Jens Liebchen, a young photographer from Germany, has already published several small, clever photobooks that are beautifully designed visual musings, often paired with thought-provoking philosophical texts.

In this one, DL07 stereotypes of war, a photographic investigation, he has constructed a series of black-and-white photos of a city under seige – menacing helicopters buzzing abandoned buildings, furtive figures scrambling down deserted streets, smoke-filled skylines, blood-stained walls and sidewalks, too-young children armed with machine guns… Yet he took all of these photos in a city (Tirana, Albania) while it was at peace.

By co-opting the cliched genre of war photography and presenting a sequence of photos in a deliberate manner, the “reportage” easily carries the burden of reference that 150 years of war photography has etched into our collective consiousness.

Ian Jeffrey, author of photographic history and professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London, writes in his introductory essay:

“There is ... more involved here than the analysis of a genre. Liebchen’s is, in actuality, deconstructive work, for not only does he present the elements in the practice of “war photography” but at the same time he gives an account, by implication, of their developments. War photography is a dangerous business, which stands to reason, and in the age of the heroic modernists it was expected that the war photographer should face dangers squarely: Robert Capa and Eric Borchert are two who paid with their lives for the sake of this unmediated coverage. Post-modernists, on the other hand, don’t take that heroic standpoint, mainly because the wars they report form no part of a larger cause. Mostly, these wars have local dimensions incomprehensible to an outsider, and might be carried out by devoted patriots, but equally by robbers and deluded children… The photgraphic reporter is of necessity in these conditions a transient, principally a nervous traveller in unreliable streets.”

With these thoughts in mind, then, the reader goes back to look carefully at each picture, with some kind of personal delight, to deconstruct each, and to analyse how the sequence of presentation helps to build a strong fiction. Even in this age of enlightened media distrust, we realize how easily it is to be tricked by “accepting” images at face value (even without captions or explanatory text which could further distort the truth).

This is a beautiful little hardbound book, published in an edition of 750 copies by J.J.Heckenhauer.
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Jens Liebchen discussed this book with Jim Casper in an interview conducted via email:

JC: Do you think the best vehicles for communicating your ideas are
books? If so, why? Have you also shown this work in other ways?

Jens Liebchen: Indeed I do think that books are a very good media to communicate ideas, concepts, stories in photography, and personally I love photography books. A good photography book is compact and complex at the same time. When I was working on DL07 from the beginning on I wanted to present it as a book.

Publishing a work as a book offers additional layers to put in information, by means of graphic design corresponding to the subject, by presenting the photographs in a special order and of course by using different sizes of reproduction. In this respect a book could work in a way like a movie. DL07 starts with the most obvious and direct image, a soldier with a gun on top of a stairway, but having seen that image makes it possible to understand the second image with the little helicopter: You are already intrigued.

I presented this work as well in exhibitions in form of framed prints: Pretty small prints of 30x40 cm and a classical presentation makes most people react as looking at a “real” reportage whereas the larger version of 115x150 cm prints strengthens particular images.

In any case the title “DL07” is very important – there is something no one can understand, something that is strange and in this respect it makes you sensitive and astonished.

When did you start making books? How many have you made?

In fact DL07 has been my first book and it has been a wonderful coincidence that I got to know Roger Sonnewald (J.J.Heckenhauer) in those days who made it possible to publish it. The great thing really has been, that there were no regulations concerning this book – and I do think that in the end this is a great part of its success. I got more and more interested in publications and editions and I have done quite a lot, since than. Beyond others, in 2004 I published an edition with entitled “The Flag”: A big box, wrapped in red silk, with a collection of 7 reproductions of Polaroids I did some years ago… Finally in 2005 I published my latest work “Playing Fields”, designed by Winfried Heininger in form of a magazine with images from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Armenia. Published again by Edition Heckenhauer it brings in exemplary images the hidden traces in those places where geopolitics is at work in search of power and oil.

How did you choose to collaborate with Ian Jeffrey?

Again a nice coincidence: In fact we got to know each other in Tirana where I participated in a show that was partly curated by him. After I had started to work on that series and the general concept was fixed I sent him some images and he liked the idea from the beginning.

From my personal point of view I consider texts as very important for photography books in general, at least when the book is conceptual. Concerning DL07 and Ian Jeffrey we had a wonderful exchange and I am very happy to have this text printed in the book.

Were you surprised at how easy (or perhaps how difficult) it was to
make the photos for this book?

Even if it looks very simple to take these images in the end it seemed to be pretty difficult. Actually the first pictures I took during the time when the general idea for this project came up just happened – and that of course was just fun. But when I returned to Albania for a longer trip and I was in fact searching for special images – that evolved to be very difficult.