20 | The Photographers I Work With (1)

Many of my artworks are based on my collaboration with professional photographers. Read in this new mini series why this is not always an advantage in the art world but why I don’t want to change anything about this.

Reference Photos Not Taken By the Artist Are A Controversial Subject In The Art World

From the very beginning of my art career, I have been using reference photos for my paintings. While others take photos of their friends & family or pay models for a shooting session, my approach has always been to portray the great diversity of humankind. So friends & family can be an option but they make up only a tiny percentage of the human species. I do like to travel and always take my camera with me, of course. But there are various reasons why my own photos are not always adequate for my concept.

First of all, I can’t travel as much as I would have to in order to stock up on photos sufficiently. Another decisive reason is that my photography skills have not improved in porportion to the improvement of my painting skills. I simply consider myself a painter above all! I never really aspired to become a high-quality photographer too. Good results on my memory card are more a coincidence than anything else. So I early started looking for professional photographers to work with.

In the art world, this approach is not always valued. An artist is supposed to take their own reference photo or, at least, create their own setting and then hire the photographer for the technical part only. I don’t know why this is so. For me and my global approach, this is simply not possible as outlined above. For this reason, I have to accept that some galleries and curators do not wish to work with me.

In my personal opinion, there is no “good” or “bad” approach when it comes to procedures, techniques or devices being used. I would like to quote one of my favorite artists and mentor Alejandro Carpintero when he says, “I don’t make art in order to be or become ‘better than others’. I make art in order to express myself.”

Let me therefore introduce you to some of the photographers I work or have worked with and let me tell you about how much I gain from this collaboration – as an artist and as a person.

Hans Joachim Reiter, Germany

Jochen (born on New Year’s Eve 1945) was not the first professional photographer I worked with but the first one that really made a difference for my art. With him I found out why collaborations are a really great advantage for me and what are the features of photos that I am looking for. Jochen lives in my city, Cologne, and we met because he participated in a bigger art event that I organized and curated for some years. When I first saw his portrait photos I found them so utterly beautiful that I immediately felt a strong desire to paint them. I could clearly tell that the way he photographed people showed his deep affection to the model in front of his camera and his emotional approach to people in general.

soft pastels on Pastelmat© | 55 x 55 cm
reference photo: Hans-Joachim Reiter
soft pastels on Pastelmat© | 42 x 65 cm
reference photo: Hans-Joachim Reiter

I felt that Jochen and I connected well on an artistic level. And from then on I knew that I would never be able to achieve in photography the same results than I do in painting. As an artist, you do not only need technical skills for your medium. You also need talent, the right mindset, an open heart, and the ability to combine everything in the most effective matter. And then there’s a certain feeling that you need in order to connect to the subject matter on an intimate level.

When I see Jochen’s portrait photos I can feel the spirit of the model. This spirit I then try to express while painting the figure. To capture this spirit while photographing myself is not impossible but a lot more difficult for me. One of the reasons is the time factor. Creating an oil portrait takes time and I need this time to feel the person. Taking a photograph is a much quicker act. But apart from this rather technical aspect, I believe and have experienced that the emotions of two sensitive souls (the photographer and the painter) add up to a spectacular artwork eventually.

Jochen is not a portrait photographer exclusively. He has mastered landscape, architectural design, and still life to a high degree as well.

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