My Name is Sebastian Wells. I’m born and raised in Berlin, Germany. I work for newspapers, magazines, commercial clients but most preferably for myself. Since 2019, I am part of OSTKREUZ photographer’s agency, an intergenerational, Berlin based collective of documentary photographers that was founded in 1990.
When I was in school, I trained to become a professional athlete in mid-distance running, having been impressed by the marathon runners from Kenya that I saw in TV. But I got hurt too often and had anorexia, so I changed my running shoes into camera gear and started taking photos.
Still during school, I emulated the sports photographers whose images I saw in the newspaper and started to run my own photography business. After my A-Level, I applied to study at Ostkreuzschule for Photography, an outstanding, familial school in Berlin. Since then (it was 2015) I consider myself to be a documentary photographer and enjoy almost nothing more than working on my projects.
I graduated at Ostkreuzschule with a series I called “Utopia”. Embarking on a visual journey through the make-shift world of refugee camps, I used to explore the tension between impermanence and permanence that exists in these environments. Therefore, between 2017 and 2018, I travelled to 24 refugee camps in 7 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. I tried to depict the limits and impossibilities they impose on spatial and social infrastructure and focused on the everyday life of the refugees living in these supposedly temporary camps.
I also worked on very different subjects, such as the Brexit in the UK, Protests in Hong Kong, Post-Industrial everyday life in Sicily, or the Covid crisis in Germany. Just recently, I continued my long-term project at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last summer and will keep going with that work this February during the Winter Games in Beijing. You can follow and support the latter on my project blog, which I’ll be running live during the Games.
Traveling has always been an important creative catalyst for me. The limited time I have in a foreign place amplified the feeling of having to witness something photographically. It’s a very subconscious anxiety of missing something, that drove me to photograph it. But with time, I realized I am eager to dive deeper into the photographic and social topics I am working on. For one of my latest projects, La Rada di Augusta, I spent more than two months over a period of a year and a half on the island of Sicily. I learned Italian during that time, and this allowed me to change my approach several times until I was really satisfied with the result.
Last Summer, I changed my place of residence for the first time. In order to study photography at the outstanding faculty at KASK School of Arts in Ghent, I moved to Belgium.
Using photography, I always had something in my hands that gave me a function in any situation and any group, even when I didn’t know anyone. Knowing that, I like to play with this tool of leaving my own comfortable social bubble and attempt to build connections to people I usually would not happen to meet. Furthermore, photography is a great medium that seems to fit me perfectly: It’s fast, easy-to-handle, contemporary and very unpretentious. For me, reflecting on the photographic process is the best way to understand how we see and communicate in our society.