Chaos in snapshots of bright city life: An interview with photographer Stephanie Jung

New York City. Image: Stephanie Jung.

Stephanie Jung’s hazy and experimental cityscapes keep the viewer as a static observer in the commotion of the city, conveying the intrusive bright lights and disorienting chaos of New York, Tokyo and Paris, among many others, giving a strong sense of the isolation that city life can bring.

Jung uses multiple exposure photography to generate her images. Based in Berlin, she has been travelling the world as a freelance photographer for the past five years, on what she describes on her website as a mission to capture to “vibrant and hectic” mood of a city, as she states.

CityMetric asked her some questions via email. 

How many cities have you photographed? 

Quite a few, I think around 12-15. Not all of them were big cities, I also like photographing small towns or villages. 

Berlin.

Which have been your favourites to take photos of? 

Not a city, but definitely a country: Japan. I cannot say there's a city I enjoyed the most. Osaka, Nara, Kyoto and Tokyo, they are all absolutely beautiful and there's so much to discover! 

How do you choose which aspects of the cities to capture

It is mostly about everyday scenes from a city. I take the images during walks, while enjoying the atmosphere of a certain place. I do not plan to take images based on a special motive; it happens very spontaneously. I walk around and see scenery or a moment that I really like and then take a picture of it. 

Are there any interesting stories associated with specific pictures? 

Well, for the image ‘Oderbruch’, I went to this region, situated in eastern Germany, after flooding hit the area, together with a photographer friend of mine. The atmosphere was incredible. It was absolutely silent and there was a kind of apocalyptic mood. I fell in love with this tree, it seemed like it had been branded by the incident. 

For the image ‘Nikko’ in Japan, my friend and I were looking for a famous bridge in [the town of] Nikko, but somehow got lost. That’s how I discovered this beautiful view of the mountains. The weather was kind of dramatic, which is why the atmosphere is dark. 

Nikko.

How do you achieve such an ethereal quality?

The biggest part is the motif itself. I walk around a lot to find the perfect motif, but mostly it's very spontaneous. 

Then, of course, post processing is another step, but it requires less time than taking the photograph. People always think it's the other way round. I have a foible for colours and atmospheric light, so that part is very important to me. Every image conveys a special mood through its colours. 


What do you think your methods can reflect about the cities that might be lost using single exposure photography? 

I’m trying to visualise time and transience, which everyone is confronted with, but can’t be seen with our eyes. My work captures of moments from life. Often, photography is about capturing those special moments, so that you can always remember them when looking at the picture. But I want to show more of this moment, show that it’s fading.

In my images there is a central moment in focus, but at the same time it seems to fade, which is what happens in real life.  Another point is the business of big cities, this really fascinates me. Through this technique I’d like to heighten that feeling in the viewer.

What reaction do you tend to get to your pictures from the inhabitants of cities that you photograph? 

Interestingly, there have only been a few reactions from inhabitants of the cities I visited, but when it was the case, people were surprised how I saw their city. 

This one's called “Maigo Deso IV”, the fourth in a series called “I'm lost” in Japanese. 

I got some positive reactions from Japanese people, as they think my pictures show the different aspects of their country, such as the hustle and bustle in cities like Tokyo, but also the [comparative] calm in quieter places. 

Which of your images do you believe is the best, and why? 

My favorite image is ‘Another view of Paris’, but more because of personal reasons. My mentor and good friend, the photographer Sabine Wenzel, loved the image – a print of it was hanging on her wall. Unfortunately, she passed away shortly after that, so this image always reminds me of her. 

All images courtesy of Stephanie Jung.

 
 
 
 

The best way to make housing more affordable? Raise interest rates

Lol, no. Image: Getty.

Speaking to the Conservative Party conference in September 2017, the UK prime minister, Theresa May, gave a stark assessment of the UK housing market which made for depressing listening for many young people: “For many the chance of getting onto the housing ladder has become a distant dream”, she said.

Now a new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) provides further, clear evidence of this. The study finds that home ownership among 25 to 34-year-olds has declined sharply over the past 20 years. Home ownership rates have declined from 43 per cent at age 27 for someone born in the late 1970s, to just 25 per cent for someone aged 27 who was born in the late 1980s.

The most significant decline has been for middle-income young people, whose rate of home ownership has fallen from 65 per cent in 1995-6 to 27 per cent now – most significantly hitting aspirant buyers in London and the South-East.

Causes and consequences

The IFS study lays the blame for all this on the growing gap between house prices and incomes. Adjusting for inflation, house prices have risen 150 per cent in the 20 years to 2015-16, while real incomes for 25 to 34-year-olds have grown by 22 per cent (and almost all of that growth happened before the 2008 crash).

A bleak picture. Image: Institute for Fiscal Studies.

But, as the report acknowledges, the problem goes much deeper than this. Home ownership rates differ by region. Although there has been a decline in home ownership rates for young people across all areas of Great Britain, the decline is less significant in the North East and Cumbria as well as in Scotland and the South West. The biggest decline in ownership has been in the South-East, the North-West (excluding Cumbria) and London.

So a person aged 25 to 34 is more than twice as likely to own their own home in Cumbria, as their counterpart in London. Worse, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to own their own homes – even after controlling for differences in education and earnings. Home ownership continues to reflect a deeper inequality of opportunity in our society.


More houses needed

Part of the problem is that both Labour and Conservative governments have seen housing as a single, stand-alone market and have focused their attention on what is happening to prices in London. But housing is a number of different markets, which have regional variations and different interactions between the owner-occupier, private rented and social rented sectors.

Regional variations in house prices for similar sized properties reflect the imbalances of the economy: it is heavily reliant on financial services, which are concentrated in London, while the public sector makes up a significant share of many local economies – particularly in the North. Migration from across the UK to overcrowded and expensive areas – such as London and the South-East – have put property prices in those areas even further out of reach for would-be buyers.

To make matters worse, both Labour and Conservative governments have routinely failed to build enough houses. While the current government’s aim to build 300,000 new properties a year by 2020 is welcome, it is simply not enough to meet the backlog in demand – let alone address the fundamental affordability problem.

Where homes are being built, they’re often the wrong types of homes, in the wrong places. Family homes are being built, despite there being some 4m under-occupied such properties across the country.

Not that long ago, government was reducing the housing stock in many parts of the North, through the disastrous Housing Market Renewal programme. Houses are currently being sold in smaller cities such as Liverpool and Stoke-on-Trent for just £1. And none of the government’s actions suggest that ministers understand these issues, or are prepared to address them.

House price inflation – and the awful affect it is having on home ownership rates for young people – is part of a wider problem of the global asset bubble. This bubble has seen huge increases in the price of assets – stocks, housing, bonds – in high income countries such as the UK. Successive governments have helped to fuel this through quantitative easing, ultra-cheap money and successive raids on pension funds.

The ConversationWhat’s needed to address this asset bubble is a substantive increase in interest rates. But while this may slow the growth in house prices, the sad truth is it will do nothing to make housing more affordable for most young people.

Chris O'Leary, Deputy Director, Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and Senior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.