In his first book, Snake Legs 蛇足, Max Zerrahn finds inspiration in an ancestral proverb, to illustrate a peaceful and silent Japan. Between mundanity and daily poetry, the Berlin-based photographer signs a captivating monograph where redundancy becomes fascinating.

“A friend who I had originally planned to travel to Japan with, could not make the trip, so I ended up going by myself, just wandering around aimlessly taking pictures. Jetlag left me somewhat disoriented, and day after day I would leave the hotel at four or five in the morning, unable to go back to sleep, to explore whatever city I was in. I loved it”, Max Zerrahn tells us. Back in Berlin, the German photographer dove into hundreds of captured images. Charmed, he decided to visit once more the Land of the rising sun with one specific goal in mind. “This time I had a pretty good sense of what I was after. The process of taking pictures ended up being a lot more focused and project oriented”, he explains. Thus, was born his first book, Snake Legs 蛇足.

Aux antipodes de la frénésie japonaise

After devouring skate magazines and collecting album covers in his teenage years, Max Zerrahn fell in love with photography. Inspired by arts – music, cinema, theatre, literature – he never stops chasing new ideas. Several years were necessary for him to view his photographic practice as serious and professional. In Snake Legs 蛇足, the artist used natural light and telephoto lenses to “look at things with a little more distance”. Discrete and silent, his visuals release a sense of serenity. “I stirred away from major shopping streets and tourist attractions. I am weirdly drawn to more residential or suburban areas. I seem to be more interested in observing the way people park their bicycles in their driveway, or the way they hang their laundry, than walking overcrowded shopping streets”, he adds. As for the blending of colour and black and white, it offers the readers a guiding principle, wanted by the author.

The title is inspired by the proverb 蛇足, meaning snake legs. The Japanese legend told the story of a drawing competition which rewarded the man quickest to draw a snake – the defeated had lost too much time adding legs to his sketched reptile… Now the term is used to define a redundancy. In this project, Max Zerrahn shares his own interpretation of the phrase. “Most of my images are quiet observations. It is street photography in a very non-confrontational sense, anonymous scenes and weird little details that would typically go unnoticed and may seem redundant to some, he tells us. I am not really trying to address important political or social issues. Instead, my work has a lot more to do with looking at and experiencing the world.” An unexpected and harmonious roaming.


Snake Legs 蛇足, White Belt Publishing, 26€ ( 120€ : book + print 30×40 cm), 144 p.


© Max Zerrahn