Working as a photographer and an artist is a very diverse life path. I love that I am in control of how I want to work, when I want to work, what I want to work on and who I want to work with or for. I’m very grateful for the creative freedom that I am enjoying at the moment.
Whilst working on different conceptual projects that won’t be seen in the public sphere for a while, I suddenly had the urge to do some photographic portraiture again. I’d had the idea of setting up a studio space in my apartment in Berlin for years eventually wanting to offer intimate photo sessions for creative friends and strangers. And I finally did it for the first time! And it was everything I had hoped it would be.
Your art is not your art
When you’re in art school one of the first things you learn is to curb down your intellectual narcissism. So, you think you’re creative? Think again! There’s a reason why there’s a book out there called “Steal like an artist”. You do not exist in a vacuum and you’re not the genius you think you are. You might think your art is yours, but really it isn’t. It’s a conglomerate of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, tasted, touched, experienced – that includes other artworks that you’ve soaked in and other artists who have consciously or subconsciously inspired you. Sometimes it’s so subtle you probably don’t even realise that it has happened. Later you might look at your work and it hits you like a bolt of lightning. Suddenly you know whom you’re close to, or a little too close to. Hopefully, your artwork is still infused with your own style to such a degree that it is more than a cheap copy of someone else’s genius.
A quiet “Hello” to Robert Mapplethorpe
After my first shootings, I had my own little moment of recognition about where I got the idea for my Living-Room-Sessions from: Robert Mapplethorpe. Years ago I saw a solo show of his works at c/o Berlin, Berlin’s photo museum. One of the things that I loved the most about his process was that he worked in his own apartment and had people coming in to work with him. I believe it really shows in his photographs. Photographing in an environment where you as the artist are completely at ease, helps amateur models to be at ease, too. So without consciously thinking about it, the way I went about setting up my latest photographic endeavour was actually a quiet “Hello” to Robert Mapplethorpe’s way of working.
Comfortable photo session environment
And it works. I love these small concentrated shootings in the most comfortable environment that I could imagine for myself. I love setting up the equipment and transforming the space, making tea and coffee for my visitors, having a relaxed little chat before taking the first pictures. It’s so much nicer to work in than the sterile photo studios most people are used to, where you’re just another head waiting to be shot.
So I highly recommend that if you’re a portrait photographer try to find a space to work in that is as comfortable as possible for you. Your subjects will feel your relaxed and positive energy and will react accordingly. Co-creating at its best.
There’s a collection of images from the living-room-sessions on an extra website. If you’re interested, you can find the site here: https://wohnzimmersessions.tumblr.com/
Kristin Hoell is a visual artist and photographer who is currently based in Berlin, Germany. Her works have been shown in solo and group shows throughout Europe. Prints are available: firstname.lastname@example.org