About Stephan
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Stephan Hederich

After wandering through the world for many years, Stephan is living on his Organic Farm near Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.  The idea of visiting in Nova Scotia (and later living here) first developed by running across the exhibition catalogue of “From New York to Nova Scotia” by Robert Frank. And also that he wanted to visit a city with the funny name “Halifax”.

Stephan developed his social interest at the age of 4 while accompanying his father during political campaigning in 1969. At this time the Vietnam War was in the news every night.  Of course, his interest was always there, corresponding to his age at the time.  His awareness sharpened and has never shifted since then.

His upbringing and political awareness subsequently led to Stephan becoming a conscientious objector in Germany and served his mandatory time in a social organization, helping to ensure transportation for disabled citizens.

Stephan discovered that political activism requires a very long breath. In 1989 he had to step away from political activism to cope with his experiences; he turned his attention to educating himself in the trade of photography at Lette-Verein in Berlin.  Much later he became at ease with the modern view of photography as an art versus a trade skill.  With this shift, Stephan felt the freedom, or ease of mind to move more of his heart into his work.

“The meaning of the project determines which camera technique is appropriate; you are not focused on either or digital or analog.  Skill and trade become important when you know what you are using.  The technical aspects enhance the message.  You can do art in black and white, color, matt or glossy finish.  You can become very artistic and creative using digital because you don’t have to worry about the costs. The important part is being able to utilize the technical aspects to the highest potential for the project.”

From 1993 – 2000 he was working as an industrial and architectural photographer in Germany. He gained experience in high profile companies such as Krupp Stahl, and numerous major construction corporations. View Stephan's clients

In 1996, with the discussion about brown coal and strip mining in Stephan’s home state at a peak, he engaged in a photographic comparison of areas and people affected by this destructive mining technique comparing the impact in parts of his industrialized home country with the impact on indigenous people on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. It turned out that both cultures are equally affected and threatened by the destruction of the landscape and the social networks that had been grown over centuries.  Both areas experienced relocation, sometimes harsher and more violent, sometimes, somewhat cushioned by the social net that was offered by the authorities.

In 2000 he decided not to continue in the Corporate World. It had become hollow and not genuine and he did not want to be a part of it.  It was time to live what he was saying and make a life change.  At that point, the Green Dragon Organic Farm became his focus.  It was his expression of living what he was emphasizing - the logical consequence of his activist life.

Stephan did not do any photography projects for seven years.  In 2007, he obtained a digital camera and this launched the next chapter in his photography career.  He began with the human aspect of the work and culture of those living around him – the fisherman, the sugar wood farmer and many others; thereby, capturing the essence of his chosen home in Nova Scotia.

Being involved in the farming community and understanding what it means to farm from a human aspect, he saw an ongoing decline in small scale farming and his peer group.  A project unfolded on the people who are producing the food, tending the animals that later are shipped away and slaughtered. Who are the people who are price takers on both sides, caught in the middle between costs and what they will be paid for their produce?  The project of local farmers, “The Vanishing Breed” was born. He looked at Edward Sheriff Curtis’ work and the name of the project came to him. He received two grants from “Arts Nova Scotia” to fund this project.  Stephan realized that he had to use analog middle format, black and white film to capture the 42 photos of the project with this “vanishing” technique.

In 2008 he went to Thailand to document “the 3rd Gross National Happiness” conference.  There was a strong emphasis on youth (one-third of the participants). 

In 2012 he had his first trip to Cuba with one camera and one lens.  Those photos became a book, La dignidad diaria (which translates to “the daily dignity”).

Stephan’s current project is an inventory of Cuban monuments.  While in photo school he witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall. This triggered his understanding of how the destruction of symbols is a way of people believing that the daily struggle is over. 

During his first visit to Cuba in 2012 Stephan caught interest in socialist street art and, with his experiences from 20 years prior during the collapse of the European East Block, the idea developed to document this street art before it might be destroyed in destructive system changes that may or may not occur as it became obvious that the Cuban society was in the process of change towards a more open market and western societal model. He felt the possibility that this development might erupt at some point into violence that then may lead to the destruction of the expressions of a repressive government.

Stephan decided to realize this project with his large format camera on 4x5 inch black and white film.  In the winter of 2015-16, he travelled the western provinces of Cuba with his camera gear and used the same public transportation that the Cubans depend upon to reach towns and villages off the beaten tourist path to find monuments which were embedded in the daily lives of the local population.  He stayed with the local guys, made friends with them, shared their meals and lifestyle and developed a feel for what it means to live for generations under the embargos, the ration system, and the mismanagement of a stagnant administration.  He felt the same noise, the same chaos, the same inconvenience when trying to get a taxi, to experience the mindset that is shaped by all the obstacles of the daily life.  At the same time, he witnessed the change of society as it slowly opens to the capitalist world and the impact of the free market.  Trying to keep the people satisfied while their world opens up to the inequalities of the capitalist world. He continued his work, this time in the furthest Eastern provinces of the island in the winter of 2016-17 with the same photographic methods that proved appropriate during the previous winter.  The work continues.