph – a great camera! Everything is compact and you simply can’t take a blurred picture. I’m not a technophile, and I’m far too busy dealing with the people I’m photographing to spend much time preparing the camera; so it was the perfect companion – I never missed a moment!

What do you want for your pictures? Is there a message you would like them to convey?
Be gentle with each other, have hope, and know that everything you do has a value that will leave its mark on world history.

Born in Gießen in 1980, Henrike Stahl is an autodidact who assisted on photo shoots with Steve Hiett and Paolo Roversi. She has been working freelance in the field of portraiture since 2001. As a photographic artist, she likes to experiment with her prints, which she paints, folds or processes using other creative techniques. In 2023 she was the second artist to attend the Instants residency programme established by Leica and Château Palmer. Her pictures have been exhibited in Paris, Berlin and Arles, among other places. She lives and works in Germany and France. Find out more about her photography on her website and Instagram channel.

Leica SL2

It's your choice.