Tribes of Our Generation: Jan C. Schlegel

27 February - 30 April 2023

Echo Fine Arts is proud to present Tribes of Our Generation, an online  exhibition of photographs by Munich-based artist Jan C. Schlegel (b. 1965, Germany). Spanning over two decades, it is articulated around two of Schlegel’s portrait series: “Tribes of Our Generation” (2015 - ongoing) and “Essence” (2012 - ongoing). Artist, adventurer, and humanist, Schlegel has traveled the world since 1998 to capture the diverse identities of our contemporary world. Whether it be indigenous African tribe members or figureheads and “it” girls of Western subcultures, his photographs capture the spirit and primordial essence of their subject.

Beyond tattoos, body ornaments, scarification and elaborate hairstyles, there is a common intrinsic humanity that exudes from his images. This parallel, hence, raises various questions of identity and integration. What elements affiliate us to a specific tribe? How do we choose to present ourselves? Do these various cultures gather us together or separate us?

Press release

For “Essence”, Schlegel aimed to convey the beauty, dignity, pride, and hope of a people who both live and cherish native traditions and cultures. These include tribes from Kenya (Turkana and Rendille, Pokotand Massai), Ethopia (Mursi, Suri, Ebore, Hamar, Kara), Namibia (Himba), as well as Egypt and Lybia (Beduine), Algeria (Taureg), Afghanistan (Hazar and Nuristani), and Pakistan (Kalash and Pashtun). Using a handmade wooden Ebony (SV45 Ti) 4×5 field camera, a gray canvas backdrop, and Portable flash system outfitted with a 90cm softbox, Schlegel captures details, textures, scars, imperfections; and via an abiding intimacy and intensity, the intrinsic humanity that he seeks.

“Tribes of Our Generation” is a series featuring underground YouTube or Instagram influencers from Northern continents. While strangers to those who are not a part of that specific subcul­ture, they act as role models to their large online community. Suggesting an alternative to a normalized society, they recognize themselves through common subjects of interests such as body modification, tattoos, piercings, fashion and music. These people might initially appear as unusual, strange or even scary to the ones outside of their group; however, Schlegel’s pictures strip these artifacts to restitute the core essence of these individuals.

Geographically and culturally distant, all of these characters are contemporaries. Whether voluntarily self-marginalized or as a result of a vanishing way of life, they can be considered as minorities within their dominant societies. The indigenous cultural markers of the first ones have been reappropriated by the latter to serve a similar purpose. Read in conjunction, these two series echo and reverberate a peaceful act of resistance to the effects of modern cultural globalization. 

Beyond these inherent topics, Jan Schlegel’s talent resides in his ability to capture individuals in their most vulnerable state: their humanity. When facing his portraits, clothing and ornamentation are quickly overshadowed by what transpires through the model’s body positions and gaze. It truly is their soul which is pushed on the forefront. For this purpose, and in addition to his ability to connect with his models, Schlegel makes use of his exceptional technical mastery. One of the best printers in Europe, he uses his art as an efficient tool to highlight his purpose. Drawing a perfect parallel with his topic, he has further developed a traditional silver gelatin printing technique to craft a new method which is uniquely his. Excluding any form of digital manipulation or editing, he enriches the darker tones of some chosen areas of the photograph. This selective toning hence creates visual emphasis on specific elements of the image such as the eyes. Proud, fragile, confused, assertive, each gaze channels the inner humanity of the model. To quote Lars Elton: “It’s all about their eyes”


A selection of photographs from this exhibition will be exhibited during Photo London (May 11th- 14th), booth G21.