ABURY meets photographer and activist Ralf Schmerberg

Posted on 07 December 2016

© Lennart Brede 


An activist is someone who finds purpose in action. Not carelessly or haphazardly but favouring firsthand experience – and the lessons to be learned from it – over futile arguments. This attitude requires decisiveness and a readiness to take risks. For rarely can one foresee where experience may lead. Both, the willingness to embrace the new and the ability to make clean-cut decisions, define Ralf Schmerberg’s personality – making failures and unexpected turns inevitable.

Ralf Schmerberg is a multi-talented, intense observer – as photographer, film maker, artist and activist, he created amazing advertising campaigns for Nike, Lufthansa, Levi’s and many others, he created highly awarded art movies like poem or initiated social and environmental projects like HOLY WOOD or Dropping Knowledge.

Currently Ralf Schmerberg works on his long-term project INDARELLA. A total of 216 days of shooting spread over numerous trips over several years. To create a poetic and cinematic journey through India: a portrait of the subcontinent with its multiple facets, a frenzy of images.

Ralf Schmerberg, start by tagging yourself with three words.

Woow, Om, Ah

We believe that “hands tell stories“. What do your hands tell about you?

My hands are very alive. They talk a lot. They are a bit to big.

As a busy photographer / movie director you are working a lot with your hands – but what is the last thing you created with your hands that was not a photograph or movie?

A Bamboo Hut.

If you could choose, what would you like to be able to do with your hands?



Talking about India. For the last years you are working on a movie 
project in India. How did your fascination with India start?

When I was young I met Krishnamurti and Osho they opened me for India.

What was your initialising moment?

30 Years later on a journey through Rajasthan I found a sparkling silver shoe in the trash. That made me create INDARELLA.

What is your goal with the project?

INDARELLA is beyond a goal. It is just happening. I am a pregnant artist, there is no goal to achieve. It's just all about Love and Courage.

You really dive into the culture for your projects. You shared holy moments with traditional people and your camera. How do you create the trust between you and them that is so important to receive these touching and inspiring images?

I would say it is all about being open and innocent when you enter into other peoples life. Hello gets you in. Thank you and goodbye gets you out.


Diving into other cultures often also creates funny or embarrassing 
moments of misunderstandings - what is very normal for one is really not normal for the other. What was your most memorable misunderstanding in India?

Taking a nap on a huge stone outside an Indian village. When I woke up 50 smiling villagers laughed at me and later explained me that this is their cremation place and that i sleep where they burn their dead people. I felt a bit ashamed.

What makes India special for you?

The air, the light, every day is full of surprises. India is full of unexpected moments. India is full of chaos you can't control anything. Nothing feels German. It's very different.


Talking about the other senses - how would you describe the “Tastes of 
India” and what is your favourite?

The taste of India feels endless. I like to eat Dal what is a simple dish that you get anytime, anywhere. Each time it is a new surprise of flavour. With that comes a real god Chai with spices.

“One of a Mind” underlines our strong belief in equality and the value of sharing. As a director and photographer you are also an ambassador for social change. How does intercultural exchange benefit our global society in your eyes?

It does. When you travel and exchange with people you start to like them, you become friends. That is the foundation for peace.


© All photos via Ralf Schmerberg

Author: Andrea Bury 

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