Behind the Scenes

March 3, 2021

Loneliness and Liminal Space

Most recently I wrote an article about morbid charm. And what fascinates me so much about it. There is another similar aspect that evokes strong emotions. It's loneliness. We humans are social beings and yet feel a strong attraction in empty places, in solitude. This has nothing to do with depression and certainly nothing to do with Corona. I'll try to explain the concept of the liminal space.

The concept

Liminal Space aesthetics consist of an empty space that carry a ghostly and unsettling vibe. It does not have to be frightening like in a thriller. It can simply be a certain place that you see on an early Sunday morning without any people. A scene where something feels off, e.g. due to the absence of people.

The effect of feeling unsettled can increase if the image has a spatial perspective, e.g. a long hallway. This might refer to a long and empty hallway in a dream where you try to run away but you can't move. We all had these kind of nightmares.

But basically, it is a space that you only know full of live and now experience it in a condition that makes you feel alone.

Being alone in this world

While it is very easy to understand the scary part of a liminal space, it can be pure beauty as well. Imagine being in a museum, alone, at night. Does this ring a bell? It was an idea for a hollywood movie.

We've all imagined being locked in a department store at night. Will dogs be let out there? That was always said in my childhood. Who knows, otherwise I might have hidden somewhere shortly before the store closed.

The loneliness of being alone in the world, this feeling has fascinated me since the children's book Palle alone in the world. It's a deep imprint from my childhood. Such feeling alone scenes actually are a very common theme in children's books. So maybe we can commonly re-vive those moments when looking at liminal spaces in our adult age.

Inbetween

But the liminal space is also always a place of transition. It bears witness to the past and represents the transition into the future. This topic is often addressed in films, e.g. in science fiction. And the reduction inspires me, too. It has always played a big role for me because it allows us to understand things better and to focus on just one thing.

If you look at paintings of Edward Hopper you will see that he uses the liminal space in his works as well. Besides the way he works with light, the emptiness in his paintings really stands out.

I would like to show you some examples that I've photographed over the past few years.

Liminal spaces are a great starting point for finding inspiration on themes for photo shoots.

An old fair with rides that are no longer in operation would be a great setting for a shoot.

I took this photograph at the famous Viennese Prater, but of course this place is a bit too crowded for taking nude shoots there.

Vienna

A mirrored window, a lonely bicycle and the Porto promenade. Despite the loneliness, there is always something to discover for the eye.

From the boat at the horizon to the green man on the traffic light. The rocks in the foreground that look like a fireplace. And is there somebody lying on the red bench in the background?

This is the fascination about such images. They are empty, yet full.

Porto

The entrance area to a residential building in Prague. Decorated and lavishly tiled in the Art Nouveau style.

Homely, as if you've been here once. And yet somehow strange. It's not really common to decorate entrance spaces like this these days, is it?

Vienna
Frankfurt

What looks like a lost place is just a factory on a Sunday. Abrasives are made here and one of the ovens can be seen on the left.

The factory was huge and even when the managing director showed me everything, it felt to me as if noone was working here anymore. Probably the spookiest of my liminal space images. And one where I could not imagine to shoot nudes.

Liminal spaces can be a good starting point for a subject of an entire shoot. The perceived loneliness is contrasted by a girl in the picture. You might have seen this for example in photo sets with a girl in an old greenhouse. Such locations, such liminal spaces make a great concept, but it also has to be approached very carefully so that you don't immerse yourself too much in the creepy and the eroticism can remain in the foreground of the story.

 

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Simon Bolz, Frankfurt
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