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Meet Max Hirzel

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

Max Hirzel's work Migrant Bodies is part of Sink without Trace



1. How long have you making work on the subject of migrant deaths at sea, and why did you start making work on this subject?

For more than two years. I started for different reasons: as a photographer (photo-journalist) I was looking for a way to document and present this phenomenon that is marking our era, a way to immortalise its essence, and to give evidence. Also, I wanted to find a different perspective from which to look at things - as people are so used to look at the same type of images about migration in the mainstream media, they are in fact not able to see anything anymore. As a human being, I think it was the right thing to do, to draw attention to these people as individuals and not as mere numbers.


2. Why did you choose to use the medium that you have in relation to the subject?

Because it is my medium. I think that the job of a photo journalist is to document the reality, to testify and let the evidence come out, even if it only works as a testimonial for the future.


3. Tell us about your view on the role of art, galleries and museums, in relation to the subject.

Complicated question for me. I don’t see myself as an artist. As a photo journalist I provide information, as a piece of memory. For me art is another channel to make information, to make people think in a different context. In general, I think, the role of art is to interpret the world, the current time, to help people see, but also to invent, to create something new. For that reason, I don’t see myself as an artist, because I limit myself to document what I see as reality. Occasionally, art tends to celebrate itself and to produce something that ends in itself, although this can also be the case with mainstream media and journalism language, to be frank. I think this has to do with the fact that society today tends to transform everything into a show, where sensationalism reigns. However, museums and galleries play a central role in preserving memory.


4. What do you hope to achieve with your work on the subject?

My work has already been published, for example recently in The Guardian in the context of the exhibition Sink Without Trace and this is already a great achievement for a photojournalist. Like any other photographer, I’d like my images to be seen by as many people as possible. The subject of migration deserves to be looked at differently, I hope my work will be useful in this sense. And I’d like this work to become a book, an object that remains over time, as a record. Because a photograph is a powerful document.


5. What do you think about the exhibition Sink Without Trace?

I think the way that the curators have gone deeply into the subject and the research done on the artists and their works, reflects their aim to tell and represent this issue in a different way. The urgency to make people understand what has happened and is still happening is genuine.