When I first saw Ralf Brueck’s work www.ralfbrueck.com online, I knew I had to chat with him about it.  This German artist is so great at creating  pristine images and imposing what he calls surreal or paranormal effects on them.  His work is stunning and he gets right to the point about it.

MICHAEL: Hey Ralf, I LOVE your work. You really seem to be pre-occupied with nature and imposing something that looks like it's from another world or something unnatural onto nature and natural environments. Is that the focus of some of your photos right now?

RALF: Great that you like my work! I’m very interested in suburban structures and search intensively for these particular places during my travels. The manipulation I do and the uniqueness of those places amplify each other and creates a new picture.

MICHAEL: I'm so struck by the sheer contemporary nature of the work. What do you think makes it so NOW? Is it the settings or the technology that you employ?

RALF: Surely it is a combination of both. At the start, I mostly photographed analogue. Today I enjoy the possibilities of digital manipulation by Photoshop to alter analogue pictures. This wasn’t possible in earlier days. I am using very small elements from the picture. That means I use pixel which represents for me the DNA of the image. This DNA structure gets visualized as a barcode and changes the impact of the motif completely simply by putting it back into it. The "DISTORTION" effect is often referred to as science fiction-like. This association probably comes from contemporary movies. I would rather speak of a surreal or paranormal effect. More important is how the viewer sees it. I think it’s a great advantage of the series that it leaves space for ideas and associations. As picture material, I use common places. Everybody knows them, but passes them without conscious notice. These places get extracted or isolated from their environment through the composition when I take the photo. Another aspect are the titles of my work. They refer to a pop-cultural context like movies, books or music. I think you are right with NOW, because the techniques I use are from nowadays. And finally, there are no references in art photography of a similar series like "DISTORTION" in the past.

MICHAEL: Your work is also very clean, stylish, sleek and ultra-hip. Is this something you try to achieve?

RALF: Yeah, I heard this often that my work is seen as stylish and ultra-hip. I guess it is my pop cultural background. I grew up in Düsseldorf, the city where all the electronic music movement of the 80’s came from that still has a great influence. Like Kraftwerk and DAF. And I was always interested in digital process, whether in movies, music or art. One of my principles is to look forward rather than back and I am really curious about progressive sub-cultural developments. At the very moment, I totally enjoy the music of John Maus and am impressed by the works of Eric Yahnker.

MICHAEL: A lot of people are saying Berlin is the new art capital of Europe. What do you think? Is Berlin really that hot?

RALF: Berlin is at this very moment the most interesting place for art in Europe. I’m often there because it’s a melting pot for artists. Studios are cheap and so are living expenses. You have some excellent galleries and a huge community of artists from all over the world.

MICHAEL: Your work seems to celebrate the beauty of architecture imagined, but I also get the feeling of an environmental message. Is there an environmental message in your work?

RALF: Very often in the morning when I check the news while having coffee, I think, “What the heck is going on in our world?” Only a blind person could ignore that. Surely political and environmental processes are sometimes reflected in my works as shown in "Gorleben," "You Don´t Look So Good" or "Golden Cage.”

MICHAEL: Contemporary photography has become much more accepted in the art world. It's really almost equal to painting and sculpture now. What do you think about this? Do you see yourself as a photographer, artist or both?

RALF: I studied art with a focus (Ha, Ha!) on photography at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. Everything there was about art and only a little about the techniques. My diploma says I have a degree in ART. And my heart tells me I’m truly an artist.

MICHAEL: Germany itself strikes me as very hip, super-cool and edgy ... especially in the big cities. To me, your work reflects this very refined kind of sophistication. Am I right in my description of Germany?

RALF: The new Germany of my generation has allowed me to change and renew from within. If that is what you mean you’re absolutely right.

MICHAEL: Like the United States, Europe is having a hard time right now. Germany seems to be the bright financial spot in Europe. Is this making life worse for Germans? Germans seems to like order and Europe seems to be in a mess right now. Is that hard?

RALF: The whole situation inspired me to make one of my works. It's called "You Don't Look So Good" and was made in Brussels, where the European Union resides. It doesn't feel hard to be German. But it’s hard to pay all these taxes we have here and then see how fellow European countries deal with the crisis. I think it's a cliché that Germans are orderly.

MICHAEL: Finally Ralf, What is the message that you want people to see in your work?

RALF: Whatever my message is, people always have their own. And that is the best part of the work.

MICHAEL: Ralf, you’re a man of few, but well chosen words.  Thanks.

Ralf really is a cool artist.  Check out his work at www.ralfbrueck.com.