Actor meets photographer … a project begins. Sinta Tamsjadi and Thomas Schmidt explore life through the lens with their collaboration Earth and Ashes.
Sinta and Thomas, we are in awe of your work. Tell about Ashes, and your project Earth, and how the work came about?
Sinta: Since childhood I’ve been interested in the questions: what am I? Is existence real? Where do we come from and where do we go?
Thomas: When we die our bodies will be buried in Earth or burned to Ashes. Both substances are connected to the transformation from life to death. My art work has always been about the process of dying. When I was eight I painted my new toy train to make it look old and realistic.
Have you collaborated before?
Sinta: With Thomas? No. But I have collaborated on other projects, with other people. A book project, a screenplay … and in directing a theater play. I enjoy collaborations. My interest is in relating with people and what can happen between them.
Thomas: This is my first collaboration and I hope Sinta and I will continue to find ways to express ourselves for a long time to come.
What are your backgrounds?
Sinta: I studied drama and have worked in theater and film.
Thomas: I studied photography and work as a fashion photographer.
How did you both meet, and when did you decide to be a team?
Thomas: We knew each other for a long time through mutual friends. About three years ago I asked Sinta if she would be part of a portrait project about skin. She declined but proposed that we both be in front of the camera using a cable release.
Sinta: It felt great that Thomas immediately agreed even though before he had only been behind the camera. I suggested to add earth because I had a vision of our work.
What were the practicalities of the shoots, and how long did it take you to capture your vision?
Thomas: Both series need tremendous preparations to set up the stage in the studio first day set up, second day shoot. Since we are both performers and photographers at the same time it is crucial that our equipment works perfectly because we can´t interrupt the performance.
Sinta: The usual outcome per session is about three images that we feel work. When printed and framed in sizes up to 200cm x 150cm they reveal more facets. EARTH images remind us of oil paintings and ASHES increases in transparency.
Where does that vision come from?
Sinta: It suddenly shoots up. Like a deep breath. Contemplation is a daily practice.
Thomas: We talk a lot about our inner state and questions. What follows is a process of distillation. When it comes to the next session we usually have a word, a piece of music, a gut feeling that leads us into the performance. From there we let go.
Sinta: With Thomas I can sense a willingness to enter into the unknown together.
There is a pedigree to the images, and they seem to reference many artworks … the ideas are – dare we say it – ‘Homeric’, the struggle of Man and Gods intertwined.
Sinta: We carry the culture we were nourished with in our bodies. There’s an access that finds its way through our expression into the work. It depends on how fluent we are while performing.
Thomas: We never thought of specific artists but we are very conscious about the frame of art history we are moving in. For example the black space in our pictures is certainly inspired by Goya.
And … yes, to us one criteria for a good picture is if we appear to be more than just ourselves, ideally we don´t look like ourselves anymore but seem to be something bigger – if you want – something Homeric.
They represent to us ideas of struggle and torment, loyalty and devotion. Are they are illustration of the human condition?
Sinta: In a very practical and non-judgmental sense, yes. As they say: the way in is the way out.
Thomas: Yes, very much so. For my part the starting point for the performance is pain, my personal pain, the pain I´ve suffered from in the past and more now the pain of other people too.
Is this a project you have considered performing?
Sinta: No, but you’re giving us an idea.
Thomas: Not yet – so far we were focusing on photography. But we are open to new developments and I wouldn’t say this is impossible.
How important is the role of art? What is the role of art?
Sinta: Art can take you and me where words cannot reach. Is that important? I’d say yes. If you allow it to it can be a pointer to take a break, to stop the chasing-the-cheese-wheel.
Thomas: I don’t understand the question.
What can we expect next from you both?
Sinta: There’s still more to come with ASHES, it’s not all unbosomed yet. We plan to do a series called WATER next in line.
Thomas: For the moment we are still in the middle of our encounter with ASHES …
Sinta and Thomas, many thanks for your time.