PHLEARN MagazineInterview with Janosch Abel

Interview with Janosch Abel

Throughout his young career, Janosch Abel has photographed numerous musicians, including Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, The Black Keys, Pharrell Williams, Mike Skinner, Jamie Cullum, ASAP Rocky, Lauryn Hill and Gaslamp Killer. He also worked for renowned brands such as Nike, Red Bull, SBB (Swiss National Railways), Monster Energy, Galenica and Bank Julius Baer.


In our interview we talk about his love for photography, his techniques, and his experience working with a wide range of clients.

How did you become interested in photography?

During my childhood my mum always took pictures of my sister and me. I started taking pictures of friends on every occasion we hanged out. Photography was always a way to capture and save moments.

Do you have any formal training in photography or are you a self-taught photographer?

I did an internship in a communications agency for a year. After that I studied photography at the Zurich University of Arts. The university’s focus was on fine art photography; and through the internship in the agency, and assisting other established photographers, I saw the advertising/commercial aspect of photography. It helped me to see both aspects.

What inspires you?

A lot of different things inspire me but mostly work by graphic artists other photographers and film directors.


What’s on your gear list? (cameras, lenses, editing software, etc.)

It really depends on the job. Even when I do free work I never use the same camera etc. Most of the time it’s between a SLR and a Medium format digital camera. Sometimes I use film but only in my point and shoot cameras, like Yashica t5. I edit my pictures with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Is there any piece of equipment or tool in your camera bag (besides your camera) that you just can’t live without?

I always have a silver shiny board with me. It works everywhere and with every light or camera to bring in an extra kick if needed.


Within your photography do you prefer to work with natural light, artificial light, or both? (also, with artificial lighting, what is your favourite/personal preference?)

I like both. It always is a question of what suits the topic more. When I work with artificial light I trust in Elinchrom a swiss brand.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get the shot?

Five years ago I stood in the rain, my assistant hand holding the softbox, for more than one hour waiting to shoot Kid Cudi. In the end I only got six frames. But it’s amazing to see what you can get out of 40 seconds if you are prepared.


Bonsoir | The Wall

Over the course of three years, Janosch took over 100 portraits of musicians that performed in the club Bonsoir in Bern, Switzerland. For the five year anniversary of the club, Janosch showed the work for the first time on a unique wall. A selection was also displayed at his solo show at the Soon Galerie in Bern, Switzerland and Photobastei in Zürich, Switzerland.

How did the idea for The Wall conceptualize, solidify, then come to life?

It was clear for me and the club management that we had to do something different for the 5 year anniversary. The Wall was perfect to show all everyone what we’ve done so far and also to bring the idea closer to the artists that I will shoot in future. The concept leaves me the freedom to add more portraits and having a “living” Hall of Fame.


Can you tell us about your printing process? And also how you went about putting up/displaying the works?

I had the pictures printed on normal paper. When I chose the pictures it was just important that of every single person I shot in the last three years there is at least one picture up on the wall. My friend Onur Dinc helped create the wall. We used clue and paste to stick the pictures on the wall.


Tell us about some of your favourite moments at the show?

It’s just so great to see what you can do in three years. I stood in front of the wall and thought: “that’s crazy that I took all of these pictures here in this club.” It’s also great to see artists like Soul Clap coming to the club and taking pictures in front of the wall to tag their DJ friends on Instagram.

How important is Post-Processing/Photoshop to your work?

Post-Processing is part of my workflow. I can get a look in Photoshop that I can’t get directly on the set. As a portrait photographer I have to get a good picture on set. There is no way around afterwards.


Can you tell us about an average photoshoot for you?

It starts with calling my assistant and organizing the gear together. If we arrive at the location/studio I talk to the client or person in charge while my assistant sets up the lights. It’s important for me to do a couple of test shots before the subject arrives. I‘ve learned to always have a plan B and plan C. Normally I have a couple of ideas of what I would like to do and depending on the situation I go whichever way.


You have photographed huge brands, names and celebrities. Can you tell us about one of your most memorable times shooting?

The great thing about my job as a portrait photographer is I get to meet different people every day. The only thing that changes for me if I shoot celebrities is the time window that I have to get my pictures done. All other things are the same. I bring the same energy and respect into every portrait sitting.

I can’t leave this interview without asking, how was it working with and photographing the one and only D O double G?

I had the chance to shoot Snoop Dogg twice in the last three years. I was nervous, but he is always really relaxed and gave me enough time to do my work. I’ve tried to get some “in between” moments and not the typical “poser shot.”


What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned so far in your career as a photographer?

After having shot more than 400 people in the last three and a half years I’ve learned to direct them so that everybody on the set is comfortable and we get the best shot.

Who are some of your favourite artists and/or photographers?

Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Rineke Dijkstra, Olaf Breuning.


What is the best advice that you’ve ever received? Whether it be on art, photography or life in general…

Enjoy the moment and your work. Always be prepared and shoot as many free projects as possible.


Any words of wisdom to offer anyone just getting into photography?

Portrait photography is a team effort. It’s always good to have a chance to work with people that are passionate about their job – so choose your team wisely Don’t think too much about technical aspects or gear. It’s about telling a story – you can tell a better story with a mobile phone cam than with a cam that is worth $20,000 dollars.

Keep up with Janosch Abel and his work on his website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Angela Butler

Freelance photographer and freelance model. Located in Calgary, AB. Happy to travel. M A K E A R T and (try to) love life.

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