I’ll get straight to the point: I never had the desire to become a photographer. My professional dreams initially took place in the areas of gastronomy and TV production. In itself, I was always fascinated by the medium of images – but by that I mean moving images. Going back, it all started when I met my current business partner Lars on the golf course at the age of twelve or thirteen. After many hundreds of balls, which we hit over the course, we discovered the common interest in filmmaking. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that I had made a movie before – the passion was just there, or rather the idea that you could have this as a passion. We then looked for a team, which we recruited from our classmates, and started our own youth TV station. Of course, everyone knows TV shows like ICarly – yes, about that was our idea. We packed our little camcorders and then ran a small TV station with about ten young people for a couple of years, which could be streamed on the Internet and had individual slots on cable TV. When I started my apprenticeship as a chef, I became more and more familiar with the medium of photography. The combination of ”Germany’s Next Topmodel” and stealing my brother’s photo camera turned out to be not a bad idea, because those were exactly my first steps in photography. Who doesn’t know these stories? A child takes his first photo and is fascinated by the possibility of capturing a certain moment. He is happy about it and starts to take pictures of everything and everyone. I, too, once started out that way – only I was already a bit older. Then, as I began to familiarize myself with the technology, I became interested in what distinguishes a good photo from a bad one. And I learned that there are rules to follow in order to stage a subject to advantage. So I began to study these rules in theory and tried to expand my photographic skills with these guides in mind. Indeed, my pictures became better. But apparently not really good, because there was a time when a photographer told me to my face that my photos were not good and that I would never be successful with them. He was right. His statement made sense to me because when I compared my photos to those of great photographers, I was trapped in my unprofessional bubble. That one sentence had completely overturned my work and at the same time opened up completely new perspectives for me. That was the starting point for the work I do today – work I’m proud of. Photography is a balancing act. Design rules must be followed and yet broken in order to create something new. In one photograph they are what guide me, in another I follow my intuition. I am a trained chef. But the search for special photos, never left me during my training. During the day I was in the kitchen, in the evening behind the lens. During this time, I made a decision: “I want to make photography my profession.”
All beginnings are difficult – I realized that when I wanted to implement my first ideas and acquire models and fashion labels for my projects to do so. When no one in the industry knows you yet, it’s not easy for agencies to provide you with models. For this reason, I started my projects with friends, made postings on social media and approached models directly. Of course, there were many rejections – but it would be boring if everything went smoothly. Today, however, I can count myself among the lucky ones who are approached by agencies for projects and sedcards. In general, it’s hard to get collaborations if you don’t have a portfolio. For this reason, I give all photographers: put together a portfolio before contacting agencies and business in general. The first impression is the most important and if it doesn’t fit, unfortunately you will stay in their minds forever with that impression. However, getting rejections also makes you strong. It is not always easy – that is clear! But you must not hang your head…
Starting something new requires courage. Because anyone who does something can also fail in the process. What attracts is the possibility of success. In 2011, I founded the Internet and cable TV project “SwissYouthTV”. For this, I received the Youth Promotion Prize of the Canton of Solothurn, on whose jury I later served for three years. Subsequently, I was nominated for a journalism prize for having filmed a documentary about food waste. But in 2015, the TV project was discontinued – that was the year in which I also completed my training as a chef. I was disappointed. Fortunately, at that time, a new field had piqued my curiosity: the fashion industry. I developed ideas and visions. In 2015, the first actions followed. On my website, I presented my first own T-shirt collection to a larger audience. The feedback was overwhelming. People liked what I was doing. And so something small became something bigger. During my military service, I was busy planning a new collection. On June 25, 2016, the big day arrived. I was allowed to present the clothes in a fashion show. Some t-shirts from 2015 completed the new collection. Fifteen models presented them on the catwalk. The Simply Black collection, which I designed at that time, included 42 garments, which were presented in the hall filled to capacity. In addition to photography, fashion had become an exciting field of activity for me in which I could put myself in focus; something that was never possible in photography behind the camera. I was inspired by various people; for one thing, there was Karl Lagerfeld. He had always fascinated me – be it his creativity, attitude and expertise when it comes to fashion and models. Other sources of inspiration are Kristian Schuller, with his creative work, and Peter Lindbergh, who was able to perfectly capture the emotions of his models. These working methods and styles still shape my work today. They give me a direction. They show me what is possible.
I have always been fascinated by how many photographers have been able to present their work in big magazines. I wanted that too! However, before I could get down to the business of writing up and submitting my images to the various magazines, I was contacted by a small fashion publication in Paris via Instagram. That was the start of a new chapter for me: publishing my images. Today, I have collected over 450 magazines and publications in my portfolio – that’s one of the things I love about the work. I don’t know if I would still be taking pictures today if I couldn’t show my images. I think posting your images on Instagram is certainly great – seeing your work on a magazine cover in a newsstand, however, is the beautiful work for me. In general, I’m fascinated by the impact images can develop in print. After my first publications in magazines, I was allowed to show my work in the most prestigious galleries in the world – something I could only dream of before. This came about through my many contacts, and chance also had a hand in it. Because clearly, the quality of the work is important, but without contacts and networking nothing works in this day and age.
To make the essence of a human being visible when it is photographed is the highest art of photography (Friedrich Dürrenmatt). Photography always shows only a part of reality. This is especially true when photographing people. The light, the shadow, the focus, the blur and the framing – they determine how the person appears to be in a photograph. A portrait always shows only some facets of a person. Deciding how a person should be portrayed to the outside world is one of the most difficult and beautiful tasks of photography and fashion. Photography can also be appearance. Who is depicted, often knows about it and behaves accordingly. He wants to be beautiful and please the future viewer of the image. What is exciting in both photography and fashion is when the levels of appearance and being merge. This happens when during the act of photographing something happens in the person who is modeling. When he starts to desire himself and acted self-love turns into real self-love. A photograph can help a person see a side of himself. Clothes can enable him to live out a part of himself. And so appearance becomes being. For me, making the essence of a person visible in a photograph also means showing the portrayed person his or her own beauty. Beauty comes from within. Photography and fashion can help to bring it to light. However, the final step must be taken by everyone themselves. Because being beautiful means finding oneself beautiful.
Today I specialize in portraiture and fine art photography in black and white and incorporate my film background into everything. Of course I also do a lot of work like advertising, commercials, business and also weddings – however, these are not necessarily the elements in my job that fulfill me. Because my work lives on emotions and you can only achieve that if you yourself are fulfilled by the craft of photography and your counterpart, who allows the emotions. In general, I find my preliminary discussions before each shoot very exciting. I rarely plan shoots; unless of course it is a big campaign etc. However, I am fascinated by talking to people and compiling stories and moods from this conversation within seconds in my mind’s eye. There are always two people involved in a picture: the photographer and the viewer (Ansel Adams). A photo is always created several times: A first time when the photographer presses the shutter release. A second time when he himself looks at the picture. And further times with each person who fills it with new thoughts. Pictures have an effect on people. They trigger emotions: Joy, sadness, anger and disgust. Based on these emotions, we begin to think about the pictures and fill them with content. To judge a photo only by its technical execution does not do justice to the medium. Statements that a picture makes, emotions that it arouses, make a picture a good photograph.
There came a time when, in retrospect, I had probably developed a bit too strong an ego. When I began to realize that I was being appreciated and my work was achieving more and more success, I lost my focus for a moment. I was no longer concerned with creating emotional and impactful images; everything was solely about success. Fortunately, this attitude quickly changed again, as my community realized that I was no longer making my images, but imitating a style that didn’t suit me. Because people were following me for one reason: they wanted my pictures. That makes me happy. Photography is language. It is a language that everyone understands. The technical execution is the rhetoric. But good rhetoric does not make a good story. A good story moves the listener. And a good picture moves the viewer. “You need time to take pictures. If you don’t have time, you can take pictures.” (Author unknown) Can we conclude from this: whoever wants to look at a photo must have time. Because the one who has no time only sees.
After the many publications in magazines, I fulfilled a dream with my own magazine. First, I had the opportunity to gain my own experience at a Paris-based magazine, and in collaboration with JEP Switzerland, I was allowed to publish various publications in Switzerland and abroad. However, the focus always remained on my own work – because that was me and that was what I built up. If I had to decide whether I prefer to publish or be published, I couldn’t give a clear answer. Because publishing others is such a great joy and you know you are helping others with every single image you publish of them.
The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, “A good photograph is one that you look at for more than a second.” I would add: A good photograph is one that puts a past moment in a new light. That’s why you look at it for longer than a second. For me, photography is a gateway to the past. When we look at a picture, we don’t just see it as a reflection of a moment. We recognize more in it. We invent stories that could be behind the picture or remember those we associate with it. Memory and invention never correspond to the complexity of the moment. This imperfection allows the viewer to fill the photograph with his or her own thoughts. And so something that has not yet existed is created. A new idea of the past emerges. This is what fascinates me about photography.
One of my favorite terms is and remains “Aesthetics”. Because it’s hugely important that as a photographer you stay true to your Aesthetics. I always explain it this way: as a model, it’s your job to adapt to the style of the photographer or client. As a photographer, on the other hand, you have to stay true to your own style. There’s almost nothing more important than developing your own visual language to stick in people’s minds. Let’s take an honest look at the photographer market together: on Instagram or other social media, we are literally flooded with images from thousands of wonderful photographers and artists. So it’s important to develop your own style to stand out from the crowd and reach exactly those people who are attracted by your style.
Developing my own aesthetics, finding my own style was a difficult task for me, which was a process that lasted for years. Even now, when I look through my work from the past years, I realize that my style is constantly changing – and I don’t just mean the lighting setup or any edits. No, by that I also mean my approach to the models, how I position and portray them. Because for me, that’s exactly an extremely important and exciting point in photography, which plays a big part in the style development of each individual photographer. When I think back to my first photo shoot, I see my helplessness when it comes to positioning the model. But that’s exactly what makes my profession so exciting. Every face tells its own story, and accordingly you have to respond to each person individually in order to be able to shoot the perfect photo. I therefore recommend every photographer to deal with his model in such a way that he feels comfortable in front of the camera. Photography is something very personal and intimate – if the confidence is missing, you can see it in the face. As I always say: eyes don’t lie.