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Conquering Mountains – A Fiction about Childhood and Imagination

»I know that man's ideas are realities«

(J. W. Goethe)

When we are children, we can see the most unique worlds in mundane, sometimes hideous things.

In the game, the pond becomes an unknown sea, as Richard Jefferies described in »Bevis, the story of a boy«, or the rubble pile of a demolition site evolves into a high mountain range.

The last one is my story. What if, as an adult, take one step back, and think about you as a kid. What if these rubble heaps were mountains, high mountains? Think of the stories of adventurers and explorers you read as a child. What if you reactivate the child in yourself and take this imaginary trip to the mountains and climb?

Equipped with these thoughts, the journey started. The camera's eye no longer shows the rubble; it presents the mountains, ascents and peaks. Combined with found imagery of climbers and alpinists, the story evolves. The pairs of images form a fictional adventure. It is a time travel back to childhood, its readings and stories, and the rediscovery of imagination. To quote German author Michael Ende: »Mehr Fantasie wagen« (»Dare more fantasy«).

Artistically it is an extension of the work with archival material. It is also a play and investigation with and about scale, size and decontextualisation.

The project was awarded the 2nd prize at the BBA Photography Prize 2023 in November 2023 and was shortlisted for the Urbanautica Institute Awards 2022.


Image pairs

The Stereo Viewer

The Map

The Concertina Book


The Stereo Viewer

Viewer, the base and the stereo maps are part of the work »Conquering Mountains«. Therefore, historical photographs from different mountain regions are combined with new photographs of the fantasy mountains in my neighbourhood. The historical stereo cards show the original titles, longitude and latitude indicate the location of the new photographs.

You view the stereo maps with an Aerotopo pocket stereoscope manufactured by Zeiss for decades. The handy device can be used to view paper images and slides in the 6 x 13 cm format.

Stereo cards have been produced in various sizes throughout history. For this installation, the historical originals were reproduced and re-produced uniformly in the 6 x 13 cm format. The "new mountains" were photographed with a stereo camera from the 1950s.

Everything is framed by a handmade base made of Valchromat, a wooden material. The colour and surface are reminiscent of stone and thus reflect the central element of the project.

The Concertina-book

The concertina accompanies the viewer; the folding picks up on the mountain-valley idea, and the pairs of pictures are aimed at the viewer's ability to associate. At the same time, the focus moves from the large to the small. Alpine artefacts are juxtaposed with close-ups of (small) stones. The way the picture is taken leaves the viewer in the dark about its actual size - the pebble becomes a peak...

©Marcel Rauschkolb – Concertina book as part of the project »Conquering Mountains«

The Map

Finally, the map brings something like a resolution into play: the threads lead from the story's starting point, the rubble hills in my neighbourhood, to the locations of the historical shots, such as the Three Peaks, the Ortler, or the Matterhorn. The Turkish Map Fold simulates an abstract landscape; the bookbinder's twine is reminiscent of the rope needed for mountain climbing.