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.