York Hovest: Telling Stories Through Sensual Art

A young, thoughtful, intuitive, and open-minded photographer, York Hovest was a professional model for more than a decade, and that provided many insights and experiences that led him to pursue a career on the other side of the camera. After assisting several well-known photographers in Milan and Munich at the end of 2009 he decided it was time to pursue his passion for photography full-time and opened his own studio in Munich.

What sets York’s work apart is not only his passion for precision and his brilliant use of light, but also his intuition for capturing the moments that distill the essence of a particular situation, person, style, or object, and his images unfailingly reflect his penchant for beauty and fashion. It is our pleasure to present him as a new talent making his way in his own distinctive manner and style.

Q: Hi York, can you provide a little information about when you became interested in photography and if you had any formal education or training?

A: I’m a full-time professional photographer and I’ve been interested in photography since I was a little kid. I have had no formal education but I have been assisting accomplished (dare I say famous?) photographers for quite a while.

Q: In what genre(s) would you place your photos?

A: Landscape, beauty, lingerie, and fashion.

Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?

A: I strive to experience the perfect moments of my profession, and I’m always moving forward and developing my skills.

Photography is about connecting people with its message and it tells stories without using words. My photography is my art of expression and my way of showing people what my concerns are.

Q:  How did you first become interested in Leica? How long have you been using the Leica S-System, and do you favor any favorite particular lens?

A: I did research on what is the best, and I found it. Since 2011, and favorite lens for my Leica S2 is the 180mm Summarit.

Q: Have you used any other Leica equipment?

A: Yes the Leica M9 and the Leica V-Lux 30.

Q: The images in the Leica blog portfolio are all sensual, sexy, and suggestive. Is this an essential element in your signature style when shooting beauty, lingerie, and fashion, and if so how does this relate to your experience as a model?

A: As a model, you always have to convey feelings with your expression and body language. It depends on for what kind of client you’re shooting for, but the customer should always be able to identify himself with the mood and the feelings that were communicated by the model in the picture. My pictures are sensual and suggestive because I think that people should be more expressive in their feelings. I want to show people how their feelings could look like and how sexy it can be to express their feelings. I think that every human being has his or her beauty. It’s my challenge to find it with my camera.

Q: Can you tell us something about the famous photographers you worked with as an assistant and what you think you learned from them that you find useful as a creative artist now, and in furthering your career?

A: When I first started assisting behind the camera, I was living in South Africa. I worked for a filming company that was shooting a Hollywood movie produced in Cape Town in 2000. Working as best boy, I spent half a year in Africa. It was hard work but great experience. After that I moved to Milan and worked as an assistant for a fashion photographer. We became good friends and he offered me his studio as a place to stay, and in that way I had the chance to be involved in the daily work routine of a photographer’s job. I learned that you always have to create images that capture the model’s character and personality, to understand how she/he is working. A photographer has to create a personal atmosphere on the set, so that all the people involved can work harmoniously together. His work was very sensitive and emotional and that impressed me.

Two years later I went back to Munich to offer my services to a well-known beauty photographer. As his first assistant I learned how crucial it is that everything has its precisely correct order and place, so that you never lose control over your equipment and team. I also saw the critical importance of choosing your team wisely for each job. He taught me the fine art of perfection.

Q: Did you use the Leica S2, the M9, or both in shooting the images in your sexy portfolio, and if so what were the advantages of each? Do you prefer one camera or the other for this type of work, and what is there about the S-system that works especially well for you?

A: I used the S2 for the portfolio images. I love the S-system, because of its high quality RAW data and its brilliance! Today you develop a digital picture with a certain program on your computer. The better you understand your possibilities within the original image captured by the camera the better your results will be. For this part of my work the S-system gives me the largest and widest range of data I have ever explored. With the raw files of this system I have the perfect basis for expanded possibilities in the post-production process. I use the M9 more for quick outdoor work when I travel around the world, and when it’s important to be able to act fast and silently, but with great precision.

Q: You mentioned that the 70mm and the 180mm Summarits are your favorite lenses for the S2. What characteristics do these lenses have that are particularly conducive to your work, and are there any other lenses for the S2 or the M9 that you favor?

A: Well, first of all I love the 70mm and I would generally recommend is as a standard lens. It’s almost like a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera, and I suggest it as the first lens to buy if you want to become an S-system photographer. Through this lens you see the world in the same way as you do with your eyes so it’s the most faithful lens for portraits. Additionally I use the 180mm because it gives me the ability to make super-close-up portraits from a “polite” distance. In a way it respects the subject’s privacy, because I can make pictures that are so intense that the viewer feels like they are active participants.

Q: Among the images in your portfolio there are images that are in black-and-white. Why did you choose to present these particular images in black-and-white, and what are the advantages of this medium?

A: Many times a black-and-white picture transports the intensity of feeling to a different level because there are no distracting color elements I put my focus on the expression in the face while the rest of the image disappears into a pleasant fuzziness.

For a photographer the black-and-white medium is perfect for reducing a picture to its essentials and guiding the viewer’s attention. Color is often not essential for capturing the mood and there are more important details that the viewer should pay attention to, such as the facial expression or, in this case, the wrapping of the face.

Q: The images in this portfolio include a male model along with a provocatively attired woman. All are erotic, suggesting implied sex, especially the image where the woman in lingerie has her derriere turned toward the camera. These are reminiscent of Playboy or Penthouse images, but elevated to the level of fine art. Do you agree, and what are you trying to convey here?

A: I always try to create a story with my pictures. This series is about the theme of unrequited love, a game of seduction where the girl tries to get as much attention as she can. Showing high quality lingerie and avoiding naked bodies were important elements in conveying this message in a suggestive way. That way there is enough space for viewer’s imaginations to create their own narratives without showing explicit details.

Q: A noticeable characteristic of all the images you’ve presented here is a masterful use of natural light and lighting. Can you tell us something about your concept of lighting and lighting technique as it applies to fashion, beauty, and lingerie?

A: Well, my basic lighting concept is to make a picture look as natural as possible. That does not mean that I only use natural light, of course. It often requires a lot of planning and imagining of the result I want to achieve. The rest I will keep as my personal secret.

Q: The poses and juxtapositions in your photographs are masterful, and the images are thoughtfully composed. The models are all beautiful and obviously professional, but how do you direct them to get images that are believable, authentic, and tell a story so effectively? Do you think that this personal interactive element is crucial in your work?

A: Definitely! The interaction between the model and the photographer is extremely important. As I said before, you have to understand the model’s character and her mood. Only if you can create an ambiance that’s somewhere in between a private atmosphere and the professionalism of the job will you get those special looks on the models face.

And of course I have all the pictures already in my mind when we start working on such a production. If you want to tell a story in the space of 6-8 pictures, you have to organize every single scene and thematic clement. Most of the time I can tell the model exactly how I want them to look like and what the poses should be.

Q: Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to when you get a chance to use the new Leica S, and have you considered trying the Leica Monochrom or the new Leica M?

A: Of course I would love to try the new Leica S, especially the new autofocus and the GPS systems, which would be very interesting for me! I can imagine that the new Leica Monochrom is also definitely one of the models I might fall in love with, since black-and-white pictures, and portraits in particular, are my favorites. These photographs have such a strong expressionist element and I’m sure that lots of photographers will explore their passion for black-and-white photography with the Leica Monochrom.

Q: How do you see your work evolving over, say, the next 3-5 years, and do you plan to explore any other genres besides landscapes, beauty, lingerie, and fashion?

A: At the moment I am pretty happy with the way things are going. Maybe my passion for certain genres will change in the future— you never know. Lately I’ve been trying out some new angles in the area of composition—I’d call it kind of an art thing!

Q: Aside from this estimable blog and on your websites, where will these images appear, and what type of clients do you work for?

A: Normally I create these kinds of stories for my magazine clients. This time it was kind of on spec, just for myself. When I first saw this beautiful hotel with its amazing interior I immediately knew I had to shoot in this location.  There are some magazines that are very interested in publishing this story. Let’s see what happens. Personally I love to arrange big productions like the Space-dinner, which you can see on my website. It is always a challenge to plan and create a picture that huge.

And of course, I also love my lingerie and beauty jobs. But of course there is also lots of “every-day-work” which is also very important, too, like business shoots, portraits, etc.

Q: You observed that photography “connects people with its message and tells stories without using words” and also that “photography is my art of expression and my way of showing people what my concerns are.” These sound like statements that might have been made by a photojournalist or a documentary photographer rather than someone who shoots high-class fashion, lingerie and beauty. What do you think your photographs reveal about human relationships, human emotions, and the human condition, and do you see yourself as an artist as well as a commercial photographer?

A: I am definitely both. But you have to separate the artist, who is trying to put a personal message into his work from the commercial photographer. As an artist I can decide in which way I want to touch people’s hearts, with exquisitely beautiful faces, with seductive poses, or fairytale landscapes. Another example is my Portrait of Tibet (which is indeed in the documentary genre), where I tried to focus people’s attention on the difficult political situation in this wonderful country. The experience of that Tibet expedition has definitely influenced my work and the way I look at things.

And then there is my more commercial photography, where you have to find a path in the middle. In this case, the message has to reach the mass of consumers, and make them want to buy a special product, so the viewer has to identify himself with the picture and its message, which is normally more directed by my clients. Both types of photography embrace different truths, but they both demand precision, dedication, and authenticity.

- Leica Internet Team

To see more of York’s fashion work, visit his website. Click here to see his landscape work.