Benjamin Kilb | Rosenmontag


Mainz is the capital of the southwestern German state Rhineland-Palatinate. Its native people are nationwide known for their down-to-earth attitude and their serenity. Its two biggest symbols of pride are the football club 1. FSV 05 and the Fastnacht, the Palatine carnival, a tradition that stretches back to the 13th century Mainz is also the city I live in since January 2011. I moved there from the neighboring state Hesse to make a living by writing for a local newspaper. After a couple of days I had fallen in love with the city. My photo essay is a series of scenes that occurred around the parade on Rosenmontag which is the German term for Carnival Monday, it always takes place in late winter My intention prior to the parade was not to capture the usual scenes of disguised people cheering the spectacular carnival wagons but to freeze moments of decadence. About 500.000 people attend the Rosenmontag parade every year, most of them traveling to Mainz from all over the country. The biggest part of those celebrating carnival is drunk by 3 in the afternoon My plan to capture the decadence was based on prejudices I had built by listening to people talking about their Rosenmontag experiences in Mainz and by reading newspaper articles depicting the extent of drinking sprees on carnival. I was roaming the streets for about seven hours that day. After one hour I already got frustrated since I didn’t find any of the assumed decadence. Then I became aware of my stupid preconceptions. I noticed that I wasn’t, as expected, disgusted by what I saw. Before the parade I always avoided going to any carnival festivities. Every time I saw disguised people I thought of them as idiots using carnival to slip into an imaginary skin to forget their every day problems. But on this very day in Mainz, seeing carnival in its most original form, I felt nothing of this. Even though some of my photos might show the event in a rather critical light it wasn’t decadence that attracted me while I was shooting. It was more the sight of people looking lost that caught my attention. I became aware of it when editing the photos that subconsciously I was looking for mimics, gestures and postures which showed moments of doubt and forlornness I didn’t want to show people as another frolicsome part of the disguised whole but as foreign bodies within the crowd. The midday sun helped to expose the persons. The contrasts gave the atmosphere an additional surrealistic character. Some of the people, like the man scavenging for bottles or the old man leaning against the facade, seem to follow their every day routine despite an environment that almost obliges to be in disguise. Regardless of many people watching him he was searching the barrel for recyclable bottles to make ends meet. I noticed before that when I approach a subject with a preconceived notion I’m less satisfied with the photos afterwards. But the less I think about what might expect me when shooting an event the more personal and satisfying are the photos I take Shooting the Rosenmontag parade was a very important psychological landmark for me since I’ve been taking photos. I will approach every future project with as little preconceptions as possible. I don’t want to have my prejudices confirmed. I want to reconsider them.

[Interview by Monica Virgis]
This interview is done using Skype technology.

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