University: London College of Communication
Artist Statement: Besides doing commercial work, I continue to work on long term personal projects which allows me to capture certain topics in more depths and visually intriguing ways. My personal work lies somewhere within the genre of documentary photography. The themes I work on vary and are mostly quite different from each other. They range from old age to food production; my most recent work is about a mining region being converted into Europe’s biggest artificial lake district. I am quite open with regards to the topics. The way a new project generally emerges is that I come across something I find fascinating and would like to learn more about and I believe that others could also be curious about. My approach and visual language evolve when working on a project, it all depends very much on the topic, how I perceive it and what I would like to bring across.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I did my Masters in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at London College of Communication and graduated 2009.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? At university it was for me the first time that I worked for a long period of time on one project. It was great to have the space and time to explore a topic. In addition, the constant feedback of tutors and other students was immensely helpful and valuable. In fact, the exchange with the other course participants was a real highlight for me. I am still in contact with quite a few of my former classmates and we continue to show each other work and to give each other feedback and support.
For my major project I went to the US, which was also the first time that I worked abroad on a personal story. To develop a personal project is very different than shooting an assignment. I learned very much through this final project how to organise myself and how to develop ideas and to translate them into a photographic project. Strategies learnt then, I still apply when making new work. Also the pressure to produce work within a certain deadline – e.g. for our final show – was an important experience.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into, and what themes do you find yourself exploring? As mentioned above I think that my work lies somewhere within the genre of documentary photography and I find myself exploring very different themes. I have questioned my project ideas quite a lot in the past and wondered often whether I should work on one theme extensively. I sort of admired people who would say, ‘I am interested in conflict or environmental issues or women's rights’. However, the truth is that I am interested in all kind of different things, I am not just drawn to one topic, I am curious about the transformation of a mining region into a holiday destination, or in the lives of older people or where our food comes from. By now I think that is totally fine. Most importantly, one has to be true to oneself in order to create good work.
What are the biggest influences on your photography? At the beginning of my career other photographers had a massive influence on my photography, like Alec Soth, Taryn Simon or Richard Renaldi. While I am still interested in other photographers work and certainly get influenced and inspired by them, I am not so obsessed looking at photography as I used to. I am also finding myself getting influenced and inspired by movies, especially documentary movies, or radio shows e.g. This American Life.
How did you get into commercial photography? Tell us about your experiences of shooting on assignment. I always dreamt of earning a living with photography. Since my Masters I have done very different assignments, I have worked on editorial stories and portraits for magazines and have also covered various events for clients such as Burberry and Google. In recent years I have increasingly worked on architectural photography commissions. I always loved architecture, and I also really enjoy documenting it. As a result together with Marcela Spadaro – who worked as an architect for Zaha Hadid Architects for 10 years – I have founded NAARO, an architectural photography studio (www.naaro.com). We get mostly commissioned by architects to photograph their recently completed buildings or installations.
Why do you feel it’s necessary on your website to include captions with individual images in each of your projects? I think images and text provide very different information; each one adds a different layer and enriches the complexity of a story. The fusion of words and images creates one bigger whole, which goes beyond the impact one could achieve with images or words alone.
Where do you look for inspiration and project ideas? Why do you think you’re drawn to documenting such varied subjects? When going to places, I feel very often I would like to do a project about this and that; my direct environment inspires me the most. I see things that touch me or I find fascinating, but it could also be that I come across a topic on the Internet or in the newspaper, which was for instance the case with my project Jazorina. I think there is no real explanation why I am interested in a broad range of subjects, I can find something fascinating in many different topics.
What was it about the development of a new holiday destination that prompted you to create work around it, which resulted in the project Jazorina? A few years ago I came across a newspaper article about an ambitious project to create a man-made lake district and holiday destination in the former mining district Lusatia. I found it fascinating how humans were changing the character of a whole region. The lake district will be the third cultural landscape in Lusatia. During this time span, the region witnessed a transformation from forest and marshes, to villages and agricultural fields, to mine pits and now to lakes. In addition, I found it interesting that the planned new identity of the region aimed to be a synthesis between the past and present by incorporating the industrial history e.g. by offering to tourists visits of a working power plant or of an active mine.
After reading this newspaper article and doing further research I felt that I really wanted to visit the region. As a result I went with my camera one summer and afterwards I was hooked and returned the following two summers. A photographic project started to evolve.
Did you have any visual or theoretical influences that helped form the way you made Jazorina? When I started working on Jazorina I did research into photographers who documented recreation and the relationship of humans with nature. I found the following photographers and series especially inspirational Reiner Riedler’s project Fake Holidays, John Lusk Hathaway’s One Foot in Eden, Eirik Johnson’s Sawdust Mountain and Yann Gross’ series Horizonville and to a certain extent they probably influenced my work.
Tell us about the process of creating your book Jazorina. Firstly, it was about selecting the images, which would be part of the book. I edited all my images down to about 100 and printed them as smaller work prints. Then it was about finding a sequence and flow and editing more images out. I did this by lining the prints on the floor. During this process I got feedback from colleagues and friends I trust, which definitely helped me make crucial decisions. Subsequently, I laid the images out on pages in an In-Design file, playing with sizes, pairings and the edit further. Once I was reasonably happy I started working with a designer form Kehrer Verlag. Together we finalised the design and worked on the text layout, the map and the cover. It is incredible how many decisions are involved when making a book, there are so many options!
What advice would you give to photographers embarking on the creation of their own photobook? The design of the photobook is very important. The book needs to become a special object, otherwise there is no reason to make a book as you can show your work easily just online or in print. Also the competition of photobooks is very high, there are so many beautiful photobooks out there. So it is very useful to work together with a book designer. A good idea is to look at books whose design you love and see who designed them. There are a lot of designers with astonishing different approaches and tastes. It’s crucial to find the right person for you and your work.
What’s your favourite photobook by another photographer/artist? I love the book Dalston Anatomy by Lorenzo Vitturi, which is about Ridley Road Market. Ridley Road Market is a market very close to where I live. I love the pictures, the sequencing as well as the cover, which is from material you could find on the market.
What has been your greatest achievement since completing your MA? I am very happy that I achieved publishing my book Jazorina with Kehrer Verlag and have another book coming out in September by Hoxton Mini Press. These two books and the solo show of Jazorina in Lusatia are for me major achievements. But I think my overall biggest achievement is that I still continue working on my own personal projects and also make a living as a photographer.
What are your opinions on social media as a working photographer? I think using social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is very important as a photographer. It allows you to connect very easily with people, to show your work and to see what’s happening around. For some people being active on social media comes more naturally than for others e.g. I mostly have to push myself a little bit, but I see it now as part of my work as a photographer and try to dedicate some time to it each day.
Have you got a project, new or old, that you wish to develop and if so, can you tell us more? During my Masters I developed a project about age called If you are lucky you get old. The idea was to show that inner growth is ever lasting and that we above seventy continue to love, suffer and dream. Since then I've really wanted to continue working on this project and to develop it further. I have been to the US once again after this visit and began working on it, but then the work on my book Jazorina and on the book of Hackney’s Canals began and had priority, so I stopped. I really wish to restart working on this series once I have more time.
What would be your dream photographic project? The just described project If you are lucky you get old fully funded so I could also collaborate with e.g. a writer, editor, film maker or a designer.