Are great photographers born or made?
Artists and photographers are the greatest when talent and skill sets collide. Talent can make an artist’s work interesting but only development, experience and the mastering of his techniques will make him more than that. The greatest artists and photographers learn constantly, grow with challenges and never stand still.
Can you describe the moment when your future career in photography suddenly came into focus and achieved its first moment of clarity?
I received my first awards in media arts at 14 and quickly found myself crossing various genres and mediums. After several years in Digital Art my interest shifted towards Cinematography, Video Art, Performance Art and complex Interactive Installations. When projects became major undertakings and needed years to complete, I was looking for ways to express myself again more directly. So, I first returned to mixed media paintings and then photography. It was an eye opener – suddenly it felt like together with my growing interest for fashion and people, photography is all I’ve ever wanted. I found the answer to my (until then) problematic relationship with photography – I loved taking pictures – landscapes and architecture in particular – but couldn’t see much artistic value in something that more or less felt like ‘only’ capturing the world around me as it is – without staging, interfering or reinterpreting it. Thus, with fashion as a canvas and framework I suddenly could shift effortless from installation and performance to staged photography work. Combining the avant-garde with photo-journalistic elements, conceptual art, high fashion and models in breathtaking landscapes brought a lot together I loved. Today, I still work on media installations from time to time but photography is my true passion and the only medium I have never lost interest in.
Does fashion photography, for example, create any unique challenges in comparison to other photographic fields, like sports or photo-journalism?
Every field comes with its own challenge. I often approach fashion photography with a photo-journalistic eye and conceptual ideas. Therefore, I work a lot on location and in the great landscapes what adds many difficulties and uncertainties to deal with. And as if this was not enough, I mix natural and artificial light and talent and teams are changing constantly, too. So, you certainly have to deal with a whole series of challenges – constantly. But this is what I love. To not let such complex productions end in chaos, a thorough pre-production is key. When we come on set we are all on the same page. This way we can quickly adjust to all kind of circumstances. If everything was just ready to shoot and 100% preset, my work would be empty. It would feel dead to me. Changing places, people, wardrobe and challenges of any kind all make the work surprising and lively.
I feel the two artists that might have shaped me and inspired most are Andy Warhol and Helmut Newton.
If you have any contemporary or historical photographic heroes, who are they, and why?
Over time, I’ve become very selective. Well, I guess you can call me picky or a perfectionist. Pictures I adored in the past I might not find that interesting today. But then there are those images I never get bored of and keep adoring. One photographer or image I might adore for the light, another one for the direction of the models, and the third one for the framing or storytelling. I feel the two artists that might have shaped me and inspired most are Andy Warhol and Helmut Newton. Newton’s work is absolutely timeless and this is what my work is about, too – even though with a different signature and aesthetic. There is always a context in the here and now but even more so reserved for the time to come. This seems to be a paradox in fashion and advertising – but I believe that there are two layers you can create in your work. Some people might only see the more obvious one in the here and now. But there is also the second layer – and that one is of an artistic, timeless quality. That’s the rare and difficult one – but deep and full of perfection.
I live for and through my work and as wonderful it is to inspire with how you see the world, as an artist it's your duty to constantly reflect on the world – even when others come home from their day job and switch their brains off.
From Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar, to luxury brand name conglomerates like LVMH, the companies you have worked for to date, and your portfolio as a whole, is now arguably second to none. What continues to drive you?
I never run out of ideas and the urge for artistic expression only grows. Even worse – I regularly have to deal with the feeling that I’m overflowing and cannot keep up with them. I’m excited about my work and every project is different – every day is different. But you also need to be very disciplined – it’s also really hard work. I live for and through my work and as wonderful it is to inspire with how you see the world, as an artist it’s your duty to constantly reflect on the world – even when others come home from their day job and switch their brains off. You are an artist 24/7 and cannot switch yourself off. And you need to work long hours as well.
Do you have a signature photographic ‘look’, and if so, how did this uniquely Ger Ger signature look come about? Was it designed or accidental?
Over time, I certainly developed my own voice and aesthetic and I hear quite a lot about how distinctive my style became. I think I developed a signature that is unique enough to stand out and still lets me feel free to try new things. The search for your artistic voice should always be a priority since this is the most important selling point and an artist’s and photographer’s way to survive and inspire in such an oversaturated, creative world we live in today. But you cannot force or push it. It takes usually a very long time and great part of your life, and then suddenly – there it is. It’s you. It’s all your experiences, your talents, and interests that make you and your work unique. This is a wonderful thing.
Documentary, fashion, conceptual, celebrities. If someone put you on the spot, which one of these four areas of interest in your career could you simply not live without from a professional perspective? Or is it wrong to ever try to compartmentalize in this way?
I really think it becomes more and more one and is very much overlapping these days. Documentary photography lets me see the world through my own eyes, observe, and lets me calm down. Fashion photography I love in particular for its storytelling, sculptural, and installation/staging character. Conceptual work is very much part of my nature as an artist and its layers of abstraction are inspiring and with them I can better understand patterns of everyday life. And celebrity culture became an integral part as much as Andy Warhol was a very early inspiration for me. I think it would be tough to reduce all this to only one field – it would be not me anymore.
Have your photographic methodologies or technological considerations changed over time, or does this sound too scientific?
Absolutely, and they do change and evolve constantly. I always try to be alert and open for changes that might lead to something interesting or new. And I’m quite addicted to optimizing workflows and working methods to be more efficient.
I thrive for emotions – I want to freeze moments the viewers can stay in and I want to take their breath away.
Is there a ratio always at play in terms of technicality (i.e 60%) versus emotionality (i.e 40%), when striving for the defining image?
No. Having such a system/recipe would for me already mean that the result is likely too technical. I thrive for emotions – I want to freeze moments the viewers can stay in and I want to take their breath away. The artistic part has always the highest priority – the direction, the storytelling, the framing, the aesthetics. The technique is part of the process. Therefore, I must be familiar with all my equipment as I am with a toothbrush or a painter is with a paintbrush. There is no room for technology that gets in the way. I must be able to use it blindly so that the focus can be on the creative process. Only then it all comes together and technology can really make a picture even better – and this is when it all becomes magic. On set I’m used to
adjusting very quickly – lights, position, angles, directions. Assistants are an important part, but for doing my best work, I must be the one who is in absolute control. So, I rarely rent but own most gear, and shoot as much as possible with two main cameras – I definitely went through a lot with them. They are family. I love the fact that I know them so well and use them beyond their limits.
Do you prefer working more with people, or with objects?
Definitely, people. I also really love nature and the quietness and incomparable peace of landscapes but with fashion you can have it all. Objects in comparison are static and cold.
The center of my editing workflow is Lightroom
When it comes to light, do you generally prefer shooting in natural or artificial light? Why?
Usually, natural light for me comes first. And then, where necessary, I start to add more. The goal is to make the final picture as strong but also as natural as possible. If you do not really look for it, you should ideally not see the light that was added. There might be exceptions but for most cases this is the goal. Mixing natural and artificial light can easily become very complex – especially when light outdoors changes quickly and the weather is not stable. But for me it’s all worth it.
Up to now, what has been your standard photo editing process methodology?
For a decade now, the center of my editing workflow is Lightroom. I found myself less and less switching over to Photoshop in post-production. I have one million assets in the archives, and LR’s catalogue capabilities became an absolutely necessity.
Do you still look at every single raw image yourself as part of the editing process? If yes, why? If no, why?
Yes, indeed. For me this is part of the artistic process. I’m an integral part of pre-production, production and post-production. When I press the shutter button I already know how it needs to be edited afterwards. And working on the selections is a very important step as well. It’s the curation and it’s the same eye that makes these decisions that captured the pictures and created the concept and ideas in the first place. It’s usually a very time-consuming process and often the selections take more time than the actual shoot and sometimes even the whole preproduction. But it is essential. The retouching in fashion is important, too, but usually less time-consuming then the selections. As with the lighting – I try to keep things natural. I would not want you to see touch-ups. I retouch and edit in my very own way. Sometimes, people forget that even with film in the darkrooms there was a lot – sometimes even more – editing involved. The key is, in every single production step, to not forget about your initial vision and goal. Technology shall support you in your creations but not be visible.
It speeds up the editing workflow considerably and it feels very organic to use the dedicated buttons and a wheel for certain adjustments.
How has the Loupedeck console changed your overall photo editing workflow?
It speeds up the editing workflow considerably and it feels very organic to use the dedicated buttons and a wheel for certain adjustments. Many of my edits can be subtle and I’m thankful that changes with Loupedeck can be done quickly and precisely at the same time. To be able to make some adjustments even in grid view
is an amazing timesaver, too.
Can you describe some of the most surprising or positive benefits of using Loupedeck?
I’m really a big fan of great design, haptics, and attention for detail. I really like if people, designers, developers and companies care. Well, I’m a perfectionist myself. As with Apple products, I feel with Loupedeck that I really love to use it on a daily basis and this feeling does not get old. That’s actually quite an accomplishment and much more than one can expect or hope for.
Would you recommend Loupedeck to other professional photographers you admire and respect?
Without a doubt. Aside from the actual computer hardware and hard drives, this is the one and only other device that in my eyes can make a huge difference and improve a professional photographer’s workflow substantially – in the studio and on location alike.