JRP: Carsten Bockermann is a photographer I discovered recently and was moved to share his work with our readers. His passion for image making shines through in his on-line portfolio. It is with pleasure that we welcome Carsten to JRP Blog.
Thank you Carsten for sharing some of your time with us.
Carsten Bockermann: It’s great to appear on your blog and to be able to share some thoughts with your readers.
JRP: Where do you call home Carsten?
Carsten Bockermann: I was born in the industrial city of Essen, Germany. Around the age of 30 I lived in the U.S. for a while (South Carolina) and now I’m dividing my time between Bonn, Germany and Zurich, Switzerland, at least when I’m not traveling.
JRP: How did you get your start and have you had any formal training in photography or graphic arts?
Carsten Bockermann: My interest in photography dates back to when I was a little boy. We couldn’t afford to travel a lot at the time, so I spent many hours browsing magazines with reporting from far-away countries. The work of photographers like Thomas Höpker and Robert Lebeck made a big impression on me. I got serious about photography in the early 1990s when a friend introduced me to a group of photographers in New York City. Among them were Maggie Steber and Alex Webb, whose work I greatly admire.
I don’t have formal training in photography but learned a lot through workshops by photographers who have a lot more experience than I do.
JRP: What primary equipment and software do you make use of in your work flow?
Carsten Bockermann: Currently I shoot mostly with Nikon D700 cameras. Regrettably they are quite large and heavy, which is definitely a disadvantage compared to the Leica rangefinders that I used until about 2005. Coming from the Leica M system I have some trouble adjusting to zoom lenses; it seems that being able to change the focal length all the time simply is one degree of freedom too many for me, which is why I prefer fixed focal length lenses like the Zeiss ZF line.
It seems that over the years I have reduced the number of lenses I carry as I found my pictures were getting better once I concentrated on what I know best. These days I mainly carry the 28, 35 and 50mm lenses.
I shoot only RAW and process the files in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
JRP: How do you classify your photography and what inspires you most?
Carsten Bockermann: Classifying my photography is best left to the viewer. I use the term “Travel Photography“, but oftentimes people associate this term simply with pictures of well-known tourist places. I’m a lot more interested in the daily life in different cultures, especially as it is not static but changes by mutual influence at an ever-accelerating pace.
This is what fascinates me so much about India. There are places in the country that feel like the 15th century, and there are those that feel very much like the 21st. The tension created by these differences and by the speed of change is truly amazing.
JRP: I really like your sense of lighting. Please take us through some of your thought processes as you set up a shot.
Carsten Bockermann: I’m a big fan of the harsh light that can be found in the tropics. It gives me the ability to play with light and shadow and intense colors. Probably that’s because the light here in Germany is dull and grey most of the time..
Most of the time I rely on natural light. I use flash sometimes to overlay motion blur with a sharp image when I want to convey a sense of motion, like in this picture (www.cabophoto.com/nyc41.htm).
JRP: What is your digital workflow like, and do you still shoot a significant amount of film?
Carsten Bockermann: My pictures all get imported into Adobe Lightroom first. I select those that I consider worthwhile, convert them to DNG format and then ‘develop’ and caption them. Practically all my editing takes place in Lightroom. I use Photoshop only for things that Lightroom cannot (yet) do, like straightening the sides of buildings in architectural shots (of which I don’t do a lot) and for printing.
I make my prints on a HP B9180 printer, which gives me excellent quality and all the control I want without having to go to a lab and try to describe what exactly I want.
Since I switched to digital in about 2005 I haven’t shot a single roll of film.
JRP: Carsten what is more important to you, technique or vision?
Carsten Bockermann: It’s not a question of what’s more important, one simply needs both. Without vision a photographer would have nothing to communicate, and without technique he or she wouldn’t be able to express that vision.
I try to simplify and standardize my technique so I don’t have to think about it in the field. I guess you can compare it to driving a car with a stick-shift. Changing gears is a quite complex sequence of actions, but with a little practice it becomes so natural you don’t even realize any more that you’re doing it all the time.
JRP: Do you have any special projects you are currently working on?
Carsten Bockermann: I’m concentrating on the daily lives of ordinary people and how they change over time. This is a long-term project and most of the stories I do are a part of it.
JRP: What is the best advice you have received so far about photography?
Carsten Bockermann: Don’t worry about equipment all the time. Instead, go out and shoot every day to stay proficient.
JRP: What advice would you share with new photographers in today’s market?
Carsten Bockermann: Find your niche. There are so many photographers out there that it’s getting harder to set yourself apart from the rest. You really have to find something that drives you and tenaciously work on it.
JRP: Thank you again Carsten for the opportunity to chat with you. I wish you continued success.
Carsten Bockermann: Thanks to you James. Talking about photography is always great and being able to share with your audience makes it even better.
JRP: To view more of Carsten Bockermann’s work follow these links: