His battered brown shoulder bag has seen the world. So has the lens of his 1990-vintage Hasselblad camera. Since Michel von Boch (43) became interested in photography, he has used the bag to carry round his eight kilograms of equipment – and both the bag and the medium format camera it contains have been his constant companions for a good twenty years.
They accompanied him to Cuba – a journey that led to two exhibitions and the publication of a book of photographs, “Kubas Hände”. India has also modelled for the camera. Or rather, the local people have. They are the subjects that fascinate Michel von Boch the most – real, everyday life on the streets. “With my camera, I can see the details that many people fail to notice with the naked eye,” he says. “And when I want to quickly and spontaneously capture a moment in motion, I’ll happily pick up my Leica.” Staged shots, digital image processing, artificial light – all of these are anathema to the photographer.
On a photo tour in Paris, the city where he lived for eight years and where he first met his wife, Michel von Boch gets up before dawn in order to capture the victory of day over night at Montmartre. A couple in love on the steps of Sacre Coeur cuddle up to each other as the colours change from grey to blue – and Michel von Boch captures them for posterity. With a fixed focal length, a steady hand, and an eye for the extraordinary.When he isn’t busy with his black-and-white photography, the husband and father of three is devoted to his family, his estate in the Saarland with its forested and farming areas, and the family company that bears the name of his forefathers: Villeroy & Boch. As a member of the shareholder’s committee, Michel von Boch permanently monitors developments at the world-famous lifestyle company. As a photographer, he is the latest in a long line of talents to emerge from the Villeroy and Boch families.
As early as the end of the 19th century, René von Boch was taking photographs on his trips to North Africa. Monika von Boch was the company photographer for Villeroy & Boch in the 1960s, but also made her name in the area of experimental photography – and Constance Villeroy de Galhau used to be a fashion photographer in Paris. Nowadays, she is a freelance artist with her own gallery in Rennes.
“The talent and passion for capturing brief moments that might be hidden at first sight clearly lies in the genetic make-up of both families,” comments Luitwin Gisbert von Boch, former CEO of Villeroy & Boch and now an honorary member of the Supervisory Board.
Indeed, Michel von Boch’s photographs, which are discreet and never voyeuristic, often only have an impact on the second glance. The viewer gradually notices the details as they emerge. It takes time to fully engage with Michel von Boch’s photography.
“When it comes to selecting a good photograph, I am my own harshest critic,” says the Lübeck-born von Boch, who now lives in Mettlach. Only a very few photos make it past his critical eye when he looks at negatives on the proof sheet or the screen. “I see the camera as my tool. The more accomplished I am at using it, the deeper I can enter into the world of the material I am working with at any given time.” One thing is for sure: Michel von Boch knows his craft.
Now you can accompany Michel von Boch on a photo tour of the French capital. The video shows the feeling and technique the 43-year-old puts into his work and how his photographs are framed. As he puts it: “The act of photography alone is not enough. A good print of one of my photographs on baryta paper must be protected and correctly presented.” He can wait as long as a month and a half for a hand-made frame of rare wood, sometimes with delicate gilding on the inside.