Roaming through life with soup on the mind

Deutsche Version

Malolo Kessler

“substanz” goes international – including with its choice of artist for the picture series in the latest issue: Marco Kamber grew up in the Rhine Valley and has been living in Amsterdam for the past four years. In this interview, the freelance photographer explains why he took photos of soup (of all things), what role a taxi driver played in the project, and why he finds Amsterdam’s international nature both liberating and oppressive.

Marco Kamber, die aktuelle «substanz»-Ausgabe dreht sich um Internationalität. Wie sind Sie auf die Idee gekommen, Suppen zu fotografieren?

Marco Kamber: Internationalität ist ein grosses Thema. Und es ist kein einfaches Thema, denn die Globalisierung hat nicht nur Sonnenseiten, sondern auch Schattenseiten. Im Kern geht es bei der Globalisierung aber stets um die Bewegung von Wissen und Kultur, letzteres hat mich dann zur Küche und zum Essen geführt. Und die Suppe ist die Basis der Küche. Sie ist einfach, erschwinglich für jede Person, es werden Reste verwertet, mir gefällt diese Idee hinter der Suppe. Zudem hat jede Kultur ihre eigene Suppe – und Suppen widerspiegeln auch die Geschichte.

Marco Kamber, the current issue of “substance” is all about internationality. How did you come up with the idea of taking pictures of soup?

Marco Kamber: Internationality is a big thing. And it’s not an easy topic, as there are both good sides and bad sides to globalisation. But at its most basic level, globalisation is always about the movement of knowledge and culture. It was the latter that led me to cover the subjects of food and eating. After all, soup is a staple of every cuisine. It’s simple, and affordable for everyone. And it makes use of leftovers, which I like the idea of. What’s more, all cultures have their own soups, which reflect their histories.

In what way do soups reflect history?
Kamber: One example is gazpacho. Until the 18th century, it was made without tomatoes and peppers. It wasn’t until Columbus brought these ingredients from America to Europe that they started to be used in gazpacho.

You didn’t take any pictures of gazpacho, but there are some photos of soups from Russia, Morocco and the UK. How did you choose your subjects?

Kamber: I deliberately let myself be guided by coincidence and encounters while working on the picture series. I had soup on my mind all the time. For instance, I asked a Moroccan taxi driver in Amsterdam what his favourite soup was. He drove me to his favourite restaurant, where I tried the soup and took pictures of it. Another picture came about when I met someone from Belarus who made me a soup from their country.

Did you do any cooking yourself?

Kamber: Yes. During this project, I also tried out some recipes myself that I came across. Most of them were really nice. But I don’t have a favourite soup. It depends on the time of year. 

Your photos have a very real-life, familiar feel to them. What was important to you when working on this project?

Kamber: The photographs are meant to portray that I roamed through life with soup on my mind. I deliberately kept them casual. 
At the start, you said that every culture has its own soup. Which one would you say Switzerland is most famous for?
Basel flour soup, maybe? It’s hard to think of a “poorer” soup. This makes it all the more impressive that it’s still an integral part of Swiss cuisine. We shouldn’t forget asparagus cream soup either, which can be found anywhere that there’s Maggi or Aromat seasoning on the table. A real taste of home.

You grew up in the Rhine Valley and have been living in Amsterdam for the past four years. How do you find the city’s cosmopolitan nature?

Kamber: Amsterdam feels like an international hub to me. On the one hand, this is certainly due to the fact that many international companies are based there. But Holland is also a former colonial state that had a slave trade, so many members of its society have ancestors from Indonesia, for example, going back several generations. Internationality is therefore also influenced by history. In any case, it’s very normal to be a foreigner here or to have foreign roots. As a foreigner myself, I find that very liberating. That’s one side of it.

And the other?

Kamber: The city’s cosmopolitan nature can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. In comparison to Eastern Switzerland or Swiss cities in general – except Zurich perhaps – it doesn’t have that compact, local feel to it. I miss that.

Marco Kamber

Marco Kamber, born 1987, grew up in Rheineck. In his youth, he was heavily involved in the Rorschach cultural scene, especially the Mariaberg cultural centre. He studied art at the Zurich University of the Arts and photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. He currently lives in Amsterdam, where he works as a freelance artist, journalist and copywriter.


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