Holy pipes: The surprising beauty of Bavaria's church organs

Published 18th December 2017
Credit: Courtesy Robert Götzfried
Holy pipes: The surprising beauty of Bavaria's church organs
Written by Tish Wrigley, The Spaces
This article was originally published by The Spaces, a digital publication exploring new ways to live and work.
"I always liked organs," says photographer Robert Götzfried. "I grew up in Southern Germany in a Catholic house. We used to go to church on Sundays and my favorite part of the service was the organ playing."
Years on, this interest has been translated into "PIPES," a new series from the architectural photographer depicting the scale and beauty of the organ. Portrayed within their church settings -- which vary from minimalist to baroque in design -- the instruments are abstracted from their function, becoming graphic statements of line and pattern.
"Their sound is simply enormous and their appearance, too," Götzfried says. "Their sheer size makes you feel small. And the metal patterns of the pipes are simply stunning."
They also play a significant role in the job he has today. "I first shot an organ like this in 2007," he recalls, "and in a way the picture started my career as an artist. I won first prize in a contest, which was followed by a contract with a gallery."
Following the methodology that he pursued for his other roving series depicting swimming pools, cinemas and bowling alleys, for "Pipes," Götzfried embarked on a photographic pilgrimage around southern Germany, visiting Catholic churches to find the most dramatic organs in the region.
"I'm actually not a religious person, but I love the churches as they are places of peace and silence," he says. "No matter how busy it is outside, there is a common sense in society that you have to be quiet in a church. You smell the incense in the air -- that alone calms me down."
Courtesy Robert Götzfried
Despite working to a solely aesthetic brief, Götzfried believes the religious locations add an undeniable undercurrent to his series.
"These organs are so big and overwhelming that you can almost hear how loud they are even if it's all quiet in the church. So for me this work absolutely has a spiritual aspect."