Three questions for Markus Luigs about Düsseldorfer Perlen 2


“I don’t shed any tears over steel or concrete”

In 2017, Düsseldorfer Perlen, the first volume of Markus Luigs’ collection of photographs, caused a minor sensation by selling out within three months. Luigs’ photographs portray Düsseldorf from an unusual perspective, one that is urban, raw and unfiltered. His work is reminiscent of the song ‘Wann strahlst du?’ by Carsten Meyer and Jaques Palminger, which includes the line: “I love those who can marvel – at a flower on a scrap heap.” But it was quite by chance, while visiting Höherweg on business, that Luigs discovered the first places he photographed. These days, he is out and about as much as possible, exploring Düsseldorf’s lesser known areas. He refers to his forays as ‘walks’, the results of which he has published in his second volume of Düsseldorfer Perlen. You can read all about this project in our ‘three questions’ interview.

Portrait of Markus Luigs.
Designer, publisher and photographer Markus Luigs

You must be out and about quite a bit, especially in places that not many people choose to visit. How does that work? Do you plan special trips or do you just leave it to chance?
Höherweg was the first street that I happened to discover and I became fascinated with the area. It was pure chance, because I had some business there. For me, Höherweg had a somewhat dubious reputation and so it was exciting to be there. I saw some unusual places in the area that were far removed from the usual clichés about Düsseldorf. They inspired me to spend time there, two or three hours a day at one point, cycling or walking and taking it all in. I wanted − and still want – to discover places myself and really get to know them. Sometimes I really do think that I’m the first person to have taken photographs in a particular spot. Which is also the reason why I don’t want to take tips from anyone, because it wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t have that special connection that I get from happening across something.

Düsseldorfer Perlen book of photographs open on a double spread showing the Wehrhahn suburban railway station.

How did you come up with the name for your book of photographs, which translates as Pearls of Düsseldorf?
I was originally going to call it something like Field Notes from Düsseldorf. I wanted a title that was slightly tongue in cheek. Düsseldorfer Perlen is a nod to the song Düsseldorf, du schöne Perle am Rhein (Düsseldorf, you beautiful pearl on the Rhine), but also to the city’s reputation as Little Paris. The name of the book is a bit of a provocation, because the photos appear to show the opposite of pearls. Some people get cross about the title or feel offended. But these places are my pearls, I don’t expect everyone to like them.

Front of a shuttered building, with a flaking, pink pillar on the left and two potted palms in the middle.

You’re like a chronicler, portraying the changing face of the city. Some of the buildings, kiosks and other places from the first volume no longer exist, but according to the foreword to the second volume of Düsseldorfer Perlen, you merely capture these changes. That sounds very clinical. Is that how you feel?
Am I a chronicler? I have no idea. Much of what’s in the book can’t be located but I still want to document places and how they change. I reckon that certain architecture has its time. Take the Tausendfüßler (millipede) for example, the elevated road that used to run through Düsseldorf’s city centre. And I find it exciting when a gap arises in the cityscape, because it means that something new is coming. On the other hand, it really was the end of an era for me when Caffé Enuma, run by Mario Santoro Comune, finally closed its doors. I used to go there every day. You can’t replace Mario, but you can replace a building.

Markus Luigs is a designer and photographer. He has been taking photos for Visit Düsseldorf for many years, and often works with us for our interviews, for example the one with tattoo artist Till Pulpanek. In addition to Düsseldorfer Perlen, he has also published Werkschau, a book of photographs from the Vallourec industrial plants in Düsseldorf and Mülheim an der Ruhr, and, together with journalist Alexandra Wehrmann, Oberbilk. Hinterm Bahnhof – which is now out of print.

Interview: Cynthia Blasberg
Photos: Markus Luigs
Portrait of Markus Luigs: Andreas Endermann

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