Quite some time ago, I've met the former lecturer of my partner. A fierce lady, someone who is very passionate about her job. Her name: Nina Röder. As photographic artist and professor for photography at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Hamburg (Germany), she finds a balance to create art works which are extraordinary and abstract and at the same time grab your attention through this little hint of humour.
Tell me a bit more about yourself, who are you and what's your job?
I'm Nina Röder. I grew up in Germany, teach photography at the Art & Design department at UE and practice as photographic artist. I use this term instead of "photographer", so people get that I'm not taking any wedding photos for them.
How did you get into education?
It wasn't a decision to get into education or even to become an artist. I was finished with my studies at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and suddenly, I was standing there. It was more by chance that my old teacher left university and pushed me to apply for his position. So, basically, I had a mentor who believed in me. It's the perfect way to still work with photography, and stay on track about new art movements while working with young creative minds.
And what does a "mentor" actually mean to you?
To be honest, I've never looked for one, but still found it. Even now I've two doctor mothers for my dissertation, who have taken this position over. Mentorship means to me that someone is always standing next to you, and even believes in you while you might haven't even achieved anything at that moment. But that doesn't matter. He/She just gives you an advancement, but is at the same time super critical.
While we're talking about women and mentorships, what's your experience with the position of women at the university system?
In general, university politics is still mostly male dominated. At the universities I've been, my experience showed that those women who are present in the system, are exceptional strong and kind of in control of everything, but from the sidelines. For example, the two chiefs of the art department, they knew how to handle the male colleagues. Art & design is possibly also a bit different than maybe law or business. The mindset here has a stronger tendency towards liberalism.
How is in general the support between women in art and education?
Well, I've personally seen in my closer circle that women support each other. But for what I know, women tend to be quite bitchy. I think I was lucky. It doesn't even make sense to me that there is this idea of envy or "looking better" infront of men. I mean it sucks. There has to happen a lot in order to change the mindset of women. Take instagram for example, a place full of presenting yourself with full lips and boobs in order to get attention. The art market is a bit different and quite hard. Lots of content has been written in terms of the #metoo campaign. Yet, women support each other. They try to make another artist more visible, take them into group exhibitions or advice on works. In the end, it's a pity, that everybody mostly fights on their own.
If you could give any advice to a girl out there, what would it be?
Regarding patriarchal structures, we have achieved a lot on different levels, but those structures are still existing in our society, no need to deceive oneself. What I would advise to any girl is to be careful. Not in a paranoid way, but to watch who does what for which reasons. I believe that if you're good at what you do, passionate about it, and stand in for your believes, you could make it as far as a man. It sounds harsh, but it's a struggle to not get off your goals and make the way. Here and there it will be harder, yet it's important to stick to it.