A couple of months ago, WRG? came across Stefan Fürtbauers great photography work. Our curiosity was piqued as soon as we saw his project titled Eiterquellen, a series of photos documenting Viennese fast food culture.
Austria is populated with many of North America’s fast food staples. McDonals, Burger King, Starbucks… the list goes on. But the country has it’s own specialties as well. Namely, the Würstelstand.
Having had the chance to try more than a few Würstelstands during my time in Vienna, Stefan’s project was just too interesting not to share. The Würstelbox just outside Pilgramgasse subway station is my favorite one in Vienna. Ask for a Kaesekrainer with mustard and ketchup, and a Raddler. You won’t be sorry. My favorite dish also happens to be the inspiration for the project’s title. Eiterquellen actually means ’Pus Springs’! Yes, you read that right.
“The Viennese tongue has found some questionable synonyms for the food supplied at diners, like ‘Eitrige’ (‘pus-filled’) which describes a ‘Kaesekrainer’ sausage which is filled with cheese and when put on the grill the cheese melts and oozes out. With some imagination this can look like pus. Preferably the ‘Kaesekrainer’ is served with barf (mustard) and a hump (bread roll)…”
But what made him choose the iconic Würstelstand as a photography project?
Open most of the night, it’s easy to imagine the interesting characters the stands must attract. It really is a great place for people watching. And if you speak German or Austrian, chances are you’ll have a good chat with your Würstelstand owner. We certainly always did. And there’s also the decor: neon signs, a tiny box in the middle of a dark street with only the light inside shining out onto the street… But while the decore may have evolved since the inception of the Würstelstand, they still serve the exact same snacks that were served almost 150 years ago.
I decided to track him down, and find out what he was all about. After a few back and forth emails over the holidays, we finally managed to get a quick interview locked down. So here you have it, ten questions with Stefan Fürtbauer!
Stefan Fürtbauer (or Fuertbauer)
Location: Vienna / Austria
When did you start taking pictures and why?
Creativity and inspiration was part of my life since I can think. Yet I discovered photography as art form pretty late but with the more passion.
Why do you love it?
Being inspired and the act of creating is the most fulfilling thing I can imagine!
How to you set yourself apart from other photographers?
Somebody once told me my style is touching and honest. I think that’s pretty spot-on. But I do not try to actively differentiate myself from others, I think that’s distracting and could have a negative influence on my work. I prefer to just focus on my own work. If I happen differentiate myself from others, or if my work has something very special too it, then that’s great.
What made you decide to photograph Würstelstands?
I had already taken a (digital) photograph of a Viennese Wurstel diner back in 2008 but at the time it was just a nice picture. Nothing in particular that would have motivated me to follow up.
Then early in 2011 on the way to a different location, I passed by the same place again, this time with my analogue Hasselblad when I realized that there’s more than just this nice, luminescent facade. There’s something going on there with the McDonald’s on the opposite side of the street, and the ancient, pre-war building in the back. A glance into the waist level finder later I decided to start a project about it.
So, it’s definitely an impulse-triggered project, nothing I planned for conceptionally prior to the very first exposure.
For those who aren’t familiar with them, what are Würstelstands?
Viennese wurstel diners were introduced during the Austro-Hungarian “K.u.K.” Monarchy around 1870 to provide a safe income for wounded war veterans. They serve classical local sausages (grilled & boiled) and other well known fast food like hot dogs, kebap , pizza etc.
What do Wüsrstelstands represent in Austrian society?
Nothing really special, to be honest. It’s just a part of the urban Austria and is the traditional way of serving fast food in opposition to international junk food restaurants and coffee shops.
Where can we currently find your work (off the internet)?
The Eiterquellen project and other work will be on display throughout 2012. Check the Exhibition page on my homepage for further details (to come).