Jakob Schnetz's photos from Warenmessen: Oh, holy capitalism!
Animal breeding, eroticism, weapons - there is a trade fair for almost everything in Germany. The photographer Jakob Schnetz visited them for years and shows a bizarre parallel world, driven by maximum competition.
Germany is the largest trade fair location in the world. Two thirds of all world leading fairs take place in the Federal Republic. On 2.75 million square meters of exhibition space annually, 10 million visitors look at what companies have to offer in terms of innovation. The photojournalist Jakob Schnetz has visited more than 40 trade fairs over a period of five years. His latest book "Place of Promise" gives an insight into the bizarre cosmos of the fairs.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Schnetz, in your new illustrated book you show goods shows and talk about the fact that we raise goods to our gods. Do your photos show a substitute religion?
Jakob Schnetz: The comparison with religion fits very well, because at fairs the competition, which belongs to capitalism, takes on an extreme form. In such a small space and in direct proximity to the biggest competitors, one's own goods should always be presented a bit more "sacredly" than the rest.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What does that look like?
Schnetz: The position of the headlights, for example, creates sacral lighting moods. In addition, there are certain rituals that repeat themselves at each show: the morning greeting and swearing of the teams for the perfect sales week, the giveaways that are distributed, the overstimulation of multimedia and live shows, countless female hostesses wearing the most absurd costumes have to...
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does that also affect the audience?
Schnetz: Partly already. There is a hype of certain products at every fair. There are things eagerly discussed that an outsider like me understands only vaguely - hydraulic hoses for combine harvesters, for example. The people at the Hannover Messe were very fascinated when robots from the company Kuka poured the wheat beer there for the guests.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What fairs have you visited?
Schnetz: Altogether it was over 40, and the bandwidth was enormous. From weapons and erotic and baby food to camping, hunting and car tuning was pretty much everything. Towards the end of the project, I visited mainly large industrial, agricultural and trade fairs, where much more money is invested than at rather small, but more bizarre fairs.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is a weapons exchange a trade fair like any other?
Schnetz: Most of them want to be associated with what they sell - rifles from the Second World War, defused hand grenades, mortars, Nazi badges - by no means. That's unusual, because otherwise everyone and everyone shouts for attention at a fair. On the other hand, I was quoted by several exhibitors several times to the fair management, although I was accredited and had a permit.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How do erotic fairs differ?
11 picturesPhoto Series: The culmination of capitalism
Schnetz: 2013 I was a guest on the Venus in Berlin. Initially, I thought sex and intimacy were very private issues, so it would be difficult to photograph there. But at no other fair have I seen so many men - in their mid-40s - approaching with crazy camera equipment. By contrast, I worked as a professional photojournalist partly poorly equipped.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What did these men photograph?
Schnetz: Almost exclusively the live shows of porn actresses. So I stood there with countless men who made pictures for domestic use. And more than once I was acknowledged. Like, "Ah, you're one of us ... - good show, right?" In these moments, I felt right, really uncomfortable.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did the idea for this long-term photographic project come about?
Schnetz: Over detours. I wanted to engage in conventional agriculture and factory farming and therefore visited the "Eurotier 2012" to investigate the topic. The contrast between the fairs was particularly strong there: everything that was shown in the hall otherwise takes place outdoors. It occurred to me that a mass in very little room accommodates as much of our society as another place could never.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What attracted you to the series?
Schnetz: Initially, this hyper-real moment, the bizarre fairs as well as the contrast between staging and the reality of life were in the foreground - when, for example, high-performance cows were in the spotlight in the middle of a huge hall. When I visited numerous events in 2015, my curiosity for the fair itself was pretty exhausted. Basically trade fairs are very similar - many things are interchangeable, from the productions and the furniture to the decorative plants. So I put my focus on the social fabric: the morning rituals, the coffee and smoker breaks of the business people or the acquisition of new customers.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is the trade fair visitor a special type of person?
Price query time:
20.04.2019, 08:10 clock
PLACE OF PROMISE
Buy from Amazon Buy from Thalia
Product discussions are purely editorial and independent. The so-called affiliate links above, we usually receive a commission from the dealer when buying. More information here.
Schnetz: I moved much more frequently to specialist than to visitor fairs. On the latter, I had the feeling that there is the German, consumer-oriented middle class, it is doing well, wants to spend a bit of money and is quite enthusiastic for the content. The audience at trade fairs depends heavily on the context. Nevertheless, I remember the people there as very similar.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: To what extent?
Schnetz: I do not know these people personally and do not want to make hasty judgments. But they all seemed very smooth and success-oriented. At a trade fair, my impression is that not only the place is a façade, but also many people take on a certain role, which is trimmed to external effect.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Everything revolves around the beautiful appearance.
Schnetz: Yes, and the representation of your own strength and size. When I have to fight for attention with my biggest competitors in the smallest of spaces, it still matters how big and opulent my presence at the event is. The booth of Dax companies is accordingly gigantic. There is a lot of media coverage about trade fairs. If Bosch, Siemens and Co. only set up a very small stand, this is immediately addressed in the press.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the beginning of the book you write that the project was "a search for photographic possibilities of criticism". What do you mean by that?
Schnetz: The series is an attempt of critique of capitalism through images. The compulsion to grow in capitalism is questionable, because the planet's resources are finite. Every child knows that now. But at fairs it becomes clear how much the whole system is still driven by the idea of expansion.