With his black-and-white portraits of children and teenagers in Germany and Russia, Ingar Krauss reveals quietly intense moments of transformation and the emotional turmoil just below the surface of life’s thresholds. His young subjects seem to have knowledge and wisdom beyond their years. Despite the mask-like appearance each tries to project, their eyes, faces and postures reveal confusion, frustration, melancholy. They are serious, remote, sad, defiant. They have already seen too much, and the innocence lost is painfully etched into each of these images.

Krauss started his photography in the mid-1990s, focusing first on neglected buildings (never published), and then on his daughter and her friends as they grew up in Berlin and in the countryside near the border of Poland. Encouraged by the successful responses to this first work, he traveled to places in the former Soviet Union, and made portraits of children the same ages, but living in state-run orphanages, juvenile prisons and camps. Many of these kids are not criminals but these “childhood institutions” are the only places society can find for them. The intensity of these images is haunting and complex.

Krauss prints his black-and-white portraits on old photographic paper produced in Eastern Europe, which gives his pictures even more of a melancholy tone. In 2004 the artist received the Leica Prize of the Grand Prix International de Photographie in Vevey.

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