AN OVERDUE UPDATE // Hong Kong

Recently my plans changed a lot and after thinking in circles, back and forth, I listened to my heart and did what I was craving to do for a long time. I bought a one way ticket to Asia and packed my bags, including a one year visa for Australia. So in the end of last year I left London, after having lived in this beautiful city for nearly 5 years. With memories full of precious moments that will stick with me forever.

I boarded a plane to Istanbul, flew to Hong Kong from there, for the past few weeks have traveled through China and am writing these lines from X'ian before heading to Beijing for Chinese New Year.
I have only been en route for about 4 weeks, but met such incredible and inspiring people on the way, both new and familiar ones that I got to catch up with, that my sketchbook is filled with notes and thoughts and ideas already. And I truly cannot wait to see what the next few month have to offer!

From beautiful Hong Kong, that has treated me so well:

INTERVIEW by Nicholas Echevarria

My incredibly talented friend Nick, who I had the pleasure meeting and living with in my first year in London, has asked me some questions recently on Photography, London and myself as part of his NOMAD series. Here's what I answered him:

How would you describe yourself?

Young, free, undecided, passionate, down to earth, honest, introverted — a closed book in some moments, a crazy hippie in others.

Tell us a little bit about how you grew up.

My sister and I grew up in a loving family in the south of Germany not far from Munich. We always had animals with us and thinking back we've always been close to nature with forests, mountains and lakes at our doorstep.

At some point, I was pushed into an ugly classroom and that carefree childhood came to an end. Maybe I should be thankful for those long years at school I hated so much — who knows where I would be now?

What was the moment you realized you wanted to be a photographer?

It wasn't a moment. It's been a developing interest that I discovered, and it became stronger and drew my attention in a way I hadn't experienced before. I remember getting my hands on an issue of Vogue Italia with an editorial by Paolo Roversi. There was a portrait he took of Natalia Vodianova in it that blew me away. That made me think about the process, and thats when I started using my sister and her friends as models, putting them in pretty dresses, painting their faces and taking photos of them. I kept going, shot more and more, and decided after my A-Levels to delve deeper into the subject at university.

What is it like to actually be a photographer?

Being a fashion photographer is a lot less glamorous than it seems. The actual picture taking probably doesn't even take up 10% of a shoot. There's so much editing, and above all, organization — it takes a lot of time to get a team together, talk to bookers, decide on the right model, find a location, talk to magazines and so on and so on. The list is long.

But it is incredibly fulfilling to hold the end result of an idea that started in my head, in my hands. Usually so many things change throughout the process, especially when shooting a fashion story or an editorial. It’s like putting together a puzzle sometimes. Everyone involved is a puzzle piece themselves and throws in their ideas throughout the length of the shoot.

Tell us a little about where you live.

When I was 20, I packed my bags and moved to London where I've been living for the past 4 years, loving every day. I've moved from place to place, but now am living with two dear friends and Rufus the cat in a wonderful flat right by a canal and marshes, which makes me feel like I'm living in a small village. It's the perfect place to refuel and break out of London's craziness.

How has your city influenced your style?

London taught me that everything is allowed, and that it only feels like there are boundaries. It's a great place to people watch, observe the crazily dressed fashion victims in the streets of East London, and smirk at their insane characters. There's an endless amount of inspiration in every corner of London, in all the different faces, and in all the many different cultures and artistic approaches. It all continues forming my vision and aesthetic every moment.

I’m not taking the fashion circus too seriously though — I love using fashion to realize my ideas but am rather cautious and critical with the industry besides that. For me, garments are instruments to create stories.

What is it exactly you are critical of?

The judgmental, superficial aspects of the industry is far from the type of person I want to be. I'm sick of seeing commercially produced, Photoshopped women in adverts that represent an image of women who simply don’t exist.

How does the story you want to tell go up against these criticisms?

I'm after real characters, imperfections, and interesting faces who make me think and who make me want to find out more. My fascination for honesty within the natural truly inspires me. That's probably the reason for my recent portraits of models I've taken without anyone else involved. No make-up artist, no stylist — just me, the camera and the model posing as themselves. I'm trying to include this a lot in my editorial work too — the model's real, raw character, rather than them playing a role.

How has travel influenced you?

Traveling is such a mind-expanding adventure. The faces, smells, flavors, colors, landscapes and conversations shape you and develop your values.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Tickets for gigs. I simply cannot resist live music when a musician or band plays in London. It feels a bit wrong to call this extravagance, to be honest. For me, living without live music would be like living without air to breath and that wouldn't work out very well.

With regards to photography, what’s your process like? What kind of effect does music have on it? It’s seems like music is integral to your character.

Ideas for shoots can have completely different origins. Sometimes the concept literally pops up in my mind. Other times, I’m approached with a request, or the idea develops out of a collaboration. I make notes in my sketchbooks all the time and when I feel like something gets to a point where I can start to see form, I decide to go ahead with an idea by putting together a mood board. It’s a basic sketch of my idea made up of inspiration of all kinds — images, words, lyrics and music — to show magazines and team members what I'm after, what I want to achieve, and how I want to get it. The rest of my team does the same. This is where the email and organizing madness starts! Ton shooting day, these mood boards work as guidelines, a day plan and a timetable we can refer to.

As for music, it inspires me before the shoot, entertains us while on the shoot, and keeps me going when I'm editing and retouching afterwards. It’s a necessity for sure.

What are the risks of pursuing your passions?

Diving so much into something that passion becomes obsession.

Has photography ever become an obsession for you? Do you think artists need to be a bit obsessive? 

Sometimes I forget to take a break, or to lean back and just do nothing. Maybe sometimes I am obsessed, but I only realize that after days and nights of working. Sometimes things start flowing, and I just can’t turn my back on it and stop. You could call it obsession, or you could call it love.

What has been the most meaningful thing that has happened to you in your city?

Meeting like-minded people who share and understand my thoughts, are as inspired by me as much as I'm inspired by them. It's a bit like soaking in each others drive.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Oh, it's impossible to decide on one! I read some words by photographer Nirrimi that mean a lot to me. She said, “Sometimes, you have to remind yourself that you don't have to be beautiful. You just need to be kind because kindness is a beauty that can be shared by all.”

Where do you see yourself and your photography in the future?

Hand in hand, down to earth, authentic and honest — no matter what. 

ALL OF ME for Boys By Girls

Another story is out that I shot for the lovely ladies over at Boys by Girls. ALL OF ME was a fantastic day shooting alongside a wonderful team with model Ben Smallwood (Nevs) , Stylist Elvia Rietveld and Make Up Artist Margarida Marinho.

The Boys by Girls team found great words summarizing what we've been up to:

It’s 1968, London stands once again an adaptable incubator for the boom of a new style. No longer embracing the immaculately polished presence of ‘Swinging London’, the latest look pitches pairs of steel toe-capped boots and jeans cropped above the ankle, the Mod had arrived championing the little he had through a 'Rude-Boy' attire. This week, bringing it all back in bootfuls stylist Elvia Rietveld joined photographer Sophia Kahlenberg recapturing the days where the tough working class were the style icons.

Portraying the era where men were said to go without food to buy clothes, model Ben Smallwood at Nevs Models, fits the Mod mould, with a pallid complexion, stark cheekbones and a deep-set stare. In this story, Smallwood reminds us why the Modernist style exploded throughout London during the late 60s, so it’s no wonder why names such as Pretty Green, Topman and A.P.C have made their millions with his face promoting their product.

Her eye and lens on this Mod prize, Sophia captures the story of the British Rude-Boy’s day-to-day life where the image, the attire, the trend was all the Mod man had. Styled in pieces from, master of modernism, Christopher Shannon, to the minimalist perfection of Nudie Jeans this week’s trio of creatives, Sophia, Ben and Elvia hark back to tale far too fashion faithful to be forgotten by the 21st century.

ZASHADU Lookbook

I can finally reveal the images I shot for Handbag designer ZASHADU. Stunning model in these shots is Mulan @ Bookings London with Make Up and Hair done by the ever so incredible Margarida Marinho. Styling courtesy of Daniel Dunt.

 

BOGDAN for Boys by Girls

My portraiture series of Bogdan @ Nevs has been published online at Boys by Girls. Shooting these images has been very special, there was no Make Up Artist or Stylist included. I tried to capture the "real" Bogdan, in his own clothes, as honest and real as possible. His undisguised character. Click here for the entire set and to read the lovely words the girls have composed.