… and how I got it back. Today I am writing a personal article in which I would like to tell you why I almost hung up photography, the absolute centre of my life, and why I didn`t.
During the last 12 months, I have found myself more and more in situations, where I accepted jobs behind its creative concept I did not stand to 100%.
The reasons for that differ widely. Sometimes, I don’t like the location, don’t like the concept or even the Models the client selected.
Models are actually a good starting point. As some of you may know, I’ve photographed a lot of fashion in the last 5 years and I’m wondering more recently why. Why do I photograph beautiful women in clothes? Where is the deeper meaning? Is there a deeper meaning at all?
When I think back, the main reason for my fascination must have been because of photographers like Kristian Schuller or Tim Walker. They do an amazing job in telling compelling stories with their work.
At the end of the day, I still know that they are not only creative but at the same time have a virtually unlimited budget for producing their work.
For most fashion work, however, I often ask myself: “Where is the emotion? Where does the image hit me out of my innermost?” When I look at my fashion photos I feel nothing, I’m not touched, don’t get goosebumps.
This has led me to the decision to let it rest and finish the chapter on fashion photography. I don’t want to find myself in mediocrity any longer and become unhappy about what I am doing. So here I was, a fashion photographer who doesn’t takes fashion photos anymore and without an idea in which direction he should go from now on. Lost in the great world of photography without ideas and without inspiration. I wanted to throw it away. Just from now on and I meant it damn serious. Do you know this feeling?
How should it go on now? A few days later, I announced the end of my career via Instagram. Shortly after, after overwhelming feedback that my friends gave me, I decided that this could not be the finish line.
I wont throw away what I built up over the past 12 years. I decided to go deep into myself and find out exactly what it is that excited me about photography. I visited more photo exhibitions than before. I bought more photobooks than I could read in my free time. I thrived to get to know which direction I wanted to go and where my enthusiasm is. 3 Weeks later, I found myself in northern India. I shot the best pictures of my life. And guess what wasnt involved? They were no fashion photos!
But what was the reason for this?
I believe the reason was the freedom I had and the real and unclouded inspiration that captivated me on the streets of India. No other photographer whose pictures I liked and photographed (yes, I know, some of us sell such plagiarism as inspiration), but unadulterated inspiration from the situation.
What is the true inspiration?
On the streets of India, it gripped me the first time. I ran through the streets and saw my shots. I saw exciting subjects and great stories that I could tell. No weeks of preparation, no endless phone calls with agencies and no 8-hour shootings. Finally, I could concentrate on people with real stories rather than on beautiful women and their clothes. Everything around me inspired me, from smells to sounds and the people.
A special situation stays in my mind until today
On the last day in New Delhi, we walked through the Muslim quarter and I saw a building that was still under construction. In the buildings, there were workers, lifting heavy 50kg sandbags up onto the 4th floor.
To my surprise, why they did not use machines for it – ups, we are in India – I took my camera and went to the building. Without thinking much and without a plan. I sucked in the atmosphere and tried to develop a feeling for the situation. I stood in a dark corner, watching the scene and the light for a moment before I started to take pictures and climb the steps.
Step by step I groped slowly into the light and tried to find with my 35mm fixed focal length the best detail. It was dusty, it was noisy and I got closer and closer to the roof. The workers did not seem to notice me at all, and I had time to put my cutouts and press the trigger at the exact right moment. That was it. That was the moment when I felt my heart thunder again Even during my trip, I was clear where my “photographic trip” should go. The documentary and portrait photography had done it to me, the unhappy and real life was what I wanted to photograph in the future. Shortly after my return to Germany, I decided to cancel all the fashion shoots. Instead, I decided to pursue portrait shoots and long-term projects. Projects that interest and inspire me.
So, my advice to you all: photograph only what is important to you.
Stop doing beautiful women photographs just because they are beautiful women. Stop photographing fashion just because you love the attention during the shoot. Photograph subjects you are interested in and what really excites you.
To say it with the words of Tucker MacDonald: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do!”
If you are reading this article, I am already in the middle of a project about refugees in Germany. I keep you posted here or on my website!
I hope I’m not the only one who has ever been in such a situation and successfully found out again. What have you done to master your crisis?
Also published on Medium.