German artist Angelika Rinnhofer grew up surrounded by the visual opulence of Catholic churches in Bavaria. She spent church services in fearful awe, absorbing the images of tortured saints and martyrs that lined the walls. It was an unforgettable experience that she now draws upon as an artist. Trained as a photographer in Germany, Rinnhofer started posing people in bygone costumes, in postures, lighting, and composition inspired by the Old Masters. Not tied to the visual language of just one painter or one period in time, the photographs nevertheless are heavily inspired especially by Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio, by Mannerism and the Renaissance.
Rinnhofer developed her photographic style while working on the portrait series Menschenkunde. The images for her first series are not portraits in a classical sense. They reveal little about the personality or status of the sitter. There is no narrative. The group images in her series Felsenfest reconnect her to the religious content of church paintings. This intense project examines the lives and tortured deaths of Catholic martyrs. In the style of allegorical church paintings, the martyrs are not depicted in the gore of their torturous moments, but in stylized recreations of those events. With her third series Seelensucht, Rinnhofer returns to the sole figure. If the Felsenfest series captures the final act of the human drama, then the Seelensucht series sums up the epilogue. The martyrs seem resurrected, physically healed, and at peace with their fate.
Rinnhofer’s images of martyrs tell the stories of people who stood up for their religion, and against all odds did not recant their beliefs. While all of her photographs are based on actual martyr stories, Rinnhofer withholds the identity of the martyrs to make the images less about specific stories and more about humanity. Cast deep in the past, these stories still bear significance for us today.
Director, Light Work