Monday, 20 May 2013

Jan von Holleben interview

Jan von Holleben is an internationally renowned contemporary photographer.  The Berlin based artist often focuses on personal experiences of play and memories of childhood and has become a constant source of inspiration for students at Coulsdon College.


The visual arts department recently conducted a interview with him.

CC: Hello Jan, lets start by asking you, how would you describe your work or style?

JvH: Direct, natural, playful, considered, honest, improvised, educational, fun, childish yet totally serious by approach! I am fully responsible for what I release into the world.
I would never do anything that just pleases myself, is based purely on aesthetics or does not make any sense in the greater picture.I am not relying on photoshop to create my images.

Dreams of Flying - Jan von Holleben

CC: Can you describe in a few words how you make your work and what are the
hidden meanings?

JvH: One has to take into consideration that I am critical child of my own generation.
I saw bits of the 80s, the 90s and the change of the century. Visual culture has done ANYTHING possible within those years. Everything has been retro-ed or emerged from its own potential. Digital photography got invented and created full democracy amongst the medium. For myself and my photography, I try not to fall into any styles or trendy features. I am a purist and probably rather a visual communicator or illustrator than a professional photographer in the common sense.
Most of the work I do is based on text or theory which I translate into images. I try to use a neutral and timeless style and my grammar is based on a fun and easy approach to the subject matter.

My procedure would be:
Fully understanding the subject matter (research), then walking with the idea for some days, starting with some sketches on paper (for myself as memory of ideas but also to explain my team and possible models how my idea works), starting production (which can be a 10 minute shoot in the stdio or a two week project or split into various individual shoots depending on project) I am extremely pragmatic about my time and efforts. No fuzz and most of the times my team and I look like some funny immature photo-students when doing projects (which gives us usually access to all areas as I am hardly ever taken serious by outsiders)

Hidden meanings? Are there any?
If at all: Life is factual very easy and photography is a piece of cake (if you take it serious)!
The best feedback I get from people on a regular basis is, that I make them very happy. Maybe that is a hidden meaning? Maybe that I truly enjoy what I do as a job and see no boundaries. Photography has not many boundaries.

I can work on a book with Steidl one day, can shoot advertising the next, work with various magazines and make a fine art exhibition at the same time. All in one week. Freedom.
I can switch between studio, outside location, business center and shopping mall or black and white, snap shot sytle or colourful pseudo lifestyle photography. More freedom.

CC: What do you like most about photography?

JvH: The total freedom to switch between vision and reality or to combine both to whatever levels necessary.
Also that people are so dramatically receptive to photography.
And also that photography is one of the most tempting art forms. Photography, if for a career, will demand over and over a critical point of view from the photographer. Anyone can be a super photographer for the moment of a single super picture and can believe to be a great photographer. If you can stand the temptation, work beyond the pleasurable bits and not become an image maker, you can be a very happy and excited photographer. No pain, no gain!

CC: What and who inspires you?

JvH: What?: All of music's history. And I really mean all of it.
Photography and music are brilliantly analogue to each other. Whatever music can do to your ears and brain can photography do to your eyes and brain. Both can end up in the same region of your head and has the potential to fxxk you up! (by all emotional means).
Who?: Courageous people with integrity and a believe in themselves knowing that they can change the world (even the smallest world in the most hidden areas of life).

CC: What advice would you give to a young photographer?

JvH: Check very thoroughly if you are a good image maker or if you understand (or at least sense) the reasons why you do photography.
If you only take good pictures than make it a wonderful hobby. If you understand what you do and see a point in sharing that with the world, then rock'n roll!
And most of all: photography is 20% technology and craft, The other 80% is YOU!

Thank you very much Jan.  All the content in this blog post can be seen on the website for Jan von Holleben:

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