Styled by Nicky Yates
Cover - Ava Smith at Models1
Styling - Peggy Schuller
Styling Peggy Schuller
Model Coco Rocha
Casting Andrea Deanesi
Styling Peggy Schuller
Model Coco Rocha
Casting Andrea Deanesi
Styling by Laurent Dombrowicz
Photography by Kristian Schuller
Styling by David Lamb at PURE
Set design by Matt Duddleston at Caren
Production by Hannes Schuller
Styling by Peggy Schuller
Transcript of the Interview:
For fashion photographer Kristian Schuller, art imitates life. He embraces each with a high-energy approach: Everything epic, all the time. Based in Berlin, he has worked in Paris the last four years, and at this very moment, he's settling into a new SoHo apartment. He has relocated to New York City in an effort to take his career to even greater heights, though he has never let the caliber of the client impact his vision.
In his fashion work for magazines like Elle, French Revue, Vogue and others, Kristian Schuller strives to create images that are extreme. He says, "For magazines, from the beginning, I try to push to do something extreme, something crazy, something over the top, bigger than life, blow your mind away. I want people to say, wow, that's amazing, that's crazy!" Schuller has brought his trademark energy and flair for theatrical imagery to work with supermodels and Hollywood stars, including Penelope Cruz. "I think that's extremely important," says Schuller. "In advertising, you have a very strict plan of what you're shooting, but even still we find moments to take five or 10 minutes to do some experimental things. I always say keep your eyes open, look to your right, look to your left, because maybe by accident you'll see something or you'll get an idea. The other day we were shooting a big advertising campaign, and in the middle of the shoot, we escaped into the garden for a few minutes to shoot an image that was strictly for me. Sometimes I'll do it for a client because it can be more interesting and more fun. It depends on what I find. The other day, I found something and thought, 'The client shouldn't know, but for me it's fantastic. So let's do it quickly.'
"Have your eyes open," Schuller continues, "and always find a way to use every spare second. If you find something, do it. You have a strong team with you, good models, you have everybody on set, and you have eight or 10 hours. Use the time and play; don't just stand around and drink coffee. It doesn't matter what you're doing. You take your camera, you work on your ideas, and you never think for who you're doing it, and you never have in mind how big it is or how important it is, just that you might do something good. It's something like giving 150% of your energy, and that's it. It doesn't matter if you shoot in Bombay or New York or Berlin, Paris or Romania."
Schuller was born in Romania. His early childhood in Eastern Europe had a profound impact on both his life and work. "It must have something to do with being born in the Communist world," he says. "You're surrounded by gray, you're surrounded by a little bit of depression, and then you come to Western Europe, to Germany, and suddenly everything is so colorful and so bold. I got this flash. I saw all these colors, and I loved the colors, and I loved the energy and the optimism. It was like, grab life and take it. Say yes to life! Suddenly you're in the middle of it and everything is possible, and you start playing."
His other great influence was his father. "My father was a theater man," says Schuller. "He was already in theater when I was born, and later on he was doing movies. So I was growing up on stage. It wasn't a big stage, it was a small stage, but the thing is, a stage is a stage is a stage. And if you like the stage, if you like theater, if you like actors, if you like this whole storytelling thing and if you're influenced by that, then you're never afraid to tell a story in an epic way. I love to see the girl and the garment in the whole surrounding, a bit like if you were sitting in the audience in the theater or the opera and you see the whole stage, and sometimes if you open your eyes, you can see the stage and the left and the right of the theater, and somehow everything is part of the story.
"My father was always saying to me when I was a young boy," he continues, "you have to take care that you aren't boring because you have to entertain the people. That's their right to be entertained a little bit. And I think of a photographer as an entertainer. We have to entertain our audience a little bit because, if not, people get bored. You can do it in a nice, intelligent way, not in a stupid, banal way—a good, high level. You can entertain people with good taste and by hopefully telling strong stories."
Theatricality overflows from Schuller's work, but it's nowhere more evident than in his personal projects, like the productions he mounted in the Southern California desert for his 2010 book, 90 Days One Dream. A veritable visual ode to theater, the images incorporate everything from the rigging that literally supports the production to a circus-inspired image of a model and an elephant. Go big or go home, indeed.
"It's fantastic," he says of staging elaborate productions. "I love it if you can feel what you're shooting. If you create everything in reality, the model has a much easier time because they live it in the moment, and you consume it, and it's all there. It's much more fun, and a much bigger show, than shooting in front of a green box and creating it in Photoshop. Oh, my God, it's dead! It's not life!"
Schuller shoots wide, allowing space for the garment to move, adding context to a scene and otherwise encouraging any bit of theatricality to find its way into the frame.
"I love to explain the woman not just by the outfit," Schuller says. "The outfit is very important to explain the character of the woman, but the surroundings where she is, that's also part of her life, it's also part of the scenario of the interpretation of her. So, in the end, it's cherchez la femme by using a bit more wide angle, a bit more showing on the right and left sides."
Even in the studio, the simple proposition of a girl in a gown becomes something more. Schuller relies on movement and motion to add energy and texture, whether it comes from twirling fabric or swirling smoke, splashing water or exploding powder.
"It's not that you start and say, 'Now, I want powder and I automatically want something crazy,'" he says. "Creativity is always a process. You start at a point, and it can happen that there's just no way out, and you don't find a solution to make the image work, so then you try to break it and you use the powder and suddenly you create something new. It can happen by accident. Other times, you can really plan something and your ideas are running away like wild horses and you end up somewhere.
"Sometimes you create these flowers," Schuller says, "and everything is beautiful and elegant and poetic. But sometimes it's just a wonderful mess. It's just like if you put your fingers in the dirt and you play."
Schuller pushes everything for a special photo. He has used powders in rental studios, which usually doesn't go over well with management. "You come to find out you're not welcome to come back to the studio," he says. "And you know that you can really get in trouble, but it is how it is." Schuller possesses more than just a flair for the dramatic. He's a total pro, dedicated to precision in camera, composition and lighting.
"When I was a student," Schuller says, "my professor was Vivienne Westwood, a fashion designer from London. She was always saying, 'Creativity comes from technique.' And I learned from the very beginning that creativity in our work—it doesn't matter if you're a designer or a photographer or something else—it's always based on perfect technique. Whatever we're creating, we create it by light. Light is never something that's used by accident. It's very precise, and you know exactly before you start shooting what light you're using and why you use it and how you use it. Because with light you create an atmosphere. You decide, is it bright and fresh and positive, is it dark and dangerous? All these attitudes—the basis of all of that is the light. And then you put the character, the model, the actor into this light, and then they have the perfect base to play the role."
Adds Schuller, "The funny thing is, at the end of the day, you break all of your knowledge of the technique, and you take a little snapshot camera and you shoot everything with that, and there's no technique anymore. But that's something you do of your own will. You decide what technique you use."
See more of Kristian Schuller's photography at http://www.kristianschuller.com
ART BASEL MIAMI
Art Basel stages the world's premier Modern and Comtemporary art shows, held annually in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Founded by gallerists in 1970, Art Basel has been a driving force in supporting the role that galleries play in the nuturing of artists, and the development and promotion of visual arts.
In addition to showing exciting works by world-renowned artists, Art Basel is always inovating, thus expanding its platform for new artists who represent the vanguard of the viusal arts. Its worldwide reputation - earned over the last forty years - for showing work of the highest merit, and attracting the world's leading gallerists and collections, has made Art Basel the place where the art world meets.
Creative Consulting by Peggy Schuller
Set Design by Hannes Schuller
Styling by Way Perry
Production by Rosco Production
Shot on location at Syon Park, Twickenham and Goldsmiths' Hall, London
PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE F.C. GUNDLACH COLLECTION
NOVEMBER 1, 2013 − JANUARY 26, 2014 AT THE HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY
The comprehensive Guy Bourdin retrospective at the House of Photography will be complemented by a selection of some 40 works from the F.C. Gundlach Collection, which are similar in terms of both subject matter and content to the oeuvre of Guy Bourdin. Curated by Dr. Sabine Schnakenberg, the cabinet exhibition »En compagnie de Guy Bourdin / In the company of Guy Bourdin«, explores three periods of time that have close associations with the work of Bourdin. Accordingly, the works of Man Ray and Edward Weston, who influenced Bourdin’s work but also Dora Maar, Erwin Blumenfeld, Horst P. Horst, George Platt-Lynes and Harry Meerson highlight this topic from a largely historical perspective.
At the same time that Bourdin was active as a photographer Helmut Newton, Deborah Turbeville, Chris von Wangenheim, William Klein, not to mention Charles Wilp and Melvin Sokolsky produced fashion shots, which also attest to the inspiring force of the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, contemporary photographers such as David LaChapelle and Tim Walker, but also Ellen von Unwerth, Kristian Schuller, Armin Morbach and Olaf Martens present images, which require an in-depth conscious and unconscious familiarity with Bourdin’s photographs in order to arrive at highly individual and playful extensions of them.