In his “Youth” series Albrecht Tübke reflects upon the space between childhood and adulthood. The adolescent search for identity and individuality as well as an inevitable teenage isolation and disorientation, are described in this series of photographs, which was begun in Leipzig in the winter of 1998. The central part of the series is formed of portraits of young people between fifteen and sixteen; they look directly into the camera. Tübke has also made a second series of photographs of teenagers’ bedrooms – places where these young people have begun to construct their identities, very private sanctums.
Tübke began his search for subjects in a skateboard park in central Leipzig. He was attracted to the energy of the young people he met there. Other portrait subjects were found in and around Leipzig and in his home village of Dalliendorf. Though, like August Sander, Tübke is a documenter of people, he lays no claim to produce an encyclopaedic register of society. Instead, he uses the street as a stage set , with the characters he has selected appearing in their own casual clothes, posing in their own way – setting their own style. Though he may sometimes make suggestions as to pose and expression, this is essentially a collaboration between photographer and subject – a silent and intense conversation.
Swathed in their jackets, hands in their pockets, they reveal themselves to the photographers’ gaze. Casual and confident, but also questioning and alert, they parzicipate fully in this complex process. As Roland Barthes has described: „In front of the lens I am at the same time the one who I believe myself to be, the one I would like to be seen as, the one the pho tographer believes I am and the one he makes use of to show what he’s capable of. In other words this is a bizarre process: I tirelessly imitate myself […] In fantasy photography represents […] that extremely subtle moment, in which I am neither subject nor object, but moreover am a subject that feels like it is an object…”2
Tübke, working with a tripod and a medium format camera, is involved in a time-consuming and meticulous technologiocal process. He works on the street and transforms it from a place of movement and activity to a studio set. Though using only available light, his photographs are the antithesis of spontaneous street reportage. All his subjects are known to him and all his locations are planned.
An important part of ‚Youth’ is the series of photographs made of teenagers’ bedrooms. With their parents’ permission, he photographed this very personal terrain. – arrangements of books, tapes, posters, toys, cosmetics – all the ephemera of adolescent life. Passions, interests and obsessions become visible through these quiet and careful still lives. In counterpoint to these personal spaces, are the bleak cityscapes which Tübke includes, the grafitti and concrete which symbolised the cityscapes of the former GDR in the late 1990s.
Tübke’s Youth connects people and spaces, interior and exterior worlds. He has created a series of complex portraits of adolescence and growing up. Sometimes fragile, sometimes almost confrontational, Tübke’s subjects are transitional, transforming from children to adults on the casual, yet dramatic stage set which is the modern city.