Interviews / Stories
Interview: Photographer Ulrich Jousten (Switzerland)
Tell us something about yourself
To quote my website: Born 1964, with German roots and Swiss passport. An early victim of photography, left alone for some years. Now definite picture addict. Inspirable by new ideas, endlessly curious, reflecting all details in preparation, patient and open for improvisation during the creation. Without haste and calm, devoted to the creation of the picture, always aiming at perfection. Preferably as a fine-art print. The sensuality of paper texture. Only the print is the ultimate picture.
How and when did you get into photography?
My first real camera was a Rollei 35. I got it when I was 12 or 13 years old. I always enjoyed taking pictures and bored people with lengthy slide shows (especially parents and teachers). Some of my freinds started to get more into B&W processing and I also got into it. Stunning work in the Dark Room when the first shades of the picture emerge in the liquid! This stopped however when I got more into university life mainly for budgetary reasons. I never lost my interest however and relied on commodity printing services for a long time, until Digital was about to replace the Analog. At a certain point in time, my partner in life discoverd a Swiss Website where groups of photographic enthusiasts can meet and form real classes for workshops with professional and reknown photographers (Gruppe Autodidaktischer Fotografen http://www.gaf-portfolio.ch/ )
This was in 2007 and besides I made excellent freinds, in my group and the teachers, I was able to boost my skills in the whole photographic workflow.
What does photography mean to you?
It simply stimulates the other half of my Brain. My work as a coordinator of multinational IT Projects is mainly focused on rational aspects in economics and IT, however the human factor plays a big role. Being creative in preparing shootings as well as during the capture-to-print workflow is an ideal recovery from this challenging day-to-day activity and allows the other half of the Brain to relax. So, I am really a bit selfish in this. Even better, if the results are enjoyed by others, that enjoy the outcome. Be it friends, models, make-up artists, family or a hopefully growing number of photography enthusiasts. But it is also a means to meet interesting people and share and enjoy the same interest.
Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.
This is probably the most difficult question to answer. I leave this to the audience, honestly. I do not think that I am in a situation where I can focus on only one style or look. Besides, since I am so curious (I hardly travel to the same places twice, there is so much to see and experiment) there is also so much to try and experiment with, that I find developing a “brand” look or style as an aim too restrictive. I have already some issues limiting myself to mainly nature and people photography (of course, I see the benefits of developing proficiency in a domain).
Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?
Even though I do not make my living from the art, I hope I have a professional attitude and way of working. However, not having to rely on photography to make a living gives me the freedom to take my time and the chance to work as I like. However, If I get money for my pictures, the better… My real job however takes up much of the time I have. Therefore, I cannot really invest as much time as I like into photography.
Where do you get inspiration from?
First of all, I am a very visual person. Even though I never was able to paint or draw, I was always fascinated by art, architecture and natural beauty. I love movies and my eyes can’t get enough capturing the beauty of this planet and human artefacts. I also like to go to exhibitions and look at photo-books and advertisements. Getting all of these inputs and thinking how to transform this into photography is generating images in my imagination that I would like to transform into real printed work. Therefore, I create storybooks or mood-boards before my Shootings. However, I never loose my curiosity and lust for experiment and improvisation that are so essential for me in the way I include my models and make up artists and others involved into the creative process.
Secondly, I use a lot of internet resources also to get ideas for improvements and professionalization. I publish mainly on model-kartei.de where I also find models and often excellent samples that I integrate in my imaginative process. Technical as well as practical tips I take from the German “fotoTV.de” as well as the famous “Luminous Landscape”. I am not shy in applying the tips and tricks also in other circumstances.
Third and quite important for me are portfolio reviews with peers and professionals. Here the constructive critical review of what I think is good helps to fight the “good enough” syndrome and understand that there is still more to be achieved. This definitely stimulates ambition and the strive for continuous improvement.
Think you in advance what you want in the picture?
Yes, normally I do create either story-books or mood-boards before I select and contact the models and MUA. There is then some discussion on styling, clothing and Make-up style as well as on locations and accessories. I believe it is important to share the expectations and then be creative jointly before and during the shooting as well. Things never turn out as expected and foreseen and new ideas and opportunities occur. You have to stay open minded and include this into the shot.
Studio, on location or both?
I do both, but honestly I prefer on-location shots. There, always something interesting occurs that stimulates creativity and allows for unforgettable shootings and moments to capture. On the other hand, the studio allows for full control of everything and gives a more independent environment taking the weather conditions in Switzerland into account.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
The most memorable ones are the ones that show most unexpected situations. The last shooting I had with “Anna Abstraction” was one of the highlights, since I could eventually and totally unplanned include a beautiful cow into the shooting.
What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
I guess, I mentioned most of the sources already earlier on. If you mean which people photographers inspire me, then I think of Man Ray and the surrealists, August Sander and Robert Frank (to name some older guys). I also like some of the contemporary artists like Marco Grob, Meinrad Schade and Herny Leutwyler.
Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?
Honestly, I don’t like this question. I think less about the equipment the more I shoot. OK, a Phase One is a dream, but – quoting one of my mentors – who ever asked Paul Bocuse for the brand of his pan or Picasso on the make of his paintbrush or color… You could as well ask for the brand of my printer or the paper that I am using for the prints… But OK. I use an 5D MKIII and my favorite lenses are the 2.8 24-70mm and the 2.8 70-200mm L-Lenses from Canon (people most often save money on lenses. Please don’t. Use a less expensive camera, but invest in a few high quality lenses. This really pays off)
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
Since I do not earn much with my photographic work, I do not consider myself as an expert in the imaging business. Looking at many professional photographers and see how they barely survive, I do not even know if I should recommend it. There are also so many way in photography to do business like doing weddings/events, products, landscape, fashion, advertisements, documentary…. I believe it is most important to know where your passion lies. If you have passion, you will work hard and improve and one day maybe reach the top ranks in the domain you choose. An excellent network sometimes helps you enormously to boost your career.
What do you think of our new magazine?
Modellenland is an excellent platform for photographers to publish their work for a start. It shows also the diversity and variety of people photography. I am also excited about the quality of work, both craftsmanship and artistic quality of the work you present. I hope you get enough input and inspiring pictures to continue on the same level of quality.
When you are in Switzerland, let me know. We can meet for a nice glass of wine…