Barbara A. Diener | Sehnsucht
Sehnsucht is a German compound word derived from yearning (das Sehnen) and addiction (die Sucht). But even when considered together these words cannot adequately translate the full meaning. It is a longing for someone or something that cannot be fully defined and will not be found.
It is hard to define the abstract feeling of comfort one equates with home. Initially motivated by a longing for this feeling, I made these photographs in small towns and rural communities in the United States and Europe that are demographically similar to the town in Germany where I grew up. The focus of this project has shifted to the communities in towns that are maintained despite a disappearing rural lifestyle. My photographs do not merely document but rather translate the ritualistic and spiritual undercurrent of these places into concrete visual representations. The somberness of the inhabitants in these photographs is balanced by the beauty of the landscape, discouraging a one-sided understanding of them. The landscape becomes a character itself and represents the pride in the land I have encountered in my subjects.
These villages are as complex as the sense of rootedness I am searching for and the deliberate linking of disparate subjects (portraits, landscapes, interiors) mirrors this. My attraction to the rural does not only stem from my upbringing. There is a quietude to this environment that strips away distractions and amplifies the inevitable cycles of life. The people in my photographs exist in their own world and this spatial and emotional distance functions as a reminder that these places remain impermeable and the comfort I am searching for is indeed elusive.