My series “Real Indications” is a long-term project that I started over 15 years ago. The entire series features people, landscapes and urban spaces, but the main focus is on portraiture. They are portraits of friends and strangers alike. As the title “Real Indications” communicates, these photographs are not about the truth of the people I photograph; rather, they’re about the truth of the resulting image.

In this project, the protagonists are like actors; I am experimenting with the concept of portraiture and what it can convey. As a result, some of these images are absurd, mysterious or haunting. No technical trickery was involved—just a strange juxtaposition of objects, space, light and people. These details created a charged atmosphere that makes the viewer wonder, “How can something so mundane-looking exude such a feeling of uncanniness?”

My subjects in this series cannot be classified—they are intentionally undefined. As a result, nothing is straightforward, and the observer loses his or her sense of security. These portraits attain their uniqueness through the unexpected juxtapositions within the frame—I would describe these moments as questions within the image.

It is only by filtering out the atmosphere of a specific environment that I can position the characters so precisely. This arrangement is very important for the subliminal perception of my imagery. Only by intermingling the characters that define this picture can I evoke the duplicate reality that exists within the image.

—Heiko Tiemann

Editors’ Note: Heiko Tiemann was a finalist in the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2015. The 4th annual LensCulture Portrait Awards are now open for entries! Enter now for a chance to get your work in front of editors from Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, National Geographic and the rest of the world-class jury. There are also a host of other great awards. You can find out more about the competition on its Call for Entries.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like one of these previous features: A Different Look, Caitlin Sas’ project on the beauty of albinism; Lingering Ghosts, Sam Ivin’s conceptual series on refugees waiting for asylum in the UK; and Genderqueer, striking portraits of San Francisco’s gender nonconforming community.