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Dabs of colour breathe life into the nearly deserted beach. The light is perfect, the setting impressive. Rafael Neff’s beach photographs feel like the faded memories of distant childhood vacations. The summer guests have long since gone off to other amusements. All that remains is the furniture, old-fashioned and simultaneously timeless.
Before the first vacationers return to utilize them for the mundane purpose of protection from the sun, the roofed beach chairs create their own game of light and colour. It is fragmented and somewhat abstract, as though they are trying to strike up a dialog with the cloudless blue sky, to which the photographer allots an equal amount of space. Rafael Neff’s photographs are atmospheric in the best way. He takes diverse approaches to the subject, bringing his pictures to life with the contrast between focus and blur, closeness and distance, and shallowness and depth.
Rafael Neff has been photographing opera houses and theatres all over the world since 2007. Fascinated, we lose ourselves in a wealth of opulent, baroque ornamentation. Warm colours dominate. The rooms feel almost like cathedrals. One immediately gets a sense of the great dramas that unfold beneath these great domes.
Whether it’s La Scala in Milan, The Royal Opera House in London, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, or the Zurich Opera House, the glorious buildings regale us with tales of great divas and minor scandals, of applause and excitement, and of great productions and bold experiments. Neff manages to capture the magic spell the stages cast over the actors and audiences. In his photographs, architectural aesthetics from bygone eras meet our expectations and demands in the here and now.
Regardless of whether we are religious or not, rooms that feel so sacred are a joy to behold for every free spirit and aesthete, because they go beyond the individual. These are places where many centuries of the spiritual world have been collected, much more than a single person can gather. Rafael Neff depicts the “temples” of world literature.
The contrast between the libraries could not be greater. The hall in the Benedictine Abbey Admont presents itself with baroque pomp, whereas a more sober atmosphere rules over the Parisian Sainte-Geneviève Library. Neff shows us new perspectives, capturing the aesthetics of different centuries and delivering breathtaking insights. The depth of field makes them feel detailed and clear, but never “merely” documentary in nature.
Rafael Neff lets our gaze wander through the world’s most famous wine cellars. His photographic pursuit of all things exquisite is honoured in these warm aging cellars from renowned vineyards with long traditions. Barrels of fine wines tell of full harvests, precise pressing, and prudent storage. Neff manages to capture the excitement that builds up here over a span of decades.
Whether or not a Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe lives up to its potential can only be known after it has been aged for more than a decade. With Neff’s pictures, you do not have to be an expert sommelier to recognise the care and attention that a winery like Lafite-Rothschild grants its vines. The soothing symmetry and reserved light are not all that’s pleasant to look at; the deeper you gaze into the depths, the more overpowering the vaults and the more inexhaustible the wine reserves appear.
In the era of e-books, Rafael Neff brings the “real” book back to our attention: the book that is far more than a few pages sandwiched between two covers. In his Books series, Neff directs his focus towards the finely made spines worthy of world literature.
The photographer sets the art of bookbinding right in front of our noses, so close that it nearly seems unreal. The spines unite to form a pattern, a dance of colours and clearly defined shapes. We rediscover the gilt edges and fine leather bindings as well as a culture threatening to become forgotten. In the era of great salons – evenings of colourful conversation near the beginning of the 20th century – filling one’s house with books was still considered a symbol of good education. Neff captures the aesthetics of this notion in his pictures but composes them in such a way that they do not feel nostalgic. Instead, they are timelessly beautiful.
About the Artist
Rafael Neff’s unique take on settings and architecture has been turning heads since 2001. His Strandkörbe series has become a constant in his otherwise very diverse body of work. He has won several awards, including the “red dot design award” and the Kodak Photo Award, and has even been nominated for the Design Award of the German Republic.
The son of a pastor, Rafael Neff was born in Freienseen, Germany in 1969. He and his seven siblings grew up in the nation’s south. He studied photography in Mainz, Prague, and New York.
What sets Rafael Neff’s work apart is his precise vision and technical ability. In his photographs, he enters the depths and reveals a new, detailed perspective to the viewer. By doing this, he brings subtleties to light that might have otherwise escaped us. Beach chairs are made to seem like sculptures, libraries like cathedrals, and wine cellars like holy halls.
Neff recognizes the beauty of objects and captures that through his lens. In his work, most of which contains no people, a dense atmosphere prevails. In large formats, the photographer’s precision and the images’ abundant details become visible.
|1969||born in Freienseen, Germany|
|1995-1996||work for an advertising agency|
|first photography work|
|publically supported photography grant|
|1996 -2001||major in photography|
|travels to Prag and New York|
|student of Kevin Clarke - New York|
|2001||Master of Photography, FH Mainz|
|Premiered work for the "Emotional Garden"|
|Neff begins to work on the "Beach Chairs"|
|2002||Calendar production for Zander's Fine Paper AG|
|Photo production for Salamander AG|
|"Beach Chairs" project in New York|
|2003||Photo production for Heidelberg’s Zement AG|
|Photo production for Liebherr and for BASF AG|
|“Beach Chairs” project along the entire North Sea coast|
|2004||Photo production in Cuba for BBS AG|
|Premiered prizewinning book production for Pioneer Electronik Germany|
|“Beach Chairs” project along the entire Baltic coast|
|Founded neff fotodesign|
|2005||Winner of the Design Prize from Rhineland-Palatinate|
|Premiered prizewinning calendar production for Audi’s “25 Years of Quattro”|
|Photo production in China for BBS AG|
|Premiered prizewinning calendar production for Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG|
|“Beach Chairs” project from the Polish coast to Courland Spit|
|Book production for neff fotodesign|
|2006||Photography contract with John Deere|
|Photo production in Italy for BBS AG|
|Artistic work for Franz Schneider Brakel GmbH|
|“Beach Chairs” project on the Italian coast and on Denmark’s islands|
|lives and works in Frankfurt|
|2009||Nominee, Designpreis der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (German Design Prize) 2010|
|2008||Winner of the Red Dot Design Award|
|Winner of the Kodak Photo Award|
|Winner of the “Gregor” - Jury’s Honorable Mention|
|Winner of the international calendar competition in Stuttgart (Gold) for ebdruck Haus|
|2007||Winner of the international calendar competition in Stuttgart (Gold) with Franz Schneider Brakel|
|2005||Winner of the Design Prize from Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany|
DZ-Bank, Frankfurt, Germany
Berenberg Bank, Berenberg, Germany
Sparkassenverband Rheinlandpfalz, Germany
LBBW, Stuttgart, Germany
Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt, Germany
Solo Exhibitions (Selection)
Group Exhibitions (Selection)
|2013||LUMAS, Salzburg, Austria|
|Villa Merton (Union international Club), Frankfurt, Germany|
|2012||LUMAS, Dusseldorf, Germany|
|LUMAS, Hamburg, Germany|
|LUMAS, Berlin, Germany|
|2011||LUMAS, Vienna, Austria|
Group Exhibitions (Selection)
|2013||LUMAS, Heidelberg, Germany|
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