Felix Kleymann
Improving Reality

For years, Qatar has drawn attention from the international press. The Arab Emirate on the Persian Gulf has been accused of buying the decision concerning the location of the 2022 Football World Cup and supporting terrorist organisations. Threats of sanctions from the Gulf Cooperation Council only encourage the country in its drive to become independent of imports, particularly those from Saudi Arabia, as quickly as possible. The Qatar National Vision 2030 programme should break the country’s reliance on its income from gas and oil. Qatar, the richest country in the world as measured by gross domestic product, is investing in health care and education as well as in European companies and venerable football clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain. Photographer Felix Kleymann travelled through the emirate, which measures just 11,000 square kilometres, has 300,000 native inhabitants and two million foreign workers. He shows us a world caught between tradition and the present.

  • Architecture
  • Artificiality
  • Bizarre
  • Surface
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a defining moment in your career as a visual journalist?

Of course, it’s not easy to pick out and describe one single moment from my eight years of working as a freelance photographer. When I think about it, I come up with a lot of situations that were decisive for me. For example, my work in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, which I did for my diploma, and my trip with refugees going from Iraq to Germany – mainly because of the crisis in Syria – produced many special, exciting, happy memories. It’s usually the stories I can tell about my project on the porn industry in the USA that are the most amusing. All the same, I would choose the moment when I had the possibility of taking a rubber dinghy from Turkey to Lesbos in Greece. For me, that journey was really exciting and frightening. It was essential to my work for me to have an authentic understanding of escape. For the media, it was the big hook. The entire project is often reduced to that trip, though it was never my intention to serve that sort of headline journalism.

2. The defining moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

The idea behind the project “Improving Reality” came to me when the working conditions at the building sites for the World Cup stadiums in Qatar were getting a lot of media attention. In my preparations, I soon noticed just how multifaceted, fascinating and controversial the World Cup in Qatar is as a topic. When it came to the working conditions, it was clear that my view of the subject would be more multifaceted. My project doesn’t just point fingers at abuse and injustice. More than that, it invites viewers to examine the matter in question. I can’t presume to address the extent of any FIFA decision concerning any World Cup venue. As a photojournalist, I’m motivated by the interest in researching, exploring and taking a position.
It was fascinating to explore Qatar with all its idiosyncrasies. What role does football play in Qatar? How will FIFA’s decisions change the country? How can a country catapult itself to become one of the world’s richest lands in just 60 short years? Other events, such as the embargo imposed against Qatar by several Gulf countries in the summer of 2017, piqued my curiosity so much that in winter 2017, I organised my first trip. The Qatar project is also thematically related to my project in Rio de Janeiro, which focused on that city’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup championship.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

That’s an interesting question. Fundamentally, I believe the future of visual journalism can flourish with projects that are produced independently of media houses or other entities. Where photographers become authors, or vice versa, and tell their own stories. I think it’s important for anyone working as a photographer to find, or develop, a personal connection to their work and give their topics the necessary attention that they deserve. It’s important to have time to lose yourself in these projects and gain more comprehensive insight into any subject that interests you. In my opinion, viewers stand to gain so much more from projects like that than they do from projects that are created under time pressure and may possibly serve only to support the argumentation presented in a text. In the future, I would like these types of projects to be accorded more value by both print-based and digital media. I would also like to see the pictures that appear in the media landscape to be more diverse than what we have at the moment.


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Felix Kleymann answers to your questions: Until june 19 you have the chance to get first hand information on his work Improving Reality. You can find out how this works in the video.


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Found in Research

Open Table mit Felix Kleymann

Curated by Anne Werner

© for all photos by the photographers
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*1984 in Recklinghausen, Germany
Felix Kleymann studied Photo Design at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts. He photographs his topics worldwide. In photos, he accompanies the entire journey of a Syrian group of refugees making their way from Turkey to Germany; he documents the preparations for the Football World Cup in Brazil and then Qatar, and investigates the porn industry in the USA.


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