Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man 

 

2016-2018

 

"Past, Present, Future" (2017)

 

This series tells the life of Fritz Dressler (1937-2020), a landscape and architectural photographer who suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years. He also was formerly Professor of Photography and »Moving Images« at the University of the Arts in Bremen. We met on the occasion of a photofestival that took place in the artist village of Worpswede in Northern Germany, where Fritz resided for more than 40 years. He was known for his influential and creative personality that - despite his dementia - had left him a charming and deeply expressive character when I got to know him in 2016. Fritz became my headstrong longterm-documentary’s subject. When he was no longer able to call his illness by its name, he sometimes resignedly acknowledged, »Actually, I don’t know anything anymore.« But his self-awareness – as someone who sees himself as an artist and thus preserves his presence – was still alive until his death: »I am not dead, I’m still walking!« 

 

In my work I am completely committed to the emotional reality of my charismatic protagonist: his intensity, vulnerability and resilience define the portraits of his soul.

 

 

 

During the two years I photographed Fritz, he found immense pleasure and pride in falling back on taking pictures himself

— it had a meaning-giving quality for him then. 

 

Fritz never had intellectual inside into my actions and motifs, but he was always my emotional counterpart.

 

Walking With Fritz, 2017

 

 

 

 

Adding Fritz’s longing color images of his immediate surroundings, clouds, and above all the landscape he deeply loved

- taken when walking with me or his partner - transforms 

Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man 

into some kind of collaborative narrative which it has been in so many ways. 

 

©Fritz Dressler (2016-2018)

 

Voices from Jurors of Photolucida’s TOP 50 Critical Mass 2020, US: 

 

"Stunning series obviously seen through a patient and empathetic eye. Each image feels important to the series, I wouldn’t change a single thing in your submission - rare!" 

 

"I have seen several series of work by artists focusing on the issue of Alzheimer's and dementia—yours is the most compelling body of work to date. I think the focus of making an extended empathetic and full portrait of one person, and really engaging with them as a fellow peer as opposed to a photographer to a subject, makes this body of work singular. [...]" 
 
"Hello Mirja - This is a poignant and beautiful series, it is obvious you have invested yourself in this person's story and have spent the time with him needed to produce strong work. [...]" Laura Moya, Director Photolucida

 

"Great project Mirja, and great sequencing and storytelling. Best of luck!" Madeline Yale Preston

 

"Hello Mirja,

I appreciate the respect and tenderness with which you approached your subject and topic. [...] You and other photographers are humanizing a health reality. [...]"

J. Sybylla Smith

 

 

 

Selected Awards:

 

2021 Honorable Mention (series documentary/reportage), 16th Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers, US

2020 Critical Mass Top 50, US mirja-maria-thiel 

2020 Shortlist Wellcome Photography Prize (Wellcome Trust), UK

2020 Bronze (single, Portrait) Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris 

2019 Bronze (Editorial/Essay) Moskow International Photo Awards, Russia

2019 "Remarkable Artwork" International Photo Awards Siena SIPA, Italy

2019 Nominee Felix Schoeller Photo Award (Best Work by an Emerging Photographer), Germany

2018 Silver (Portfolio) Tokyo International Foto Awards, TIFA, Japan

2018 Finalist VGH-Fotopreis, Hannover, Germany