Don’t blame me for… A Leica S Magazine Interview with Berlin photographer Joachim Baldauf

For ‘Don’t blame me for…’, Berlin photographer, Joachim Baldauf, staged the beauty of his models – who differ from the common stereotypes – in a markedly spartan setting, producing an insightful and impressive photo series full of surprising and valuable details, that underline Baldauf’s photographic accomplishments.

You’ve been in demand for decades. Has you style changed over the years? How would you describe your photographic signature?

I’ve basically remained very faithful to my style, though I love both experimenting and new technology. In my case, the step from analogue to digital was not visible in my photography. This is due to the fact that people, and my personal way of looking at them, are at the centre of my photography. My photographic signature is very much defined by the way I use and see light. Retouching has never been, and is not, very important for my photography. Most of my pictures are already finished once I press the trigger.

In this age of social media, Instagram and Co., what role do you consider the individual photo plays? How does perception change in this regard? And where do you see new possibilities to once again give the picture the appropriate framework?

Interestingly enough, the individual picture has become more important than the series. If you post a photo from a series on social media, the viewer is usually uninterested in the whole series. I find that a pity, as a series is often better able to tell a story than an individual motif can. On the whole, people look at pictures on smart phones – on Instagram, Facebook, and so on. As a result, photography has also changed. Details are less important, emotions are presented in a very striking manner. That’s why I still prefer magazines, books and exhibitions. However, in the future, Virtual Reality will create new ways of looking at pictures. Then the series will, once again, become more exciting.

You teach at various art colleges. What is your message to your students? Is there something there that concerns you?

Look within yourselves and find your inspiration there. The most honest inspiration is your own perception, you own emotional experience. A constant comparison to others only paralyses. I am a little concerned by the fact that young creatives often look for their inspiration online. If they want to photograph a red dress, then they google “red dress”. Or they look to see what top photographers are doing. This leads to a decreasing number of photographers with their own style.

You didn’t do a classic fashion series for the S Magazine, but a rather special portraits series. Why?

I took advantage of the opportunity the magazine offered me. I really like to take portraits. I love people who don’t fit the typical stereotype. I see beauty in everyone – that is actually my greatest photographic strength; and that’s what I wanted to show.

What is particular about ‘Don’t blame me for…’ from the technical and artistic perspectives?

I photographed the portraits with a Leica SL. I think it’s a perfect camera for portraits. For this series, the details are very important, and the camera reveals them just the way I like it. Thanks to the digital viewfinder, I have the impression that I’m filming – something I also enjoy doing with the SL. It gives the photos an honest and direct look. I’ve been working with the Leica S for years, and now I’ve discovered the SL. I particularly like the camera for working outside and in difficult light situations.

The concept is just as important as the photography itself. In recent times I’ve been working a lot with text, so the ‘Don’t blame me for…’ motifs are a logical consequence. Barbara Neubauer and Birgit Schwarz / Neubauer supported me with the concept and the texts. The typography was done by Agnes Feckl / Printkultur.

How did you find your protagonists? What’s special about them?

All the protagonists are under contract to the Misfit Models agency. Del Keens, the owner of the agency, has himself been working as a model for years, and, despite his looks – that hardly fit the classic idea of a model –, he has been photographed for big campaigns. Del has people rather than models under contract, which I find particularly exciting, especially for portrait photography. Del is also very professional, which made the casting – which was pretty broad – much easier for us.

How do you interact with the models when you’re photographing them? What types do you prefer? 

Before photographing anyone, I talk with them. This way I get a feeling about who I’m dealing with. I explain how I take pictures and what’s important to me. I ask questions and I’m genuinely interested in the people I photograph. I can’t imagine only seeing a model for the first time on set.

I’m not especially fixed on a particular type. I’m always happy, however, when I have team players in front of the camera – not prima donnas.

What are your plans for the future? Do you believe that the place where one works influences the type of photography?

I’m a terrible country bumpkin and I’m always longing for nature. That’s why, sooner or later, I’ll be heading back to the mountains. It’s been like that for a number of years already, with me spending two months a year in the Allgäu. It does me good and gives me strength. I definitely believe that the place where you live influences the work. Especially when you’re young. I moved a lot and I have travelled a lot. That definitely impacted and inspired me, making me more open and tolerant.

In the future, I want to do a lot more filming and writing. I’m addicted to photography however, so that will remain with me.

This series was published in Leica S Magazine No. 9 “Lookbook 2017”. Click the image to learn more about the S Magazine

Credits:

PHOTOGRAPHY Joachim Baldauf CONCEPT Printkultur & Agentur Neubauer STYLING Daniella Petrovics HAIR & MAKEUP Anna Brylla PROTAGONISTS Misfit Models THANKS TO Del Keens CAMERA Leica SL ( Typ 601) with Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH..

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