The entrance stairwell at Sappho’s is thrown into black and white relief, a woman tarries there, listening to a man gesturing below her; perhaps she has just arrived or is being welcomed. Another half-figure is more transient, mounting the stairs.
It’s one of the images that Reinhard Wagner has chosen to encapsulate the spirit and elegance at his Taipei hangout for a photographic retrospective, “One Year at Sappho.”
“I tried to show all of the performers who come here in one year,” said the Munich native and former DJ during an interview Wednesday night at the venue. The framed prints — five copies only available of each — are a Who’s Who of players on the Taipei music scene: Kathy Lamar, David Chen, Klaus Bru, Leo Pinard, Jimmy Vulture of Sky Burial.
“My main interest is in people, and the person behind the image. I’m not interested in catching the sharpness of the picture, but more an expression of the moment and of the night. I can say 80 percent of these pictures happened at 2 in the morning, or later,” from late-night jam sessions, he added with a laugh.
Sappho became “a big part of his life” over a year ago, he says. “For me it was like a holiday, the most friendly hangout I could find. It’s almost like a family, where you know the guys, and very often musicians and artists come here. Sit by yourself? No, hey, come in and have a talk.”
“It was so impressive to me here,” he continued, “in terms of performances and life going on. Since I’m very addicted to music, especially jazz, I thought, ‘Why don’t I take pictures of a place like this?’ It’s seeing friends while they’re performing. I know them personally, and I love their music, and feel very much touched listening to it here. I just want to catch a moment where you can get the feeling of what the audience felt. I figured, you had such a great time here, so show what you experienced in one year.”
The only “hangup” was a matter of wallspace: he had to choose 22 out of a collection of 3,500, although more can be viewed on his Internet website.
He just “picked up photography” again last year, he said, “something I haven’t done since my 12th birthday,” and only uses black and white photography “because it really shows character.”
“For me it was at first just a hobby, which is a luxurious position to take,” he admits, as Asia manager for a semiconductor equipment company. As an artist, he recommends the approach of “going commercial, then following your dreams.”
“One Year at Sappho” is Wagner’s first exhibition. It opened on Oct. 27, but due to its success it’s been extended two weeks until next Saturday, Nov. 17th.
“Even if it’s my last exhibition, at least it is something I have done once in my life,” he said. However, he is already “looking for a space” for his next show: his photographic impressions of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India.
WHAT: A photographic exhibition, “One Year at Sappho” by Reinhard Wagner
WHEN: Oct. 27 – Saturday, Nov. 17th
WHERE: Sappho de Base, Anho Rd, Sect. 1, Lane 102, Taipei.
No cover charge