Phillip Schumacher is an 18 year old amateur photographer with years of experience behind (and in front) of the camera under his belt. He is from Duisburg, Germany, and is currently completing his high school education. He may be young, but I can tell that there are wonderful things in store for him. Check out this interview where Phillip talks about where he finds inspiration, how he’s tackling being a photographer at such a young age, and a peak into his gear list!
First of all Thank you!
In 2009 my Dad bought himself a DSLR camera. I think it was an Olympus e-420. I used to take some pictures with my little Digital camera before that…on vacations and family meetings but nothing really conceptual. When my Dad got it, he didn’t really take pictures with it. I asked him if I could snap some pictures with it and I instantly fell in love with the camera. I remember being so fascinated with this little machine and the pictures it produces. That was when I fell in love with photography for the first time!
As many photographers/artists’ today you’ve started your photographic journey with self-portraits, and continue to take them today. What are your feelings about self-portraits? Do you feel like you hate them, or do you love showing yourself in different ways?
What you have to know is that I don’t plan my pictures with Me as the Model in mind. I always plan them with a certain kind of person. Can be a friend, family member or person I don’t even know. I just don’t like to keep my ideas back in some area of my brain. I want them to come alive as soon as possible. That was the first reason why I started taking self-portraits. I just didn’t have anyone to model for me.
I don’t hate them at all. I think taking them helped me in a lot of ways ! Taking this amount of self-portraits over the period of three years made me a little bit more aware of certain things. Also I think it is kind of relaxing taking self portraits. I know how I want my pose and face to look and I don’t have to explain it to someone. Still I want to move away from the self-portraits and try to work more with models!
Have you ever done commissioned work?
If so how does your approach differ from your personal work to commissioned work?
Mostly for people around my hometown. I often get asked if I can take pictures for birthdays, weddings, and personal stuff. These commissions definitely differ from my usual style. I got a few options to do work that I would actually call part of my work. That was quite freeing and sort of proved to me that I don’t get contacted because I have a DSLR and take good pictures, but because of my ideas and my concepts. In the last few weeks I got featured in some blogs, magazines, interviews and online gallery’s. I hope I get to do more ‘real’ commissioned work in the future.
You seem to have created a style for yourself. Is there any advice you would give to photographers trying to latch onto a style?
Experiment around! You won’t find out what suits you and what feels right to you if you do not try things out. I still don’t think I found my style. I don’t even think I ever will. I always notice how fast the look of my pictures changes in just a few weeks and that probably will carry on for a longer time!
Within your imagery I’ve noticed that one prop is utilized quite often (and quite beautifully). And that object is a butterfly. Is there any significance behind using butterflies in your imagery?
The butterfly….I know some people are quite annoyed by them but I appreciate that you like them : ) For me the butterfly stands for freedom, fragility, and development . All these things are very important to me and also characterize photography. For me taking pictures means being free, show the fragility and how things develop. Sure it does mean a lot more to me that, but still the butterfly represents a part of that….And I also…I just love butterflies 😀
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
The question is where I do not find inspiration. I think there is probably nothing in the world that is not inspiring and if it is in the most abstract way. It can be a movie, a picture, a song, a poem, a place, a person, another artist, a certain situation, a smell, a noise, a taste, a feeling, a memory…anything! You just have to be willing to see them and the inspiration in them. In the movie ‘The September Issue’, Grace Coddington who is the Creative Director of American Vogue and one of my big Idols says that if you are driving to a place, you shouldn’t fall asleep in the car and keep your eyes to look at the environment around you because anything can inspire you! You might have get the most amazing idea while driving to the most horrible place.
I love all of the photos you have taken inspired by space/galaxies. Will this continue to be an ongoing series? Also, can you tell us about your interest in space and how you go about merging it with your photography?
Thank you! I don’t know how long I will continue on making this series. For now I can say that I still got some ideas and probably will work on the series until I get tired of it! I always was fascinated by the universe and the sheer dimension that is beyond comprehension for us. I got the idea to the series listening to ‘Cosmic Love’ by Florence & The Machine which is one of my favorite bands. When I listen to it I imagined floating through the space , passing stars and huge planets. I wanted to translate that feeling I had in a picture!
You have taken a lot of photos utilizing cotton as an object to represent clouds. Can you tell us how(or if) dreams inspire your photos?
Similar to the butterfly and the Universe, I use clouds to represent what photography means to me. Already as a child I was amazed by my dreams. We all know this feeling when your wake up from an amazing dream and you are so into it that you want to go back to sleep and dream on! I want to create these Dream worlds and combine them with the reality. That is why I often use surreal settings, props or situations in my pictures. Using the impossible and make it look possible! This is what I love to do!
You seem to be an expert at expressing yourself through the means of photography. Before you were interested in photography did you used to express yourself through other kinds of art like drawing, painting etc?
I always painted and wrote story’s as a child and always continued . I think that helped my creative process. It is important to start as soon as possible bringing your ideas to life. Everyone has these ideas, but most people just don’t know how to express them. You have to find a way to get your ideas out there!
Can you give us a summary of your gear list?
It is not that long. As a student I don’t have a lot of money and try to get the most out of it. So I work with a Canon Eos 550-D. I have a 50mm f. 1.4 and a 85mm f.1.8 lens. I have a Yongnuo speedlight with one trigger and receiver. Also a lightning stand and an umbrella to diffuse the light. Also I own a simple tripod and a remote control and a reflector. For editing I use Photoshop CS5.
In some of your photos I see references to paintings that I’ ve seen in my Art History classes. Is this something that you are interested in/study a lot?
I wouldn’t call it study, but I do research a lot. Painting always inspires me and I am fascinated by them. To me it is kind of amazing how this medium of art inspired all kind of people through the history of our world. It is such a simple way to get your ideas visualized and yet it is very complex!
At such a young age your options are limitless. At this point are you planning on doing photography for the rest of your life, or will it always be a side project?
I will want to work as a fashion photographer or fine Art photographer. And not just as a side project ! If it won’t work out I would like to maybe work as an art director or creative director.
Do you have any big projects upcoming in the future?
I wouldn’t call it a project but I do want to change the way of my working process a bit. I would love to work with more models, wardrobe and hair & make up. I also like to move away from my heavy manipulations and make more props and costumes myself!
Interviewed by Angela Butler