Malte Sänger

Pictures from the Other End of Memory

Private photographs and recordings have long been preserved as physical objects in albums, slide boxes, binders and folders. These recollections are passed down for the next generation to commemorate family members. If there are no heirs, the documents often end up at flea markets or are even thrown away. In either case, this means that private moments become visible to outsiders. In contrast, it is impossible to tell what is on a discarded hard disk simply by looking at it. The computer era heralded the end of traditional image and data media by making the display of text and images easy and convenient to handle. Private memory no longer needs to exist physically, even if a computer file seems cold and insubstantial compared to a box of photographs.

In his series "partition", Malte Sänger deals with the aspect of visibility versus invisibility of data stored on hard disks. To this end, he bought hard disks that had been discarded or rendered unusable and made them readable again in an elaborate process – a case of indiscreetly reviving data that was originally intended to be deleted. The user behavior that came to light in the recovered files enabled him to draw conclusions about the computers' previous owners – through diary entries, medical records, online orders and holiday photos as well as lawyer's letters and, again and again, pornographic material. Sänger pieces together the theme that interests him most from each storage medium to create an analytical inventory. He juxtaposes a photograph of the hard disk with a text he has handwritten on notepaper. On these sheets, Sänger provides information about the manufacturer's name and the serial number of the hard disk as well as the date of its recovery; he then describes what he considers to be the "essence" of each hard disk – sometimes in keywords, sometimes in more detail – and in doing so, gives back that element of humanity to the data medium that cannot be discerned simply by looking at it.

Sänger's series "shifting baselines" comprises photographs that he has taken at various locations around the world, which he combines without comment. He used an analog, medium-format camera to capture the motifs he considered suitable for his purpose, placing the resulting images side by side, often much later on. The series reveals the subtle connections – often only recognizable with the benefit of hindsight – between images that at first glance have little in common. As in "partition", Sänger imperceptibly ventures into the depths of human memory, but in this case he does not delve into the technical "memory" of hard disks, but into his own pictorial memory, this time examining his photographs for their meaning.

Biographical information


born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany


Studies at HfG Offenbach (University of Art and Design), Germany, diplomas in Photography, Philosophy and Aesthetics


awarded the HfG Fotoförderpreis of Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

lives in Offenbach am Main