Looking Down Upon Other People’s Living Spaces

Behold
The Photo Blog
Jan. 14 2013 12:54 PM

A Room With a View (From Above)

Untitled (Kitchen III), 2008.
Untitled (Kitchen III) 2008.

Menno Aden.

Photographer Menno Aden likes to look down on his subjects, but in about the least pretentious way possible. To him, it’s just another way of seeing someone’s personality.

“For me as an artist, watching from a higher position on a small space is interesting because I can see someone’s ‘compressed personality,’ ” Aden wrote via email.

“I started photographing rooms of friends in Berlin, to make portraits of them without actually seeing them. Many of them had—or still have—an unpretentious life, which is quite typical in Berlin since rents have been quite low.”

Menno Aden Untitled (GS I) 2006
Untitled (GS I) 2006.

Menno Aden.

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Shooting from above, however, can make even the most obvious candidate for a Hoarders episode look neat and organized.

“This happens because all the things on the floor such as the furniture flatten into two dimensions,” explained Aden. “I knew about it and I wanted this organized look over chaotic spaces because it makes the viewer feel elevated—sublime—but to be honest I didn’t know that an untidy room would look so organized, too.”

Untitled (M.O.) 2007.
Untitled (M.O.) 2007.

Menno Aden.

Untitled (D.A.), 2005.
Untitled (D.A.) 2005.

Menno Aden.

Aden admits he is often scouting rooms and other types of spaces constantly.

“When I find a good one [space] I walk through a room, stare at the floor, and note the furniture or the structure of a room. If a room interests me, I’m making plans where I’ll put the camera and check the height and material of the ceiling,” wrote Aden.

From there, the process begins with Aden taking wide-angle images to get an overview of the room. If he’s still interested in the aesthetic, he elevates his camera (with or without assistants) sometimes with a monopod or tripod, other times with a boom. The camera is often controlled remotely. He takes about 150 pictures from the elevated position and then begins his post-production processing and final editing.

Menno Aden SE 2008.
Untitled (S.E.) 2008.

Menno Aden.

Aden isn’t limited to private spaces. He has take images of stores, in elevators, and also in basements and parking garages, which are some of his most abstract work.

Menno Aden Subway 2010.
Subway 2010.

Menno Aden.

Untitled (Lift), 2009.
Untitled (Lift) 2009.

Menno Aden.

About the garages, Aden explained:

“One day I stumbled upon the basement garage of a supermarket where I was buying some food. I noticed the dirty and oily traces cars make that went over some lines in the parking lots. I took some test pictures and liked the lines—they remind me of calligraphy … so I started to do a series that could easily redefine the term ‘oil-paintings.’ ”

Untitled (Basement Garage), 2008.
Untitled (Basement Garage) 2008.

Menno Aden.

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.

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