Students of Bonn
Photography in Dormitories
An A2 poster of a young male figure with a primary school-style backpack in one hand, and bundle of spring onions on the other, is glued to a board in the entrance of a dormitory in Bonn. Usually independent contemporary visual art projects are rare in Bonn. The Poster incited the MEP I reporter to uncover the story behind the poster.
Students of Bonn is a photography project that takes place in shared flats and student houses of Bonn. The project is for the sake of Art and intercultural communication. The reporter of Media Practice compiled an interview with the photographer behind the project, Ahmed Yacoub.
MEP: Mr. Ahmed Yacoub, tell us about the Students of Bonn project?
Ahmed Yacoub: The project is all about making photos of students in their own rooms. The photos should show how do students live behind their closed doors, what do they do in their free time in the room. The project is of an artistic nature and intercultural communication promoter. I wanted to know how does a student settle down in the room after a long day of study and work.
MEP: How did you come up with the idea of the poster?
Ahmed Yacoub: Once, on the way home after attending a lecture at the university, I remembered that I should get my food-stock of the week. I went to the store with my bag full of handouts and the stationery I normally use during the lectures. After taking a book out, I managed to make space in the bag for all the food I had bought, except the spring onions. So, I decided to just hold it in my hand. I went out of Rewe and waited for the bus that goes towards the dormitory, where I live. The passengers were confused, because of my inconsistent chaotic look and the strong smell of the onions. Then I thought about making a photo of myself with the same outfit and looking, as a cover photo for the project. All in all, the poster is supposed to convey the idea of the chaos in the life of a working student.
MEP: Why Bonn?
Ahmed Yacoub: Bonn is a very international city. Think about United Nations and its university, the German academic exchange service DAAD, the DHL, and last but not least, the Deutsche Welle Broadcaster. These international entities brought about a diverse groups of students and made the student residences culturally diverse, in turn. However, the city is still plain, in my opinion. There are places enough for contemporary art but no activities. Therefore, I thought about this project, to take advantage of Bonn privileges.
MEP: Tell us about the impact of the project on you personally?
Ahmed Yacoub: The impact on me is the following fact: I have not only known, but also seen the differences between us all, in the general sense of the word. And I realized that the differences are the artificial tools that help us in our lives. If we all were a bit more similar than we already are, life would not have been functioning. It might sounds exaggeration, but this is the real impression I have gotten. Every student is interested in different things. Everyone uses various methods or hobbies to reconcile the conflicts within the life. These differences create mutual needs and mutual tools of fulfillment, and so, life goes on. Moreover, I managed to know a lot about different stuff. For instance, I photographed a female student who has big obsession with turtles. At that day I knew many facts about them. For example, turtles often get bacterial eye infections.
MEP: what about the workflow of the project? and how do you get participants?
Ahmed Yacoub: Here comes the difficulty of the project. It is really hard to convince some of the students to take part and grant me access to their private zone of life. But some other students are surprisingly open and proactive. Some of them contacted me on facebook asking to participate. I also managed to get more participants through connections and friends’ circles. But the most efficient way is to randomly knock the doors and ask the students directly. I remember, one day, I went to a dorm in northwest of Bonn. I took a photo of a Yuan He. An agricultural science student who lives in Tanenbusch. Afterwards, he offered me to pass by other roommates, knocking doors and asking them to participate. At the end of thatday, I went back home with three more rooms photographed.
MEP: What about the next step? do you have any further plans?
Ahmed Yacoub: The next step is to organize an exhibition to show the photos to whoever is interested. And to get all the participants in touch with each other in one place. There will be a little documentary, showing the ‘behind the scenes’ of the project. On the long-term, I have some other ideas of street art projects. My goal is to contribute to Bonn’s art map.