Reiner Riedler

My first major work on homeless people in Vienna began in 1993 with my civilian service in a Caritas homeless shelter. I wanted to document this intense time photographically. The result was a year-long exploration of the subject. 


1992 – 1997 

"With his fundamentally serial photography, Reiner Riedler proves himself to be a sensitive portraitist when he photographs homeless people in intimate situations, for example, but never exposes them. In his documentary work, he relies on contact with his subject from the very beginning. The consent of the portrayed, even if it is only through a fleeting smile, becomes a prerequisite for his photographic work. He is not only aware of the problematic nature of documentary photography, which uses the camera as an instrument of power to look at the marginalized in society, but it is also the occasion for a critical examination of the ethics of seeing. Thus, the question of whether images of suffering can reinforce cruelty and alienate from those depicted, or have a touching and transformative potential, leads to an ongoing rethinking of one's own role and responsibility.

During his community service in a house for homeless young people run by Caritas in Vienna, the artist, who is in his early twenties, becomes intensively involved with homelessness. It was an introduction to a hitherto unknown side of urban life. Personal relationships develop with people who are otherwise only known from passing by on the street, on the basis of which he can take photographs from the inside. Beyond his community service, he works for the first time on a reportage for the magazine Profil. His collaboration with the journalist and later writer Eva Menasse sharpened his own attitude of not photographing indiscriminately but approaching a subject systematically. In his subsequent volunteer work for Caritas in the night service and in the soup bus, he continues his examination of homelessness."