The Photography of Sebastian Mayer

A select presentation from the accomplished
German photographer.

Courtesy of Sebastian Mayer
Summer-Fall 2015

After his father gave him a Czechoslovakian Exacta for Christmas when he was 12, Sebastian Mayer (b. 1973) began to explore photography. One of his early, memorable encounters was shooting Larry Clark for Spex magazine in 1998. Clark corrected the young photographer— “DON’T use that wide-angle lens on me…” From then to now, Mayer’s work has been featured in this short list of publications: Spex (GER), Intro (GER), Groove (GER), De:Bug (GER), Wire (UK), Dazed and Confused (UK), Guardian (UK), Die Zeit (GER) & 032c (GER). Sometime around 2005 Mayer paused and followed his musical interests, touring as a bassist in the group Ladytron. Afterwards, he renewed his focus on photography, traveled extensively and recently resettled in Berlin. Currently, Sebastian photographs a variety of editorial projects and architectural spaces around the world. A friend of the magazine, Sebastian shared a few anecdotes from this selection of photographs.

Pansonic. Berlin, 2000.

I really liked Pansonic’s music— I still do. Aaltopiri is a classic, some of the best music I’ve ever heard— it’s on the same level as Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations for me. I guess we know the story— there was this small bar called Panasonic, named so because there was an electronics shop in the space before and the new tenants had just kept the Panasonic neon signs. It’s long closed now but I remember it was on Torstrasse. Mika and Ilpo were regulars there and I believe that’s where they came up with the name, as far as I know.  And as we know, eventually the actual Panasonic company complained about their brand name being used so Mika and Ilpo took the “a” out. Here, we were doing press shots and hopping around Berlin for the afternoon. I photographed the duo in front of some standard East Berlin architecture, I believe this was on Leipzigerstrasse, an area with many federal buildings and some of— what would be considered— the “nicer” apartments of East Berlin.

Surrogat. Berlin, 2003.

Patrick Wagner was the band leader of Surrogat and he was known in Berlin at the time to be a bit of a megalomaniac, running around telling everyone he and his band were bigger than Jesus. Nobody was really sure if he was just being ironic or if he really ticked that way. When Spex asked me to take photos of Surrogat for an upcoming issue I said, “OK, we’re going to build a wooden cross and we’re going to put Patrick on it.” If Patrick was being ironic, I wanted to put it to a test. It was mid-December and one of the coldest days of the year. I had organized a craftsman to build a wooden cross for us— it wasn’t a prop— it was a real wooden cross and it weighed about 40 kilograms. We met at the base of Teufelsberg, which translates as “Devils Mountain,” and is also one of the highest hills in Berlin. It’s also a significant place as the hill was artificially heaped of rubble from the WW2 bombings of Berlin. We met there and gave Patrick that Jesus outfit and asked him to carry the 40 kilo cross to the top where we dug a hole into the frozen ground, mounted the cross and put Patrick up on it. The sun was starting to set but I got some good photos of Patrick hanging on the cross although those were never published, not on the cover at least. The magazine’s legal counsel said we couldn’t run the photos because it was, “heresy,” and I remember really fighting it for two weeks— declaring, “no, we have to put the photo on the cover!” Everyone agreed but in the end Spex decided not to, and to be fair, they even considered putting the issue into a black plastic cover so people wouldn’t be able to see it until after purchase. The funny thing is, some weeks later that horrible Mel Gibson movie came out and there were posters of Jesus with a crown of thorns and a bleeding face all over the place— I couldn’t believe it.

Surrogat by Sebastian Mayer

Iggy Pop. Rio de Janeiro, 2005.

After touring as a bassist with Ladytron I decided to return to photography since I had paused to concentrate on music at the time. I went to Rio with my equipment and stayed at my friend Andreas’ place in the hills of Santa Teresa. We grew up in Germany together and he had been living in Rio for eight years at that time. I ended up staying there for exactly a year and three days.

Jonathan Shaw, an old friend of Iggy’s from New York, had moved into a building a few doors down from Andreas’ and had asked if he could come by and take some photos because Iggy would be in town for his first concert in Brazil— but Andreas didn’t have a camera and for some reason Jonathan didn’t know I was a photographer. On the first day, we received a call from Jonathan to come over, bring something to eat and hang out on the roof. I remember                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  




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