Interview with Marc Schmidtmayer
#1 Please introduce yourself
Hi, my name is Marc Schmidtmayer. I’m a 43 year old photographer living in scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium. My family consists further of my wife, my daughter (of 10 years old) and our dog.
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
Well, it should be almost 20 years ago that I bought my first SLR. I even read a book about aperture and shutter speed. But nothing ‘happened’ and my photography was limited to the yearly holidays. The real ‘love’ started only a couple of years ago when I ‘discovered’ the world of black and white photography by means of the work of Michael Kenna. It was like a new world being revealed. This wasn’t simply about what the camera recorded but it was much more : about the possibility of being creative and translate what was recorded into one’s own vision. The world was never the same since then…
#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?
About 10 years ago, I started a photography (evening) class but needed to quit (rather quickly) due to the lack of (free) time. Besides that little ‘introduction’, I do not have any artistic or photographic qualifications.
#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
Well, it all started out for me when I saw Michael Kenna’s book ‘Japan’. It was my first experience with a very minimal yet hauntingly beautiful style of photography. I was really impressed … and I still am. Among my (other) favorite artists are Michael Levin, Stefano Orazzini, Buckner Sutter and René Magritte, to name a few. In fact, I find inspiration from many different sources : music, paintings, movies and of course, other photographs. It’s great to have influences but one should try and develop an own style. But this is something you can’t force and instead, one should just go with the flow, follow your heart and instincts. At least, that’s what I’m trying…
#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph? Are you planning every step or is it always spontaneous?
It’s a combination. I really like the spontaneous way : I love the feeling of finding a ‘scene’ whenever you least expect it. I find this most rewarding. But I must admit that after this first excitement fades, I’m already checking Internet for info on when returning to this place in the best possible (photographic) conditions. 😉 Overall, there’s (quite) some planning done but I like to, whenever possible, leave some room for spontaneity.
#6 What fascinates you in places that you shoot?
I do not have a clear definition of this. Any location or object can become interesting. It’s more about the experience in a given place : a mix of emotion and imagination. A combination of how it feels being there at that very moment and seeing how my imagination takes over reality. And it is more than only the capture of the picture. It is also about being out there, being in the dark with only the sound of the sea, in wind and rain… It’s then that the world seems to stand still, away from the rush of life : moments to come to peace with oneself. Photography for me is also about that experience.
#7 We can see your photographs only in black and white, why have you chosen to present them in this form?
Colour just records the image, while black and white shows the emotions and feelings that lie beneath the surface. Colour stands for the reality of our world, while black and white is an escape of it. It gives the possibility to create an imaginary world with a timeless and evocative feeling where the most common objects and places can take a whole new meaning. I’m also drawn to simple compositions with strong graphical elements, free from distracting details. And this also works best in black and white. It allows me to express my ideas more clearly : to create a different meaning and/or view on (common) objects and places. Objects and places that in our daily life stay pretty much unnoticed. For me, the best pictures are those which to convey a sense of tranquility, mystery and wonder about our world. I really wish that one day I’ll be able to make such kind of pictures…
#8 Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process?
Nothing fancy or special here. I’m digital and use a Nikon D200. Post-processing is done in Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro. Primarily I use Hahnemühle’s paper Photo Rag Pearl 320 : it works beautifully together with the toning in my pictures. Printing is done by a lab which specializes in inkjet printing. The pictures I take, need to be left alone a while before I will work on them. By experience, I know that working on them immediately will have little to no result. And if a picture isn’t working out like I imagined, I tend to leave it on ‘hold’ and revisit it from time to time. This way I sometimes ‘finalize’ an image a long period after it was taken.
#9 Could you tell our readers how to reach such excellent results in photography?
This is not an easy question and I’m not sure what to answer because I feel that I still have a lot to learn. I think the most important thing is the artistic approach : one should have his own vision and style and go for it … follow your heart …
The technical side of photography can be learned (easier). The rest is, I guess, a (continuous) process of trial and error, learning, determination, work and (some) luck.
#10 What do you do in your life besides photography?
Photography is my passion but it is still my hobby : I earn my living being an IT consultant. The advantage of this is that I have complete freedom. Not having to take in account what the public will think of my work (although some appreciation never hurt anyone ;-)). The downside is that having a full time job reduces radically the time available for photography. Add to this the love for riding my (race)bike, cooking and my daughter (of 10 years old) and I think you can see that my 24 hours in a day are well occupied.
#11 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
A major project I like to accomplish is being able to spend more time on photography. Besides that, I have some ideas that I would love to put into practice and hope also to plan some interesting trips in the near future.
In the end, I just want produce work that I am proud of. We’ll see where that will take me…
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