Early days in photography
How did you get started?
I started in my early teens, taking photographs of friends, family and travels. In those days, it was just about documenting my life but without thinking about exposure, composition or storytelling. In fact, I had no idea what I was doing at all. It wasn’t until my college years that I started photographing more intently, learning new skills, experimenting with lighting, analogue and instant photography. Today, I am constantly looking for new people, places and opportunities to photograph. Depending on what I am shooting, I choose a digital or film camera accordingly and try to capture my subjects naturally to the best of my ability.
Photography sort of flowed my way naturally and became a means of communicating more effectively.
I was never very good with writing and this creative outlet helped me tell stories better than I could ever manage using words alone. In contrast to my prior technical and sterile occupation as an engineer, photography matters because it can inspire people or make them happy. This means that I can make myself happy just shooting when I go out on my own, or make a person happy when I deliver the images to them from a shoot. Personally handing over printed images to another human being is one of the most rewarding feelings in photography, in my opinion.
Who or what inspires you the most?
Stephen Shore, Alec Soth and Dan Winters are huge inspirations for how I approach my work. Their photographs, photo books and exhibitions I have consumed helped me understand how images affect the viewer in terms of context, composition and lighting. Basic stuff, but still at the core and very relevant.
I forgot where I picked up the concept of “Pictures of Nothing”, but it is my mantra. If photographing a derelict gas station in the middle of nowhere or some colourful trash on the sidewalk in my neighbourhood brings me joy, I will photograph it. Seeing Stephen Shore or Alec Soth do this constantly also made me feel like what I am doing has value. It keeps photography fresh and as long as you are having fun, that’s all that matters.
I also love the concept of serendipity. This can occur when photographing people or places alike. Have a super fun shoot with somebody when you thought it would be serious. Randomly find something photo-worthy when you least expect it. Going off course while travelling and finding that strange place and ends up becoming your favourite photograph of your trip.
What camera and what lens could you not live without?
Another one of those million-dollar questions. If I think about what I enjoy using the most but also use most frequently, it would have to be my Leica M6 with a Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH. I can schlepp it everywhere as it is robust, compact and light. Honourable mentions, because I use them so much: the Canon 1DX with 85mm 1.2 and the Mamiya RZ67 ProII with 65mm f/4.
Visual narrativeWhat’s your favourite shot ever? What’s the story behind the photo?
These questions are never easy to answer, because we as photographers are always shooting and easily get infatuated with new works and forget about the old. If I had to choose one, my favourite shot to date was a lucky one that I took in Hong Kong back in 2017. I wandered off the path that I had loosely planned that morning and came across a soccer field on a rooftop near a residential area on HK Island. Some children were playing a match and the setting within this “sea of buildings” instantly pulled me in. I raised the camera p to my eye and just started shooting.
What’s the best project you've ever worked on?
Apart from a few commercial and non-profit projects that I was fortunate enough to have worked on over the years which may be more relevant here, my favourite project by far is still an ongoing one. In the “People” section of my work, I am looking for artists, dancers, artisans and personalities alike to make portraits of. My focus here is environmental portraiture and my favourite session was with a female ballet dancer named Aeri of Staatsballett Berlin. We met up at Staatsballett and took some photos warming up and then moved through the backstage area that looked like a mess. The shots in there were my favourite of the day and one image reminded me of a ballerina inside of a music box. Some other photos in this group pretty much all happened that way. The unexpected is usually the most rewarding.
What is your relationship with the people you’re photographing? How does this affect your approach?
The relationship differs greatly if it is a commissioned shoot or a private project, yet I try my best to keep my approach consistent. I don’t shoot much candid or street photography, but rather focus on classic portraits with an emphasis on environmental portraiture. I try to make my subjects feel at ease, even if they are nervous. This is always a learning process since humans are so different. When I can achieve that they “blend” into the environment in a natural way, and I’m a happy camper.
With the corona crisis still alive and kicking, that’s murky water. For now, I will be spending a lot of time in my archives and doing the work that I have been avoiding over the last few years. Proper file naming, archive excel sheets, scan developed “straight to archive” films, finding old gems that are portfolio worthy and that sort of thing. Project-wise, I am currently photographing Berlins Club Culture, documenting the empty and changed places due to the effects of Covid-19. I want to show how resilient and innovative the scene can be t make it over to the other side.
In the next 5 years, all that matters to me is that I still enjoy the process of photography and keep busy looking for new faces and places to photograph. I believe that if you keep that drive, wonder and discipline alive inside, you will make it no matter what the universe throws at you.
Where do you share your work?