Book Reviews

, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017

Two Mothers is Fred Hüning's book following One Circle, where the German author further explores the theme of his family saga. Three chapters introduced by three important and all-encompassing words such as faith, love and hope dedicated to three fundamental persons for the life and biography of the author. The mother. One is the loneliest number you'll do, as an excerpt from One, a very famous 1968 piece by Harry Nilsson, mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. Melancholy, decadence, affection. A sweet and indolent sadness. The past, the love that has been and the memories of a lifetime. The daily and repeated gestures between the kitchen, the cemetery and the garden. The wife. Being a mother and a wife. A difficult and refined personal balance. The love that lasts, the passion that changes, the approaches, the distance, the belonging, the understanding. Fears, desires and hopes. The daily relationship and what is extraordinary in the ordinary. The Son. A new beginning. Life at the age of 10. The purity of the look, the unarmed innocence and the joy of discovery. The mystery and the wonder. A dialogue between the photos of the father and the drawings of the son.

Two Mothers by Fred Hüning is an intergenerational portrait of a family, an intimate and at the same time universal reflection about affections, about the importance of feelings, about the sense of belonging to places and people. This precious book also throws the seeds for the next chapter that we will wait with curiosity and interest, Three Sons.

Gianpaolo Arena



Gianpaolo Arena: Could you tell us something more about how your project “Two Mothers” started?
Fred Hüning: It all started with ›one circle‹, my first book trilogy about a still born child, the love between a man and a woman, the fears, hopes and wishes during a second pregnancy, the birth and the first six years of my son Rocco. 
›one circle‹ was published 2013 by Peperoni Books (second edition: 2015). 2013 I began to photograph my mother, who has been living alone since my father’s long-ago death. She has three sons and three grandchildren and a full social-life, but I wanted to show the essence of her daily life, her everyday activities in her kitchen, her garden and at the cemetery, her loneliness, her living in memories of the past. At this time I began to read and love the “My Struggle” - novels of Norwegian writer Karl-Ove Knausgard and I decided to create a correspondent work in the form of the photo book. So the idea was born of a second trilogy named “two mothers” and in future times even a third trilogy with the working title “three sons”.

The first part of “two mothers” is the story about my mother. It's called “faith”. The quote at the beginning reads “One is the loneliest number who will ever do.”

Part two is called “love” and addresses the ongoing efforts in a long term relationship of a couple with a child. Cooking, washing, taking care of the child, decorating the apartment, taking care of your own wellbeing, go swimming and sex. These are 7 activities and daily routines of a couple in a long-time relationship with a child. To show this in a book, I invented this kind of experimental story-telling: On the first 7 double pages of the books you see one picture of each of the 7 activities, than followed by 7 double pages with 2 pictures of every 7 theme, the next 7 double pages than have 4 pictures und the last 7 double pages have 12 or 16 pictures. 4 x 7 makes 4 weeks or 28 days. The quote at the beginning reads “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

The last part is called “hope” and shows a summer's day in the life and the fantasy of a 10 years old boy – my son Rocco. He discovers the world, develops a personality, transports his ideas into the images that I made of him and creates drawings of scary monsters that are shown paired with the photos.

© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017
© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017

GA: How did your collaborative process with your son Rocco start? Why you decided to present his drawings in the book?
FH: The collaborative process with my son started – so to say - from his first breath (a photograph from “one circle”). Together with my wife both became my models – with a 24/7-permission to shoot. In the first six years of his life (the time you see in “one circle”) he was just “himself”, easy to photograph. Then school started and my son suddenly don´t wanted to be photographed – for about 2 years. Instead he began to draw with the computer mouse over my photographs on screen – just to annoy me. The drawings looked good and so I gave him more photographs of mine to draw over. After all I send some to a German Family magazine. The magazine paid us 1.300 Euros for three double pages. That impressed my son a lot and from this on we worked close together on the “hope” - part. Many ideas for the portraits in “hope” came from him. As an example: He was holding a banana in his raised hand and a newspaper under the other arm and declared: “Look Dad, I am the Statue of Liberty! Would you like to take a picture? ”. At this time he was drawing every day – no more on the computer, but on paper. There was a lot of very minimalist work, drawn in a minute. Sometimes it looks like the works from Artist David Shrigley. So I decided to combine my photography (mostly based on his visual ideas) with his minimalistic drawings – in a photo book.
When I first told my publisher Hannes Wanderer about this plan, he was skeptically. But when he saw the drawings, he agreed immediately. It will maybe a risk to show drawings in a photo book, but I wanted this to give the reader a total impression of the fantasy world of a ten year old boy.

© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017
© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017

GA: “Two Mothers” is the 'new chapter' of your family story, the sequel of “One Circle”. “Three Sons” will be the complement of the trilogy. How the project will evolve in the next few years?
FH: “One Circle“ is a trilogy with the parts “one“, “two“ and “three“. And now “Two Mothers“ is a trilogy again with the parts “faith“, “love“ and “hope“. In a few years the last trilogy “three sons“ shall complete the family saga with the parts “winter“,“fall“ and “spring“. My vision is than to create a hard box with all 3 trilogies in it – under the name “9 songs“.

The “winter” part is almost done. It is a story about my father who committed suicide in 1994. I was 28 then. The relationship to my father was very frozen from the times of my puberty on. We had nothing to say to each other. In this part the reader will see only clouds – from blue skies at the beginning until total darkness at the end. I will combine the photographs of clouds with short self-written poems. Here are two examples – one from the beginning, one from the end:

_remember you were three years old
and a man was walking on the moon
your father was a magician
makes you lay eggs on a spoon

remember you were twenty-eight
your dad was dead_

“fall” will be the third part of the love story with my wife – after “two” and “love”.
It will be about the end of a big love story, a separation. This must not happen in reality - because my work is not one to one about my life and not about reality – it´s a piece of art. This part is completely unfinished. At the moment here exist no pictures. My plan is to go with my wife on a journey to Italy – to see what is left of our love and to photograph her respectively us. My inspiration for this journey is the Roberto Rossellini movie “Viaggio in Italia”. The German title reads “Love is stronger”. I really love this movie and the idea behind. I am sure: On this journey the pictures will come by themselves.

“spring” will be a story of my sons puberty, of his changing body, of the changing relationship to his mother and his father. I hope that my son will give me the permission to photograph this story in a few years.
Otherwise there will be no third trilogy at all.

© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017
© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017

GA: Please tell us a few anecdotes happened while shooting or in some particular pictures ...
FH: The picture with my son and wife “laying” naked in a lake, dreaming:

This was the end of a hot summers day at a lake. We three were swimming and bathing the whole day. I had my camera (CONTAX G2 – always) with me, but had seen no picture during the whole day. Suddenly the light was changing. The blue hour (my favourite time to shoot) was coming. My son was swimming near my wife and now there was an opportunity for some good pictures. I took my camera and went to them through the water, took a photograph and than: The film was full and all 36 pictures were shot. This was a disaster in a moment like this. I got out of the water, dried myself in a hurry, ran to the bungalow 200 meters away, got a new film and ran back to the lake. Though both had promised to wait for me in the water, when I came back, they were standing already on the lakeshore with their clothes on. So the chance was over. But at the happy end: The one and only photograph I shot was nearly perfect.

© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017
© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017
© Fred Hüning, Two Mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017

GA: What has been your 3 favorite photo-books of last year?
FH: Sorry for selecting only classics – just books i really need:

"Pictures from Home" by Larry Sultan, MACK
"Sentimental Journey 1971-2017" by Nobuyoshi Araki, HeHe
"Waffenruhe" by Michael Schmidt, Walther König

Fred Hüning (1966 Born in Kellinghusen / Northern Germany)
Grants, Awards
2017 nominated for Brandenburgischer Kunstpreis 2017, Brandenburg
2017 Finalist, FC BARCELONA Photo Award, Barcelona
2017 nominated for Hellerau Portrait Award 2017, Dresden
2016 2nd Prize: John-Heartfield-Collage-Competition, Berlin
2016 Grant for fine arts – Ministry of economics, science and culture Brandenburg
2015 nominated for jury prize Foto-Reflexionen 05, Rendsburg
2011 Grant for fine arts – Ministry of economics, science and culture Brandenburg
2010 Nominated for GRAND PRIX at Fotofestiwal Lodz
2009 First Prize – Competition A creative look at Berlin after the wall
2007 Art Award for Photography – Lotto GmbH Land Brandenburg
2006 Grant for photography – Kunstamt Schöneberg, Berlin

Kommunale Galerie Berlin

two mothers, Peperoni Books, 2017
private rooms, Peperoni Books, 2015
one circle, Peperoni Books, 2013 (2nd edition: 2015)
drei // three, Peperoni Books, 2011
zwei // two, Peperoni Books, 2011
einer // one, Peperoni Books, 2010

Peperoni Books
Number of pages:
216 pages
17 x 24 cm

Curated by Gianpaolo Arena