March 6, 2013 4:00 AM EST

It’s rare to encounter a body of work as wholly original as Dietmar Busse’s extraordinary series, Fauna and Flora. An amalgamation of photography and painting, the pieces in the series manifest a beauty that occasionally veers into dark, dreamlike realms.

Busse, 46, grew up as an only child on a small farm in Northern Germany and traveled widely in Europe and Morocco as a teenager before settling in Madrid, where he became interested in photography.

“Making art for me is like being on the road, except that the [artistic] journey is an inward one,” he recently told TIME. The work in Fauna and Flora, meanwhile, mirrors that travelers’ sensibility, emerging from a process Busse describes — like a road trip — as “full of surprises and spontaneous decisions.”

In 1991 Busse relocated to New York, working initially as a studio assistant. By 1995 he was receiving commissions as a fashion photographer for magazines like Paper, Interview and Visionaire and portraiture for the New York Times Magazine, Harpers Bazaar and more.

My Lucky Charms were too soggy this morning. I’m going to sue. If you are a consumer products or services company such as General Mills, this is how you see the world: full of very crazy people and very smart lawyers, which you view as a very bad combination that is more than willing to take you to court over the moisture levels of breakfast foods. Or misleading labels. Or unproven health claims. Silly stuff like that. Which is part of the explanation of why General Mills, the owner of popular brands such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Old El Paso, and Progresso, has changed the legal terms for using its web site, or even buying one of its products. As the New York Times pointed out in a delightful piece of reporting, if you so much a download a coupon from the General Mills website it’s the equivalent, in the company’s view, of signing a contract that prohibits you from suing or joining a class action suit against it. Parsing General Mills’s privacy and legal sections will cost you about 7,000 words of reading time, but the operative ones are as follows: “These terms are a binding legal agreement ('Agreement') between you and General Mills.” You probably didn’t think that buying a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla would imply a contractual obligation on your part. If the Bisquick hits the fan, in other words, you can’t go running to court. You are required to deal with the company in a private arbitration — hey, Mills will even pick up the cost. So downloading a 50-cent-off coupon on your next purchase of Hamburger Helper discounts your legal recourse. Sure seems like Big Business operating in a this-is-why-we- hate-them-model, with the corporate legal department playing its traditional starring role. “General Mills is proud to market some of the world’s most-trusted brands,” the company says in the introduction to this fine print. It’s you that Mills doesn’t trust. There’s a ton of fine print in our everyday lives that we almost have to ignore. Each time you download an iPhone operating system update, for instance, up pops an agreement a mile long. I still don’t know what it says, but knowing Apple it probably claims that you should be grateful Apple even lets you own one of its precious gadgets. Don’t even think about legal action. And have you ever read your cable service agreement? I dare you. Forced arbitration isn’t all that unusual. It’s part of every brokerage agreement, for instance. If you lost a lot of money because your broker sold you risky junk bonds when you thought you’d be getting safer treasury bonds, any dispute coming out of it goes to arbitration. And it’s common among corporations, too, which makes sense if they want to avoid litigation. (Oddly enough, I found a New York state court case in which General Mills sued to void a mandatory arbitration clause in a contract it had with another company.) But what’s outrageous here is that General Mills seems to be seeking shelter from class action or consumer advocate cases even it engages in bad corporate behavior: violating nutritional labeling laws, for instance. Consumers in Florida and California, for instance, sued the company over health benefit claims made by its Yoplait YoPlus and Nature Valley products. The company says its health and nutrition claims are correct — and doesn’t see why it should be subject to a class action claim. You got a beef over yogurt, let’s go to arbitration. There’s a lot at stake. For decades, the corporate bar and the tort bar — which handles personal injury and class action cases — have been a war over who can sue and under what conditions. Corporations see themselves as victims of overzealous (read ambulance chasing) lawyers. And that’s been true in some abusive disputes such as asbestos litigation. To some degree legislators have agreed with them. Bad corporate behavior, though, never seems to go out of fashion. And given the ineffectiveness of regulators or legislators in reining it in, tort lawyers have acted as the biggest restraint against misbehaving companies. So maybe as consumers we have to turn the tables on the corporate lawyers. Dear General Mills, please read and endorse this e-mail agreement which states the terms under which I am willing to become a consumer of your trusted brands. You understand that I can’t trust you, because corporate behavior since the Pure Foods Act of 1906 has told me not to. I understand that if my Betty Crocker cake fails to rise— my bad. As for everything else, all bets are off. And by the way: By clicking on this article, you've already agreed.
Dietmar Busse

He soon became disillusioned, however, with the constraints imposed when working for others.

“I had always secretly hoped to become an artist,” he says, “so I attempted to free myself from any outside demands.”

He withdrew from the world of commissioned photography to pursue his artist’s vocation. In 2006 he began inviting people he found visually interesting — people in art and fashion, for the most part — to visit his Manhattan apartment, converted into a little studio, to have their portraits taken for a project he calls Visitors. The result: an impressive portfolio of black and white portraits.

“I like having people over, rather than going on location. The sitter enters my world, and that way it is so much easier for me to get to know them and for them to relax.”

Terence Koh, 2008
Dietmar Busse
    TK The Inexplicable Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson Everyone knows that science is extra awesome when you're high, so just sit back and let Neil deGrasse Tyson talk at you about the wonders of our universe. Freaks and Geeks All of it. The whole season. Seriously. Just do it. Take a hit every time you spot an unexpected cameo. (For example, Rashida Jones and Shia LaBeouf.) Blue Planet: Natural History of the Oceans Because isn't the ocean just, like, so crazy when you think about it? Plus, huge bonus: this is narrated by David Attenborough, who is arguably the most pleasant-sounding human of all time. Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive The Parks and Recreation actor's latest stand-up special is hilarious even when you're sober, so prepare for some uncontrollable, pain-inducing laughter. Good Burger Allow yourself to drift back to a simpler time: the 1990s. A simpler time; a better time. Too Cute! This show is seriously nothing more than a bunch of cute puppies and kittens and other baby animals running around being cute. That's it. You're welcome. National Geographic: Amazing Planet Because it's important to appreciate how amazing our planet is. That herb you're smoking didn't just appear out of nowhere, man. Bob's Burgers - If you don't already watch this show, now is a really great time to start. And if you already do watch it, go ahead and watch some old episodes again. You won't regret it. Marley - Yeah, there's a Bob Marley documentary on Netflix. When else are you actually going to watch this? Happy holidays!  
Dietmar Busse

The one exception to this comfortable, intimate approach has been annual visits to his native village in Germany where, for years, Busse has photographed residents, animals, landscapes and, until recently, his stepfather, Fiddy, a constant companion on those month-long explorations of his homeland.

“My father was very good with the local people and always made sure that I had access to anywhere and anyone I wanted. We were like little kids, up to no good and we had so much fun.”

In March 2012 Fiddy was diagnosed with cancer; he died within a month of the diagnosis. Busse spent almost the entire year with his mom — driving, shooting and continuing the project in Fiddy’s honor.

“He came into our lives when I was ten years old,” Busse says of his stepfather, “and rescued me and my mother from an impossible situation. He was like an angel to us. We miss him terribly.”

When Gabriel García Márquez was born, in 1927, in the sleepy little town of Aracataca, not far from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, there were certain established fixities in the world of letters. The centers of gravity were Europe and North America, with a few auxiliary poles in Wellington, perhaps, or Calcutta. The novel, just beginning to be shaken up by Joyce and Woolf, told mainly of carriages moving under birch trees and conversations on rainy boulevards. Its characters, as often as not, were the people you might meet at dinner-parties thrown for Count Tolstoy or Marcel Proust. By the time García Márquez died at 87 on April 17, all that had changed, and largely because of him. A new continent had been discovered, so it seemed, rich with tamarind trees and “pickled iguana,” and folk cultures everywhere had an epic voice. Villagers could be imagined seeking daguerreotypes of God, and men arriving on doorsteps amidst a halo of yellow butterflies. Macondo, a never-never town of almond trees and “banana wars” (a lot like Aracataca) had become as much a part of the reader’s neighborhood as Yoknapatawpha County or St. Petersburg. The story behind this was, of course, half-miraculous. The eldest of 11 children, “Gabo,” as he was universally called, was born to a telegraph operator and a colonel’s daughter. When his parents moved to another city in search of work, he was left behind, a tropical Pip, to spend his early years with relatives. From his grandfather he heard tales of fatal duels and his country’s unending civil wars; from his aunts and grandmother, he absorbed all the spells and spirits sovereign in a world in which Arab and Indian and African cultures mixed. Scarcely was he out of his teens than the boy was publishing short stories in a newspaper, while studying law with a view to help the disenfranchised. The newspaper for which he also wrote columns was called—too perfectly— El Universal. One day, after 18 months of continuous writing, he completed a book, his fifth, so large that his wife Mercedes had to pawn her hair dryer and an electric heater to pay for postage to send it to the publisher. Cien Años de Soledad was published in 1967 (such was the interest in Latin writing then that it did not even make it into English till three years later), and Pablo Neruda, South America’s reigning Nobel laureate, pronounced it “perhaps the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since the Don Quixote of Cervantes.” He could as easily have called it a narrative Alhambra, a palace in the Spanish tradition but fluent with foreign shapes and dizzy curlicues amidst the water and the orange trees. One Hundred Years of Solitude promptly established García Márquez as the defining member of what was called the “boom” in Latin American writing and a movement known as “magic realism”; yet, really, he was throwing open the gates for writers from forgotten everywheres—you can see his influence in India’s Salman Rushdie, in Nigeria’s Ben Okri, even in Murray Bail from Australia. He was, essentially, a trafficker in wonder. “Incredible things are happening in the world,” says a sometime alchemist in the first chapter of One Hundred Years of Solitude, as he sees a gypsy’s dentures; García Márquez’s realization was that the world of the alchemist, the dew still on it, could be equally incredible to the denture-maker. He spun out his tales of everyday miracles with such exuberance that 30 million copies of the book were not just bought around the world, but read. Not one to stay put, he followed that imaginative dawn with The Autumn of the Patriarch, an unflinchingly political novel that consisted of just six paragraphs, each 30 pages or more in length, and his tales of unexpected innocence were forever intertwined with more hard-headed stories of the solitude that comes with power. Realistic enough to be a true romantic, he treated dreams and revolutions with equal weight: if his fabulous flights were always, he insisted, just the documentary work of a reporter with an eye for marvels, his non-fiction accounts of corruption such as News of a Kidnapping featured secret messages transmitted on TV programs and kidnappers offering talismans to their hostages. A friend to presidents as well as revolutionaries, Garcia Marquez never abandoned the public world: even in his seventies, 17 years after winning the Nobel Prize, the most famous man in Colombia was writing articles like a cub reporter. Though García Márquez lived in Paris, Mexico City, Havana and Barcelona, he was proudly claimed by Colombia—by all South America—as one who had taken an area too often associated with murders and drugs, and infused it with an immortal light: a literary Columbus discovering a New World that would soon belong to us all. When he fell ill, therefore, in the summer of 1999, much of the continent seemed to hold its breath, urging “el maestro” back to health. And when he died on Thursday in his home in Mexico City, it did not seem impossible that a man could open his mouth, and songbirds would fly out.
Dietmar Busse
The reporter asked the masked pro-Russian separatist in the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk a simple question: why are you wearing a mask? “I’m sorry,” he responded, “but it’s a stupid question.” It sure is for anyone who pays attention to how Russia fights. The mask-wearing militants who have appeared in eastern Ukraine and taken over government buildings represent the latest face of Russia’s tradition of maskirovka (mas-kir-OAF-ka). It’s a word literally translated as disguise, but Russia has long used it in a broader sense, meaning any military tactic that incorporates camouflage, concealment, deception, disinformation—or any combination thereof. It describes everything from manufacturing tanks in automobile factories to shielding them under tree branches near the battlefield. It can be used to hide soldiers with smoke screens, and to build warships under awnings. It includes sending soldiers in white uniforms to invade snowbound Finland during World War II and creating mock weapons and bridges in hopes of drawing enemy fire away from the real thing. The Soviets bought 100mm artillery pieces from Germany before the war. The Germans’ cranked the Russians’ use of those guns in its planning on how to invade Russian as part of Operation Barbarossa. But when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Soviets surprised them with much more powerful 130mm guns. In a classic maskirovka move, the Russians had scrapped the guns they bought from Germany as they built their own bigger weapons. Maskirovka (which is rooted in the English word, mask) is designed to sow confusion and frustration among opponents by denying them basic information. [caption id="attachment_67472" align="alignleft" width="300"] A pro-Russian protester mans a barricade outside a government building in Donetsk. Konstantin Chernichkin / Reuters[/caption] The anonymous troops in eastern Ukraine say only that they’re “Cossacks,” but Ukrainian and Western officials believe many of them are led by Russian special forces. Yet the murkiness of their origin and sponsors inflates their menace, and makes it more difficult to figure out how to deal with them. Snipping puppet strings between Ukraine and Moscow may be easier than controlling indigenous separatists operating independently. A combination of both complicates matters still further. “Maskirovka may be conducted in any environment to deny information to sensors,” a 1988 Pentagon study of the technique said. What’s on display in Ukraine is maskirovka at its most basic: physical masks, known as balaclavas (named for their use at the Battle of Balaclava, a Ukrainian town near Sevastopol, during the Crimean War) are designed to deny humans’ most fundamental sensor—the eye—critical information about the person on the other side (to complicate matters, some Ukrainian supporters also are wearing masks). If the West won’t come to Ukraine’s aid even if columns of Russian tanks are streaming toward the capital of Kiev, they’re sure not going to lift a (trigger) finger against masked men operating in the shadows. Think of it as a crafty way of getting your way. Russia is conducting a slow-motion invasion of Ukraine without thousands of troops riding hundreds of tanks. Instead, handfuls of Russian agents are whipping up nationalistic fervor among disgruntled eastern Ukrainians of Russian stock. Beyond the masks, the “troops” wear no insignia to betray under whose flag they’re acting. It used to be that states waged wars. But since the end of the Cold War, so-called “non-state actors”—like al Qaeda—have loomed large. Now on the streets of Ukraine, non-state actors are acting on behalf of a state. Maskirovka, Russian military texts say, must be seamless and complete. The Soviet Union used it to sneak their nuclear-tipped missiles into Cuba in 1962. But the Soviets didn’t bother to conceal the construction of their launch sites, which led U.S. intelligence to figure out what was happening. Some Russian scholars say maskirovka dates back to the 1380 Battle of Kulikovo Field, 120 miles south of Moscow. Russian Dmitri Ivanovich divided his mounted fighters into two groups: one stood in the open field, vulnerable to attack from the Mongols’ Golden Horde, while the second hid in a nearby forest. Seeing only the Russians on the plains, the Horde’s soldiers attacked, only to be overwhelmed when the second Russian force rushed from their hiding place. The technique certainly got Ronald Reagan’s attention. “The Soviet Union has developed a doctrine of `maskirovka’ which calls for the use of camouflage, concealment and deception (CC&D) in defense-related programs and in the conduct of military operations,” Reagan wrote in October 1983’s National Security Decision Directive 108. “Several recent discoveries reveal that the Soviet maskirovka program has enjoyed previously unsuspected success and that it is apparently entering a new and improved phase.” The Top Secret document, declassified by the U.S. government three years ago, didn’t detail those successes. Fast-forwarding to today, how can the West combat Russia’s penchant for maskirovka in Ukraine? Seeing as some credit Reagan for prevailing in the original Cold War, perhaps his orders in that 1983 directive offer a clue. “The Director of Central Intelligence,” he wrote, “in cooperation with other Departments and Agencies as appropriate, will:” The rest of the directive is blacked out. Think of it as a bit of Amerimaskitovka.  
Dietmar Busse

Today Busse remains very much in the analog world, shooting film and making his own darkroom prints — a hands-on process that helped release him from the constraints of traditional picture-making.

“About six years ago,” he recalls, “I made a ‘mistake’ in the darkroom and double-exposed some paper. I pursued these double and triple exposures, mixing images from my homeland with portraits of people in New York. I liked bringing these two worlds together.”

Busse began painting (with photographic developer) on his prints. The resulting images so artfully meld the otherwise quite distinct media that they appear to coalesce — creating, in a sense, a new medium.

“There are all kinds of variables when you draw on the prints before they are fixed, and it’s a relief not to worry about spots or imperfect exposures anymore. I embrace the ‘accidents’, the unforeseen, the spontaneous. I never quite know where things will lead me: it’s like an expedition into unknown territory. There is a lot more freedom there, and that is more reflective of who I am as a person than trying for a perfect print.”

My Lucky Charms were too soggy this morning. I’m going to sue. If you are a consumer products or services company such as General Mills, this is how you see the world: full of very crazy people and very smart lawyers, which you view as a very bad combination that is more than willing to take you to court over the moisture levels of breakfast foods. Or misleading labels. Or unproven health claims. Silly stuff like that. Which is part of the explanation of why General Mills, the owner of popular brands such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Old El Paso, and Progresso, has changed the legal terms for using its web site, or even buying one of its products. As the New York Times pointed out in a delightful piece of reporting, if you so much a download a coupon from the General Mills website it’s the equivalent, in the company’s view, of signing a contract that prohibits you from suing or joining a class action suit against it. Parsing General Mills’s privacy and legal sections will cost you about 7,000 words of reading time, but the operative ones are as follows: “These terms are a binding legal agreement ('Agreement') between you and General Mills.” You probably didn’t think that buying a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla would imply a contractual obligation on your part. If the Bisquick hits the fan, in other words, you can’t go running to court. You are required to deal with the company in a private arbitration — hey, Mills will even pick up the cost. So downloading a 50-cent-off coupon on your next purchase of Hamburger Helper discounts your legal recourse. Sure seems like Big Business operating in a this-is-why-we- hate-them-model, with the corporate legal department playing its traditional starring role. “General Mills is proud to market some of the world’s most-trusted brands,” the company says in the introduction to this fine print. It’s you that Mills doesn’t trust. There’s a ton of fine print in our everyday lives that we almost have to ignore. Each time you download an iPhone operating system update, for instance, up pops an agreement a mile long. I still don’t know what it says, but knowing Apple it probably claims that you should be grateful Apple even lets you own one of its precious gadgets. Don’t even think about legal action. And have you ever read your cable service agreement? I dare you. Forced arbitration isn’t all that unusual. It’s part of every brokerage agreement, for instance. If you lost a lot of money because your broker sold you risky junk bonds when you thought you’d be getting safer treasury bonds, any dispute coming out of it goes to arbitration. And it’s common among corporations, too, which makes sense if they want to avoid litigation. (Oddly enough, I found a New York state court case in which General Mills sued to void a mandatory arbitration clause in a contract it had with another company.) But what’s outrageous here is that General Mills seems to be seeking shelter from class action or consumer advocate cases even it engages in bad corporate behavior: violating nutritional labeling laws, for instance. Consumers in Florida and California, for instance, sued the company over health benefit claims made by its Yoplait YoPlus and Nature Valley products. The company says its health and nutrition claims are correct — and doesn’t see why it should be subject to a class action claim. You got a beef over yogurt, let’s go to arbitration. There’s a lot at stake. For decades, the corporate bar and the tort bar — which handles personal injury and class action cases — have been a war over who can sue and under what conditions. Corporations see themselves as victims of overzealous (read ambulance chasing) lawyers. And that’s been true in some abusive disputes such as asbestos litigation. To some degree legislators have agreed with them. Bad corporate behavior, though, never seems to go out of fashion. And given the ineffectiveness of regulators or legislators in reining it in, tort lawyers have acted as the biggest restraint against misbehaving companies. So maybe as consumers we have to turn the tables on the corporate lawyers. Dear General Mills, please read and endorse this e-mail agreement which states the terms under which I am willing to become a consumer of your trusted brands. You understand that I can’t trust you, because corporate behavior since the Pure Foods Act of 1906 has told me not to. I understand that if my Betty Crocker cake fails to rise— my bad. As for everything else, all bets are off. And by the way, By clicking on this article, you've already agreed.
Dietmar Busse

With no formal art training, Busse was long intimidated by the idea of painting. But in the last few years he began extending his experimentation even further, applying photographic retouching colors and inks to his prints.

“Having a strong foundation in photography,” he says, “somehow gives me the courage to explore. The photograph serves as the foundation for the painting, capturing something about a person’s energy and spirit the way only photography can. The painting starts where photography can not go.” It is these co-mingled pieces that comprise Fauna and Flora.

“I did not set out to [focus on those concepts]. These were just the images I found myself making — and it made sense, for fauna and flora are what I grew up with, and what I relate to.”

Two years ago Busse’s friend, the collector Scott Newkirk, commissioned him to make a portrait and also requested that Busse integrate his painting process into the images. “I was insecure about the drawings so I did forty pieces in three days, [thinking] he would maybe like two or three and buy them. I hung all forty up together and it was a completely new way for me to look at my work.”

Newkirk ended up with a 20-piece installation, and Busse with a new methodology. “With twenty variants on two images, there is repetition of the same image throughout the installation as well as a uniqueness about each piece. The installation becomes one big story and the viewer is invited to go on a journey and explore.”

Busse is currently working on another installation, Soldier, Soldier, which combines many of his experimental processes.

“I don’t feel like I have completely resolved it, but [the series] is on my studio wall right now. I’m just looking at it before I make the next move.


Dietmar Busse is a German photographer based in New York.

Phil Bicker is a senior photo editor at TIME and TIME.com.


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