Gratitude and wonder: co-hosting the scent dinner of dreams

In this month’s longer blog, Lisa Witter and I reflect on our co-creation and co-hosting of our first bespoke scent dinner: “The Ethereal Feast”. If our offering resonates with you, please get in touch.

In a world where we spend increasing amounts of time on our computers and cell phones, we often find ourselves feeling alone together, despite being constantly connected. In an age increasingly dominated by machines and AI, we are reminded that what makes us human is our consciousness, self-awareness, creativity, empathy, and ability to experience and express emotion. A scent dinner is a sensual and communal experience that satisfies a craving many of us have but often overlook. It allows us to sit in awe of the human experience.

Our scent dinner “The Ethereal Feast” is a unique and immersive experience that offers a journey through food, conversation, and introspection. It involves a carefully curated menu that engages all the senses, including taste, smell, sight, touch, and sound. The rhythm of the courses, surprises, and conversations unfold organically throughout the scent dinner experience

Lisa writes:

Ines is a unique and valuable asset to society – an artist who intuitively captures emotions and translates them into art, enabling us to experience these feelings firsthand. Our collaboration on this scent dinner led to a successful co-creation that resonated with a diverse global community.

Participants immersed themselves and savored what mattered to them – they reflected deeply and committed to savoring more in their lives, activating gratitude from within. Gratitude, a powerful tool, helps us to focus on what we are blessed with, rather than on what we lack. Scientific evidence shows that gratitude triggers physiological changes in our bodies activating the parasympathetic nervous system, aiding rest and digestion. This bodily response means that gratitude can lower blood pressure and heart rate and promote overall relaxation. And who doesn’t need that these days?

Ines’ artistry and our collaboration have not only created a unique scent dinner experience but contributed to the well-being of every participant. Her work, and our collaboration, are a testament to the power of art and gratitude in shaping our human experience and promoting health and relaxation. Now, we aim to expand this experience around the world.

I love bringing people together, to me life is like a grand mosaic. The vibrant tiles of the small moments come together to form a bigger, more striking design. It’s all about observing the various facets of experience as they interact with each other. Our scent dinners are a culmination of flavors, wonders, laughter, curious glances, touches, and the deliberate savoring of every moment.

Lisa and Ines write:

The participants of our scent dinner were deeply moved. It opened up their senses and created new connections within themselves and with their dinner partners. Their testimonials highlight how our scent dinners offer a dining experience that transcends the ordinary, engaging people on multiple sensory levels and fostering deep connections between them.

Ramona Liberoff recalls the magic of an evening that turned strangers into lifelong friends.

Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir recounts surrendering to the sensory journey we co-curated, which created a blend of awe-inspiring tastes, sounds, and shared laughter, all suspended within a singular physical space and moment in time.

Tracy Gray, a practicing Buddhist, emphasizes the rarity of being fully present and describes our scent dinner as a unique opportunity to reach this state – in a fun way.

Cassie Robinson speaks to the heightened feelings and sensations that the dinner encourages, enjoying the mystery and connection it fosters.

Sana Kapadia reflects on the dinner as a sensual and surreal event that engages all the senses and emphasizes the art of savoring.

April Rinne sees the dinner as not just an exploration of the senses, but also a metaphorical journey that continues to inspire her through a menu-turned-artwork at home.

Geraldine Chin Moody describes the scent dinner as a unique immersion in nature and humanity that brought home the importance of self-care, community, and environmental stewardship

We love how these accounts collectively capture our intentions for the scent dinner. This immersive experience is not only about the food but is also about the deeper exploration of presence, connection, and the human experience, curated lovingly to leave a lasting impact on all of its participants.

Image credits:
B&W: Jana Pahlke
Color: Ines Lechleitner

Pregnancy portraiture: coming full circle

There are endless facets of wonder to pregnancy and yet, physically and visually, it’s a constant challenge. Carrying your child inside you, cohabitating in the most intimate way, feeling its character while still invisible to everyone else… 

There is a whole market for pregnancy portraits, belly casts, and so on, but I have never been drawn to it myself.

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Honestly, I have never really photographed my own – or any other – pregnancy before. But, recently I encountered a moment in my life where it was conceptually impossible not to do so. To go back to the beginning: Claudia de la Torre is a dear friend and I have always loved working with her. We met when she was a student at the Karlsruhe Art Academy and connected instantly through our shared passion for artist books, and she founded her own publishing house, backbonebooks, in 2011. A Mexican artist based between Berlin and New Mexico, Claudia has made an impressive career as an artist, publisher, and creator of artist book workshops worldwide.

And through 2015 and 2016, I was lucky enough to have her by my side as my collaborator, model, friend, publisher – and babysitter!

plaster-cast-women-art-black-and-white-photography-female-photographer-female-friendship Together, we would make a body cast in the living room, then she would go read a book to my son and daughter. We would shoot slides on the balcony, then cook a meal together. Claudia has been part of my family ever since. To bring this story full circle, in 2016, we collaborated on the artist edition book of ‘Das Rheinrauschen’, which we launched during my solo show in Basel, including a sample of the river perfume I had created as a roll-on scent. Then in 2019, Claudia showed my work in Tokyo and published my artist book, Zitronen-Wal-Seife. And, now, in 2023, this amazing woman – whose belly I had cast in my living room years ago – is carrying her own child and becoming a mother.

art photography, black and white photography, female photography, still life, lemon, food photography  When Claudia told me she was expecting, I instinctively knew that to witness her pregnancy via portraiture was absolutely essential, and wonderful. What is special for me about these portraits, on an aesthetic level, is that the shape of the belly is being created by her own hands. It’s the hands that actively define the space of her pregnant belly, rather than the belly just showing itself.

pregnancy-portrait-pregnant-woman-friendship-celebration-black-and-white-photography-beautiful-woman And so, obviously, I want my pregnancy portraits to serve as beautiful memories of this very particular time for Claudia and her dearest ones.

But I also see these portraits as an invitation to others to shape their own image during important moments of their lives – moments that so often slip away from us in our everyday lives.

And I am happy to listen, support, and assist in this very process.

 

Empowering portraiture: a magical Berlin retreat

empowering portraits, female photographer, Berlin portraits, Berlin retreat, creative exchange, empowered women Among many other wonderful accolades, Lisa Witter is a magical networker – a network creator and nurturer who brings brilliant people together for good. In her day job, Lisa is the co-founder of the Apolitical Foundation, a community devoted to making our governments work better for 21st century citizens. ‘Off duty’, she loves to host one-of-a-kind gatherings. So, when she asked me on board as an empowering portrait photographer for a retreat, at her beautiful country house near Berlin, it was an automatic yes!

We gathered, walked, cooked, shared, and listened – and, of course, we had a lot of fun together. Some of us already knew each other very well, some didn’t.

And we all shared, openly and candidly, exactly where we are at professionally, in order to best support one another and to share our individual expertise with the group.

empowering portraits, female photographer, Berlin portraits, Berlin retreat, creative exchange, empowered women Each and every one of the women gathered at Lisa’s retreat were very special and we developed immediate bonds. We discovered and unravelled so many crossovers between us and stories to tell. It felt like pure magic. And it felt like the beginning of new, shared stories and adventures – which is, so far, precisely what has been happening to me ever since! But more on that when it’s time…

Over the course of our two days together, I took empowering portraits of seven of the women on Lisa’s retreat. Using our beautiful, rural location as our studio just happened naturally.

I wanted to try and capture some of the changes in the air and to contribute to the participants’ upcoming personal developments, such as starting work in new positions.

And the whole process was one of fluid exchange. With one of the women, we had been sharing our insecurities about our singing voices with each other, then, once I put my camera down, we began a healing voice session. Together, we were able to free something, to break down a blockage. I really do believe that one thing always leads to another.

The empowering portraits I captured over these wonderful days at Lisa’s retreat show something really special. In them I see beautiful, vulnerable, super strong women who do amazing work for us – as a society and on this planet.

Each one excels in her own field of expertise and power. Our retreat is over but, already, I look forward to taking their portraits in the future in my Berlin studio.

 

Family portraiture: a unique aunt-niece collaboration

My niece is very smart – she is sociable, she is sweet, and she is kind. At the moment, she’s reaching the end of her time at high school and, to my delight, has developed (pun intended) an interest in photography on the side of her studies. So, when she asked me to teach her about analogue and portrait photography, it was easy to say yes.

Having my niece see my studio in Berlin and work here with me was important for both of us, so I invited her to join me with a friend. And in the studio, I simply followed their needs: the perfect combination of input and exchange.

First, with our analogue cameras in our hands, I realised that although my niece and her friend had received some photography instruction and explanations before, it so happened that no one had ever taken the time to really explain to them the relation between speed and aperture. This relationship is a vital one in portraiture photography – in all photography, really – since it dictates the depth of field, i.e.  the distance between the nearest and furthest element in a scene that appears sharp enough in the image. Both young women are really smart, excellent students, but until then they had never dared to ask and ask again until they had truly grasped the concept. So that’s exactly what I made a safe space for them to do.

To put their newly gained portraiture photography knowledge into practice, I leant them my analogue middle format camera and we all took turns posing and photographing. I’ve put my most favourite of the images we created collaboratively here in this blog. And when they both held the light meter next to my camera and discussed the set-up so confidently, I could see that they had deeply understood my answers to their questions.

Then, to finish, I had them both smell individual scent notes and write down their associations – as well as choose colours to accompany them. It turned out that my niece is very connected to smells and their memories and emotions, something I would never have known were it not for our gorgeous studio session.

My niece and her friend left with a new perspective on photography and scent, and the memory of a happy, creative day together in the studio of an artist… who happens to be her aunt! And I left with a deep confirmation of how much I love to create workshops and art with and for people, according to their individual needs. Our time together opened my heart to workshops in a whole new way and reminded me that I deeply love sharing my studio for someone else’s creative needs.

Personal Branding Photography: Twins and Colleagues

When someone sits for me, it’s an encounter based on trust. They share their vulnerabilities and insecurities with me and trust me to look at them afresh – giving them space to truly show themselves in spite of it all. 

In my personal branding photography practice now, I have started to ask everyone who sits for me to give me three aspects or elements that they would like their portrait to convey.

These become my guidelines – then, from there, we dive into the exchange. 

art photography, empowering photography, portraits of women, personal branding photographyIn one of my favourite empowering photography commissions, I was working around the themes of collaboration and pairs. My task was to photograph two curators and writers who have a long history of collaborating over many years. It was super interesting to work with them, both individually and as a team. 

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One of the women actually used to be my gallerist, then she became a friend. The other woman is a twin – and it so happened that her sister was in town at the same time as her portrait photography booking with me and also needed a professional headshot for her new business in Ireland. This led to a very intense day of three individual and two duo sessions… we had a lot of fun!

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However, the most fun thing about this commission for me was seeing a completely different face to each person. They all needed a totally different approach and way of being handled. With Hannah (who I have known the longest) I had to be very tough, in order to get her to focus on the task at hand! And her portrait is a jewel for me. She shines.

art photography, empowering photography, portraits of women, personal branding photography

 

 

With Lena, she had a fixed photo pose that called for a very soft and slow approach from me, guiding her to alter her self-presentation and find alternative ways of showing herself. From there, the team sessions were easy! It was wonderful – and fun! – to share this new space and method of working with people who I had, at that point, only interacted with through my art practice or as a friend. 

In truth, this new crossover made me a little nervous as I had to play a completely different role than the ones I was used to.

art photography, empowering photography, portraits of women, personal branding photographyPlus, knowing that they expected not only a portrait but a work of art from me definitely sent the stakes higher! But, ultimately, I love how each one of the women shines in her own image.

And I love how a totally new presence and power appears once they appear alongside the other half of their partnership, whether work or family. What emerges from my lens makes me glad to facilitate personal branding photography – finding new and fun ways to help people communicate their inner selves to the outside world.

 

New paths, new practices: winter reflections

So much of life is in the timing. Often it can be less about the what and more about the when (and the where and the why). This is what I’ve been reflecting on lately as an artist and practitionerSo when people ask me ‘How’s it going with your art?’, my truest answer seems to be ‘I don’t know!’ 

The big question I’m asking myself is: art or photography?
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Where should I focus? How should I position myself? What should the function of my work be? My heart has decided that I want to be more in the world of applied photography for now – this is clear. 

But in some ways this being in between is a struggle. My head isn’t always sure. ‘How can I do this now?’ and ‘Can I really carve out the time?’, I ask myself. I can struggle to sleep, and I don’t have enough space and self care as my foundation.

empowering photography, monochrome photography, art photography, Berlin photographer, nature photography And when this happens, I can feel a lack of balance – where I’m not centred – and it’s a physical sensation. So, there’s some imbalance, and I’m not sure what it is, but I am sure that I have to give myself some space to find it. What I do know is that I am being called.

I love to create usable, personal branding photography: of course, I love art photography, but not all the portraits I capture need to be artistic. This utility isn’t a judgement and it doesn’t mean that the subject isn’t magic. It just means that not everything has to be complicated!

As a photographer, my special gift is that I can do – and feel genuinely excited about – a wide range of things… from still lifes of fruit, to documenting weddings, and portraits of women.

I specialise in feeling and capturing. I love creating coherency of vision across an event or project or organisation: I am that one set of eyes capturing everything. And it’s fun! 

In fact, for me, my cooking practice centres on the same joy as making art, which is in turn the same joy as portraiture. At the end of the day, I believe it’s all about caring and nurturing and positioning.

empowering photography, monochrome photography, art photography, Berlin photographer, nature photography So, for now, I feel this internal shift unspooling: perhaps I am, at this moment, becoming more of a photographer than an artist. But how do I embrace this without feeling like I’ve given up on something? This is my ongoing question to myself.

However, what I do know is that nothing is ever closed. It’s all about timing.

 

Personal Branding Photography: The Woman Who Visited Twice

‘Chopped my hair… I need new headshots!’ This was what Lisa – Apolitical’s CEO and co-founder, and a dear friend of mine – messaged to say last month. The very next day we had our personal branding photography session in my studio and our old magic sparked again. In fact, Lisa had already been to see me for portraits earlier this year, back in April.

But that’s not where our photography story started.

Back in 2017, she had been one of the very first people to tell me she absolutely needed me to take a portrait of her. So, five years on, it was wonderful to share the space and capture images that really represented her. Her personality, her identity, her power…

personal branding photography, portraits of women, empowering photography

And those first set of images worked brilliantly! Lisa turned up with an armful of dresses, the most amazing energy, and we had a lot of fun. One hour and five outfits later, she left. Happy with the portraits, Lisa started using them right away. 

But so much in life is temporary: things change and changing perceptions mean we need to adjust and adapt. In fact, I like these transitions that we go through and I believe that portraits are the witness of that.

So, just a few months down the line, it was already time for Lisa to come back to me for a new set of images – ones that represented her in the here and the now.

personal branding photography, portraits of women, empowering photographyThat second personal branding photography session, somehow, felt even more natural and relaxed than the first. Plus, it took even less time as we both knew what she was looking for and what she needed. And the follow-up work was different too: Lisa asked for some light retouching. ‘I don’t mind ageing, but…’ she told me. 

As a personal branding photographer, I do my retouching in such a way that softens the light in the portrait, but doesn’t take away the natural signs of ageing.

Instead I treat the process like painting watercolour under a magnifying glass.

A gentle touch, like make-up or a good night’s sleep, but nothing more. After all, empowering photography lets the real person shine. 

 

Listening as a practice: Asocial Telepathic Ensemble launch

This week I had the pleasure of giving an artist’s talk at the The Asocial Telepathic Ensemble launch party, released by the amazing Corvo Records label at the sound art space, Errant Sound (where I was a member for many years).

black and white photography, black and white portrait, artist portrait, art photography, female photographer, music photographer, Berlin

Being part of the event gave me the opportunity to reflect back on the Asocial Telepathic recording session which took place over a year ago — when we were in the depths of another lockdown. In doing so I realised, once again, how much listening is at the core of pretty much everything I do as an artist and practitioner, no matter which medium I choose to use.

Listening with all my senses and simultaneously translating what I perceive are at the heart of my practice… be it in creating river perfumes, encountering horses, or capturing portraits of women.

For the talk, I put together a selection of images that focus on the act of listening itself: depicting visually what can only be evoked in this silent medium.

The first image is a voice portrait of Francis Bebey, a wonderful musician and musicologist, I had the honour of encountering and listening to in 1996 at the multi-disciplinary Sura Za Africa festival in Austria – my first ever photography commission! Bebey lost his voice shortly after, making this image even more precious in later years.

street photography, artist portrait, art photography, female photographer, music photographer, ParisThe second is from the 2001 Langue des Signes series, a photographic research project on the visibility of sign language in Paris’ public spaces.

The third is a portrait of a deaf girl born into a hearing family. I had the honour of following her first steps into spoken language through a technique called Codali (CODage Audition Langage Intégration). The resulting project, Franchir un Seuil (To Cross A Threshold) is part of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg.

black and white photography, black and white portrait, artist portrait, art photography, female photographer, Berlin The Asocial Telepathic Ensemble was initiated and curated by Alessandra Eramo (sound artist, composer, and vocalist) and Brandon LaBelle (artist, writer, and theorist) during the Covid-19 lockdown of last Spring. It’s an international, collaborative work of sound culture that brings together 11 composers, sound artists, curators, writers, and performers (see below for full credits) who simultaneously switched on their recording devices on the 21st March 2021 for 15 minutes. The result was a globe-spanning, telepathic recording session, documenting thoughts, habits, and surroundings — an attempt to connect with each other. No editing was done.

black and white photography, black and white portrait, artist portrait, art photography, female photographer, music photographer, Berlin The recording documents a historic moment in the 21st century, a very intimate glimpse into the reality of self isolation which has been experienced globally. Each recording offers a poetic approach to daily routine and deals with relatable themes such as: communicating with artificial voices, loneliness, yearning to travel, or being bored. 

But, ultimately, these artistic statements also talk about hope, transforming tragedy into irony, and accepting bodily and mental fragility  during the pandemic and beyond.

You can order the tape or listen online.

The Asocial Telepathic Ensemble are: Alessandra Eramo (voice, electronics); Ambra Pittoni (field recordings); Brandon LaBelle (field recordings); Florence Cats (field recordings, electronics); Ines Lechleitner (field recordings); Israel Martinez (field recordings, voice); James Webb (field recordings); Korhan Erel (field recordings, melodica); Lucia Udvardyova (field recordings, electronics); Ricarda Denzer (field recordings, voice); and Thea Farhadian (field recordings, violin, electronics).

Food Creatures: the joys and challenges of food art photography

food art, reduce food waste, plant based food, food photography, branding photography Recently, I started doing website branding photography for the new lobe lokal at Lobe Block in Wedding, Berlin. The core part of this role is to photograph brand new dishes for the restaurant – colourful culinary creations designed to wow the senses… truly, food art! Photographing (and filming) delicious ingredients, vibrant fruits, earthy vegetables, and magical cooking processes has always been at the heart of my own artistic practiceGiven my double profession – as an artist and a cook – these crossovers come naturally. 

However, what I have been discovering from this branding photography work is that being faced with food art born from someone else’s imagination and hands – truly capturing its structure, its colours, its consistencies, as well as creating an image that conveys its nurturing richness – is a totally different endeavour. 

food art, reduce food waste, plant based food, food photography, branding photography Truthfully, this process of capturing the essence of the new dishes felt like meeting delicate creatures, each one a story of its own. They addressed me with their demands: meet me, look at me, study me, show me. And – for their photographer, me – it’s a race against time. They fade, they stick, they dry up, they keep changing and, once they change, there is no turning back.

After the first session, I found that I was both deeply exhausted and moved.

food art, reduce food waste, plant based food, food photography, branding photography So I was really glad to join a food art photography session led by the wonderful Erin Lang – musician, chef, and founder of Bloom & Echo – and her partner Sam. Joining their team for this project, I was able to observe her wonderful way of approaching this new set of culinary creations.

And, since depicting the working process and its many creative layers has long been a core subject in my own work, it was a real pleasure to combine these worlds once again.

Das Rhein Rauschen: a multi-media journey

Das Rhein Rauschen was my 2016 multi-media exhibition in Basel, Switzerland. Translated literally, this title means The Rhine Rush, speaking to the rushing sound it makes as it flows – as well as offering a little play on words around the idea of rushing into something or to do something. With the curation expertise and support of Emily Bruner throughout the whole process, the exhibition took form. 

female photographer, Basel, Switzerland, empowering photography, artistic photography, monochrome photography From an artistic perspective, I was looking to somehow create a new river perfume and my aim was to translate as many sensual encounters with this wild river as possible: sounds, sensations, colours, stories, scents. Rivers are ever-changing and ungraspable and, yet, such a fundamental, ancient, and constant feature in our collective human history: from drinking to washing to burials to songs…

But these water spaces are definitively contained, and we often perceive them only in terms of their boundaries, their banks.

female photographer, Basel, Switzerland, empowering photography, artistic photography, monochrome photography

So, it was essential that my own explorations would take the form of a multi-media project – leaving the many aspects of the river to roam freely through my work, uncurtailed by a single medium. 

To achieve this, I hired a diver who could move like a whale, allowing us to filter out the essential ingredients for the river perfume I was creating. And I cast a woman’s body and its fragments became seashell-like, papier-maché objects.

female photographer, Basel, Switzerland, empowering photography, artistic photography, monochrome photography, female singer, female artistsDuring this process, I also photographed the model with her body casts – one of the many portraits of women I have loved capturing over the years. Plus, I wrote a river soundscape which was then interpreted by the amazing vocal artist, Alessandra EramoAltogether, this was a truly creative flow. The different mediums – photography, sculpture, drawing, film, and sound – emerged from the multi-sensory approach that I had started with to create the scent in the first place.

This scent formed the starting point, and centre, of the whole project: especially the exhibition at Villa Renata, Basel.

I loved sharing my initial research with the great nose and perfume maker, Andreas Wilhelm.  He actually described his position within the project as that of a ‘sponge’ in our collaborative process, which I find very fitting. The direction I chose with him was very close to a natural imprint and, therefore, close to the other mediums I used, like photography and sculptural casts. 

The 50ml perfume bottle is currently sold out, but the limited edition published with backbonebooks – a beautifully boxed set containing 10ml as a river-roll-on, an original papier-mache body fragment, a mobile to make yourself, and a photographic leaflet – is still available. You can purchase on request via email to hello@ines-l.com or via the backbonebooks shop.

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I hope you will enjoy exploring this part of my work as a space within which to perceive yourself as a river and its shore at the same time. It’s an invitation for you to connect to our environment in an empathic and multisensory way, in order to find new ways to care and to listen.