Posted on February 15, 2015
Interview Series 2014 : Final interview with Kristel Schneider
by Kerstin Langenberger, Orsolya Haarberg, Alessandra Meniconzi,Cindy Jeannon,
Andrea Gulickx, Misja Smits, Heike Odermatt, Daisy Gilardini, Sandra Bartocha
I think you do not have to travel all around the globe to find interesting photography subjects.
They are all around you!
The last of the interviews about women photographers is about Kristel herself.
In 2011, she started a series of talks with amateur and professional nature photographers. Interestingly, all of them were men. So in 2014, she decided to put some women photographers into the spotlight. I have never met Kristel in person, but got to know her through her pictures over the internet. From the very beginning, I was impressed and fascinated by the fact that her photos were all taken in Central Europe. It is easy to wow people with pictures of exotic locations or foreign animals, but it’s a whole different league to search for motives in areas that seem normal to us. Kristel takes on that challenge through a wide range of photography, capturing the mood of the European forests. Subtle details of fungi, leaves or flowers, abstract motion blurs and bokehs of the forest canopy or trees in their surroundings. Her portfolio conveys her love and passion for the nature that is all around us. (Kerstin Langenberger)
Orsolya Haarberg : After doing all these interviews with female nature photographers, do you think that women in general have a different approach to nature photography than men? No…I think the approach to nature photography is the same for both genders. They both respect nature and like to express the beauty of it. I often hear people say that women tend to capture the emotions of nature, more than men do, but to be honest, I really do not know what the assumption is actually based on. I know a lot of male photographers who are perfectly capable of capturing emotions in nature (smile). Looking at my workshop participants, it is maybe true that male photographers are more interested in the technique or in the background of their equipment. Nevertheless, I realise that this remark is also very generalised. One should focus more on what your interests are or on how you see the ‘nature’ world. Studies show (by Israel Abramov of the City University of New York (CUNY)) that the two genders have different ways of collecting visual information. Men are more sensitive to moving objects and to seeing small details, whereas women tend to be sharper in seeing color changes.
Alessandra Meniconzi: What do you think about the future of professional photography?
The photography industry is being treated with little or no respect for the professionals. This lack of respect is in my opinion, one of the main problems for professional photographers. I once read that you must not blame the economy, your clients, the weekend warriors, the high level of competition or even the lack of markets in your area but look at yourself: if you don’t run your business as a business there is no business. So it is important to make plans and be professional: respect one’s work and do not treat it like something you got easy. Another point is the quality of your work. Now that cameras are getting better and even cheaper, photography is more accessible for everyone. But that does not mean that the ‘quality’ and ‘the art of seeing’ will be the same for everybody. There will always be a future for those who can make a difference and be innovative.
Cindy Jeannon : Reading your interviews, people can feel that you really went deep into the work of the photographers. This impression was confirmed when I read the introduction of the questions you submitted to me. Your words were true and you could really grasp the idea behind my work. To dive into these photographers’ works take a lot of time. What does it bring back to you? What motivates you to do it?
When I became more and more interested in photography I remember that I just loved diving into the pictures of all those photographers from all over the world. And when I became older I wanted to grasp the meaning behind the images. I think you can learn a lot from other photographers, by reading how they look at photography, how they prepare a photo trip or just what they feel in the field. With my interviews I try to connect people with great nature photography and hope they get enthusiastic about the subject so that more people will see the beauty around them.
Andrea Gulickx : Are you preparing your images beforehand or are you going with an open mind ? I do both. I like to get inspired by nature or weather conditions, this helps me to be more creative and to try out other techniques. But I also go prepared, when I look for certain flower-species or insects for example, it is important to know their natural habitat and which season you can find them. When I have a photo-assignment, then I need to know what the best time or the best place is, to take certain shots. But even then sometimes you can get unexpected situations (change of weather) so you have to be flexible and creative with the light of that very moment.
What made you decide to be a workshop instructor ? And what did you learn from being a workshop instructor ?
When I moved to France I loved being alone in nature but it is also nice to meet new people and exchange ideas and thoughts about photography with them. I find that during workshops sessions you learn a lot from each other. Not only the photography techniques but also the way people look (at nature) and translate what they see into images. Details and textures in nature are not so easy to ‘see’ for everybody, and what is a very common subject for one can be an inspiring one for the other. This makes photography a great tool for personal expression, be it in an artistic or in a realistic way. Other interesting part is the way people work with emotions or light, it is very personal and the image result can be so different.
Misja Smits : When I take a closer look at your tree pictures I see different ways of showing them: within a landscape and in a more abstract or creative cadre. Do you agree? If yes, is this a deliberate choice? If no, how do you see your tree images? Can you explain your love for tree pictures? Would you like to specialize in one type of tree image or would you like to keep having different approaches?
I inherited my love for trees from my father. As a child I did not always appreciate the long walks in the forest. It was much later, when I took more interest in nature myself, that I saw what my father loved in trees: the interesting shapes, the colors, the power. As for me the older the tree the more ‘character’ it has. A great photography subject to explore.
It is difficult for me to just take one type of tree image, I notice that over the last couple of years I have liked to experiment more and translate my own personal feeling to nature into an image. By playing with the light or depth of field. It all depends on the personal mood and the way I think a certain nature scene comes out best. Sometimes this can be a very classical realistic translation, but captured intimately. Like some of my tree images within a landscape. On the other hand, when I think certain light conditions are perfect for a more abstract or creative cadre, I take a different approach.
In what way did your moving to France influence your photography? I was a weekend/holiday photographer. Before I made the step to move to France I worked 6 years as a communication advisor and travelled a lot. One day I decided it was time for a change in life and in 2009 I became a full-time photographer and could spend as much time as I wanted taking photos. The last couple of years my photography has changed a lot, my knowledge, my photography style, my personal interests. By creating a photography network and making plans I was able to start organizing my own photo-workshops and got my first big photo-assignment here in Auvergne. Gradually I am expanding my goals and for 2015 I have planned to have my first own photo exhibition “Variations in Trees” shown at many photography fairs and festivals. Successfully enough, the first one was this year at Festimages nature in Pays de La Loire, France (at the end of January) and the next one will be “Festival de l’oiseau et de la nature 2015”, in Picardie | France, (at the beginning of May). Then the exhibition will be in Denmark at the end of May. (See website for more info)
Heike Odermatt: What is it that you would like to achieve with your nature photography ?
I did not choose this profession to get rich but I see it more as a way of living. Being close to nature made me look different to the (nature) world. Seeing how beautiful the area is around us and also how fragile and vulnerable it is. Photography always makes me happy and I hope, by showing my work to a wider public, people will also pick up a camera and start exploring and looking for details. Once you start noticing details or play with light, you see how much beauty there is all around you. I hope I will always keep enjoying photography in the way I do now and be able to push myself to ‘ keep thinking out of the box ‘ so as not to land in a kind of pattern that feels comfortable but try to learn every time I go out in the field.
Daisy Gilardini: What does photography represent for you?
My passion, I think. Photography is for me the best way to express myself creatively. Photography makes me look at the (nature) world differently.
To put it in single words, : relaxing, challenging, learning, exploring, creating.
Sandra Bartocha : What makes a good image ?
I think an image has to be in balance. I always say, it is good to know the rules of composition but it is even better to put them aside. Composition is very personal, it is your expression, your visual interpretation of the subject in front of you. You can add emotion or create a mood by playing with colors and light. As for me a well-compost image is a balanced image.
Kerstin Langenberger: I love the fact that you don’t travel all around the world to photograph nature, but stay in Central Europe. Has this been a deliberate decision, and if so, what are the reasons behind it?
When I moved to Auvergne I had the feeling I was everyday on holiday. This region has such a diversity in nature and landscapes that I am still not bored exploring it. And every season has its own charm too. One result of the decision to move to France is that we have to live with much less income. In the past I had a good salary but no time, now it is the other way around, more time but….(smile) But as I said before it was a decision that brought me closer to nature and gave me the opportunity to explore my own living area. And I think you do not have to travel all around the globe to find interesting photography subjects.
They are all around you!
Read all the other interviews here .
Category: Genereal, Series Photographers Interviews Tagged: Allessandra Meniconzi, Andrea Gulickx, Cindy Jeannon, Daisy Gilardini, foto workshops Frankrijk, Heike Odermatt, Interview Kristel Schneiderr, Interview with nature Photographer, Kerstin Langenberger, Kristel Schneider Photography, Misja Smits, Nature and Landscape Photography, Orsolya Haarberg, photography interview, Sandra Bartocha
Posted on November 16, 2014
by Kristel Schneider
‘ I think that working conceptual and concentrated on certain projects help to focus the vision…’
Anybody who loves nature photography and follows the news about the big competitions will see Sandra’s name pop-up. She won prices in the most prestigious nature photography competitions; WPY (Wildlife photographer of the year), GDT (European Wildlife Photographer of the Year), IPA (International Photography Awards), Asferico and many others. Sandra loves nature and that reflects in her images. The way she captures the light and puts emotions into her images are the work of a real ‘master’. My first introduction with Sandra’s work was via her contribution to the Wild Wonders of Europe project. And soon I discovered we had a nature subject in common : we love trees. As for me it was a reason to dig a little bit deeper into her photography work and I discovered a very inspirational artist with a recognizable personal photography style. In 2011 I had already asked Sandra for my earlier interview series, but her busy schedule back then had made it impossible to join. I got Jim Brandenburg for the closing interview instead, “not bad as a substitute”, she answered (with a big smile) and she promised me to join in a next series. I am therefore very happy to introduce her to you today on Visions and Nature, enjoy!
(click on the image for the original size)
Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, explain your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography?
I grew up as a daughter of a photo journalist in a small village surrounded by lakes, fields and forests. My interest in nature was there from the beginning and as I have been around cameras and the dark room all the time my interest in photography has always been there too. Combining these felt natural.
For me, you are the ‘pioneer’ of double exposer images. Your ‘double exposure’ trees series are an inspiration for many other photographers. But using this technique does not mean they have the same photographic eye and artistic feeling as you have. These two elements are essential to copy a ‘real Sandra’ .
But how do you feel about people trying to copy your work ?
I don’t think I’m the pioneer of any technique. 😉
Maybe I made it more popular than it was before. Pioneers of double exposures are definitly others … Freeman Patterson for example …
I believe almost everybody copies (or incorporates) ideas of others into ones own work. I think it’s inevitable. Not only techniques but ideas that one catches “on the road” … and weaves seamless into ones own work … of course … sometimes it’s hard to see that there are many people around that do an exact copy without adding anything of a personal view.
Do you consider yourself and artist or a craftsman ? With other words do you consider photography as an art or a craft ?
I consider myself as an artist. But the craft comes first. Photography involves a lot of craft and in order to express your artistic vision you need to practice your craftsmanship first.
You worked on projects like Wild Wonders of Europe, Müritz-National-parc in the past, can you explain how these projects influenced your photography work ? How did they impact your photography in general ?
I think that working conceptual and concentrated on certain projects help to focus the vision. With Wild Wonders of Europe it was the concentration on producing the most beautiful images of plants so it was 14 days straight orchid photography. After that I had a clear vision of what works and what doesn’t.
For the Müritz-project it helped me to envision certain images before and not while doing the photography and I learned how to find out what key elements of a landscape or a region are in order to convey a clear image to the audience.
(click on the image for a bigger size)
At this moment you are working together with photographer Werner Bollmann on a new project, LYS. Can you tell us a bit more about this project, how did you come up with the subject and when you will publish something about it?
LYS is a project about the North of Europe. Amazing “LYS” – meaning “light” in Norwegian and Danish language – is one the most prominent features of the Scandinavian countries. We came up with the idea in 2011 because we always wanted to work together and because we both love the North since many years. The idea is to capture “our” personal interpretation – the essence of the North … from Denmark to Svalbard .We cover a huge region and it is quite demanding considering we don’t live up there. So it’s three years of photography right now and we are almost finished …
There will be a book and a multi-vision show. We do work together with a great composer – Torsten Harder – and the result will be played with live musicians.
The date is not clearly set yet. Either in autumn 2015 or 2016. Such a large region deserves a little time. 🙂
(click on the image for a bigger size)
You once said that you love water and the sea, trees and forests and that you prefer the cooler Northern parts of Europe. Can you express what you feel about these topics and what it is you like to capture when you are in your favourite surroundings.
It’s heart felt … it’s about being outside … it’s about breathing sea salt, hearing waves crashing the shore … feeling the crisp cold and hearing the snow scrunching below … about the smell of a pine forests in warm and bright summer nights … standing in a dome of beech trees … that feel like a cathedral … it’s the contrasts of light and dark … day and night …
It’s not about average … it’s about extremes. And photographing where I feel good is a privilege.
With a father as a photographer, who took you into the field with him, you were brought up with photography. Do you see your father as the real inspirator and do you have the same photography style?
My father was an inspiration to do photography, but our styles couldn’t be more different. He is mainly working with people and faces and doing reportage photography. I have been interested to photograph different subjects right from the start. So he was the catalyst but not the inspiration along the way. The inspiration along the way came from friends in local camera clubs and the GDT.
As I mentioned earlier in the introduction, you have already won a lot of prices. Is there still a price you would like to win ? What are your photography goals, destinations for 2014/2015 and what would you like to achieve ?
I have no real aim to win more than I have now. It’s great for publicity but doesn’t matter when it comes to artistic expression. Of course it would be great to see an image of a landscape or plant winning the main price in a major competition but it is really not important for me.
My hope and wishes for my future direction is that I have the time to elevate my own photographic expression, that I’m able to find time working on the projects I imagine. I’d love to do more projects together with musicians as I believe that photography and music build a perfect harmony and for 2015 we need to work deliberately on LYS.
Share with us one of your favourite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?
I think that my image Light Show is one of my personal favourites. I took it in January 2011 and it still remains to be special to me. I am living directly at a pine forest and that afternoon it was one of the first warmer days … with 3°C and the snow began to melt … fog started building up against the warm rays of sun. I didn’t have any proper camera equipment at my apartment … no tripod, no proper camera. I only had my small Sony Nex with a Lensbaby tilt adapter and some old lenses. So I ran into the forest … all the time regretting to have no proper camera and lens with me … and started to experimenting with the focus while tilting my 50mm f 1.4 Nikon lens with open aperture … and handhold.
In the end it turned out to be a perfect choice for an unsual image … full of light and emotion.
Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
I will have two exhibitions in Potsdam and Berlin next year … mainly consisting my more abstract work – the tree and reed series.
I will speak in Norway in March and I hope to publish a small personal book about the seasons in 2015.
Before the interview Sandra had a look at Kristel’s website (www.kristelschneiderphotography.com) and picked out images that really popped out for her and she explains why:
I do like the painterly quality of the image … the even distribution of light reflexes and views below the water surface. I’m also fascinated by the subtle colours … the blues and greens.
The graphic quality makes this image. Remains of autumn… last leaves on a beautiful silver grey beech. I admire the light base that the lines of the branches for perfect patterns.