Thomas Sing, born in 1979, works as a photographer and artist in various studios in Italy and Germany. His leitmotifs, which influence most of his work, lead back to guilt, pain, sin - and redemption from all of them. So one could assume that Sing processed his Catholic upbringing artistically. But that is certainly only partially a comprehensible derivation to his dreamy, beautiful, aesthetically high-quality and technically perfect work, which pulls us under its spell through a finely balanced relationship between taboo and taboo break.


The concrete idea for this came in 2016, a year before the book was published, when I found the perfect protagonist for Until I Break by chance and after a few test shots it was clear that it had to be more than a small photo series.

However, I had been carrying around with me for years the initially vague idea of ​​superimposing the subject complexes spirituality / religion and erotic / sexuality photographically, but I never really dared. The risk is enormous that you will quickly either fall into cliché or that it will become so mental that in the end no one will come along. Or that it becomes ironic because you compulsively try to be original.

Ultimately, I wanted to make a poetic book that reconstructs an 'inner experience' that I have made over and over again since my childhood in certain places in books or films, or in general with works of art: when you identify so much with a character that you briefly goes black and you experience something like an identity crisis. One of the short texts in Until I Break is about that. De Sades Justine, for example, is one such case that has not let go of me for decades. Or the protagonist Joe in Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac (2014), who repeatedly visits the young sadist K in this impersonal basement and lets him chastise and humiliate her. There's this scene in which he lays her over that worn leather sofa, ties her up, and beats her pretty roughly. That pulls me into an abyss in which I just want to be her for a few heartbeats, and then reappear almost melancholy because I can't be. When I saw Nymphomaniac for the first time, I wanted to be in Joe's place in a loop, like in a defective player, always on 'repeat'. Funnily enough, that only happens to me with female characters. This is probably exactly what drives me to make art. In this respect, Unitl I Break has a lot of autobiography.


These terms cover a very wide field, which extends into anthropology, philosophy, sociology, sexuality and, last but not least, can become extremely political. I simply summarize this under 'self-practices', because the word is neutral and applies to both erotic and BDSM practices, including religious practices. The difference is often not so great, the sexual psychology of the modern age fails to understand the meaning of sadomasochistic practices brilliantly when it reduces them to extravagant means of achieving orgasm. I would even go so far as to say that one has nothing to do with the other. The closeness to - in the broadest sense - spiritual practices of (self-) harm and voluntary suffering is much more important, regardless of the culture and the epoch. That is why it was important to me to avoid all kinds of accessories in the book that could somehow be associated with the typical commercialized SM aesthetic.

The nice thing about pain, obedience and discipline - always in the context of a voluntarily entered practice - is that they always mean their opposite, you yourself already write the “un-” in brackets in front of your question: While all this, for example, in is clearly coded in an authoritarian system and has nothing ambiguous, self-practice is always both: submission and subversion. The dissolution of the ego in masochistic excess does not have a particularly high social prestige; this applies to the contemporary sub / bottom as well as to the medieval mystic or flagellant.

Obedience as a self-practice is actually always civil disobedience. And asked provocatively: What is there for turbo-capitalism, which we are currently experiencing (in its last draws?), More threatening than 'discipline', 'living chaste' etc., the old-fashioned word ultimately means nothing else than: modest, sustainable, ascetic . Aren't these the very virtues that we must nurture again if we are to continue to live on this planet? Getting it all by taking yourself back. But I don't want to break it down so much on morals and ethics; I found discipline, obedience and pain just always extremely sexy, perhaps because they are so out of date. We live in a society in which for decades everything has only been about your own ego, which is inflated to infinity by advertising and marketing. You should buy, consume, want, want even more, constantly optimize yourself.

The sad thing is that there is not even a well-founded anthropology behind it, but that all these imperatives were only implemented so that you can earn as much money as possible, spend even more and just don't have time to think, because you have to work and do more pay off his debts. This is precisely not the form of obedience I mean. And apart from what that means for our world, its ecosystems and non-human inhabitants: what a burden, what an inhuman burden! And what a real metaphysical joy, just to get out of the car, kneel down and relax, and wait to see what happens then. Joe's masochism in Nymphomanioac is exactly the opposite of submission: by actively demanding the fulfillment of her desires and practicing it beyond all that is bearable, she breaks all social conventions.



First and foremost is my wife Chiara Padovan, with whom I have been working for over a decade and who knows me better than anyone else. While I am largely solely responsible for the conception and implementation, the lion's share of image selection and sequencing lies with Chiara. She's the far better editor of the two of us. In addition, I am of the opinion that the editing always has to be done by someone else who is not that close to the material and sees everything with a little more sobriety. That also forces you to really deal with the pictures. Only in the literal battle for each individual picture with a strong editor does it become clear whether a picture that you think is great can really exist, whether you can argue for a picture until the editor gives up, or whether you realize that you are just out of a dull one Feeling has stuck to a picture, but which is not understandable for others. All of this affects the time after the shoot. Before the recording days, I always had long exchanges of emails with my protagonist, which were less about the planned scenes than more generally about the mood of the book. But we were so much on the same wavelength that you didn't have to talk much, even during the shoots. She interpreted everything independently and I only photographed it. It was pretty easy, more like working with an actress than a typical model being 'posed'.

Christine Maier, whose clear graphic vision gave the book its unique form, and Nael El Nahawi, without whose expertise in book printing, our ideas would not have been pragmatic, would have to be mentioned later.

What are the biggest challenges in making books? 

With the first self-published book, everything is a challenge. Conceptually, this means developing your own pace and a good narrative on almost 150 pages with which you can take people with you. It was clear to us from the start that it had to work like a good novel or a good film. And then of course there are the practical and the economic aspects. Until I Break is self-published (with Chiara as co-editor), which means that as newbies we had to familiarize ourselves with all areas of production (paper, printing techniques, formats, cover, etc.) and marketing, the price was 129, - EUR in an area in which even most photo bookstores are reluctant to stock or not at all.

And how did you master them? 

You need time and a good team that you trust and that you can talk to openly. And of course you have to familiarize yourself with all areas and take care of the marketing yourself. After publication, we went to almost all European photo book fairs for a year. All dealers and collectors are there and you can easily show a book, which is particularly important in this price range. That was also a wonderful time, the photobook community is quite small and very relaxed and welcomed us very friendly and helped us a lot. Many good contacts were made there. Except for a few special issues with print, Until I Break is now also sold out.

Do you have a favorite double page in the book?

I can't decide: On the one hand, page 72/73, at first glance there are of course the white panties, which I like very much and which always convey this oscillation between cleanliness and dirt. But the pair of pictures (especially the picture on the right with the egg) is also a homage to Georges Bataille's erotic-philosophical short story Histoire de l'oeil (1928; German: The story of the eye, contained in the anthology Das obscöne Werk), which already has inspired many surrealists (Masson, Buñuel etc.). Then pages 98/99, you don't know what the greater excess, the greater profanity is: the real act of kneeling and opening up, or the act of thinking of fantasizing. Juliette, Justine's sister at de Sade, ultimately opts for the imagination, because there are (in contrast to reality) no limits. In the right picture, a portrait, the girl is sitting on an armchair, her head leaning back, she is wearing a blouse, there is no bare skin to be seen, but she is sweaty, has her mouth slightly open and her eyes upwards as if in a trance twisted. A buyer of Until I Break assured me that for her this was the most erotic picture in the whole book. Nice compliment, isn't it?

What new print project do you plan to do next?

A whole series should begin with the next book: HARD THEORY. In terms of content, it will border on Until I Break, but will also clearly set itself apart from it through a thematic expansion and a different form. It is also a joint project by me, Chiara and Alexandra Keiner, who have been involved in the conception from the start. And although the pictures in the first issue are from me, we would like to include more authors and artists in the future. The first volume will have the subtitle theoría - in the meaning of the ancient Greeks: contemplation, gazing at God - and photographically ask about the possibilities of metaphysical knowledge in a (post-) postmodern society. In addition to many documentary photos, objets trouvés and impressions of nature, the focus will again be on the photographic staging of self-practices and thus on the subjective handling of religious / metaphysical experiences. It goes without saying that the body (I almost said: the meat) also plays a central role ...

Photography: Christina Rollny / Text: Matthias Straub