Christoph Neumann

It is 36 degrees celcius (96 f) and I am sitting on a floor, interviewing Berlin
based photographer, Christoph Neumann.

When did you start photographing?
When I was younger, my father was a crazy guy who collected a lot of photographs. He also frequented highways and took a lot of photographs of police cars and other vehicles. I suppose this inspired me as a child. Then when I was nine years old, I found my first skateboard on the street. At this point, I picked up an analogue camera that my father had given me and I started to document the times that my friends and I spent together- mostly taking pictures of the tricks that would be accomplished, and sometimes portraits as well. After the images were created, I would get physical prints done of the image and share them in a tangible album. This was a time where there was no facebook or online networking websites. Just friends, myself and a stack of prints.- documenting the good times that we shared together.

When you’re a skateboarder, you easily become exposed to a lot of underground scenes- other cultures, really. I started to discover new forms of art and music, and also came to realize that I was more creatively disciplined than I had expected.

After I finished my high school studies, I realized that I would like to be in a creative field.

And then what happened after you finished high school?
I then got a vocational education as a printer for 3 years. In my old city, they printed really large labels such as Madonna and wu tang clan . and this was fascinating for me. So I wanted to get an offset printer. It was nice to have received the technical background that I did after doing this job.. but it was not sitting right with me because I was constantly just reproducing work of other people- not doing my own.

After this, I started to study media communication and was mainly working in film and graphic design. Following those studies, I started print and media technology.

But, at this point, it was clear for me that I wanted to study photography. But, as many know, it’s quite a difficult and intimidating process to go into art schools for interviews. I didn’t have a ‘proper’ portfolio prepared at this point, so for the next year, I instead studied print and media technology while working on my portfolio- and the next year, I attended Dortmund and studied photography until 2010.

After my studies, I found myself travelling for a year. For the sake of work and pleasure. I was also exploring new places to see where it would be ideal to make a ‘home base’ for myself. I ended up choosing Berlin.

Why Berlin?
I had originally travelled to Berlin and lived here for a very short period of time in 2008. I felt it was the best place for me
to stay- to expand my work and to grow. It’s much different from other cities. I also quite enjoy the fact that there are so
many international artists who have come here and built their own communities and shared their own cultures with others. Also, you are also in the middle of Europe and can easily travel anywhere you’d like.

Do you remember the first photograph you took?
I am not 100% sure, but I think it was a polaroid. An old teacher gave us a pack and we did a self portrait of me and a friend. I think was 10 years old.

The first band you photographed?
It was a band who was not so famous at the time. White walls. I think. I also did a photo interview for Guitar Wolf, which was awesome.

What your first ‘official’ publication? 
I think it was in the newspaper. Though, these images obviously had a more photojournalistic approach.

Who are some of your favourite photographers, artists, writers..? 
Jürgen Klauke, Paolo Roversi, William Eggleston, Warhol, Nobuyoshi Araki, Susan Sontag, Wolfgang Tillmans, Walter Pfeiffer, Helmut Newton, Casper David Friedrich, Eichendorf.

Your favourite image or shoot that you have done?
Some shoots were really crazy for me. The Rolling Stones and the shoot with Jürgen Teller were interesting… but I also really enjoy when I shoot humans that aren’t famous, too. In one way it’s interesting if it’s a famous person but in another way, fuck off, we’re all people. You can find a very true and natural beauty in those who are unknown. And sometimes, they are more famous than the celebrities, in another way.

What can we find you doing in your spare time?
Reading, enjoying life, feet in the sun, meeting people… I hope these answers are not too normal.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?

I hate to ask this question… but how would your describe your own work?
My work is about doing good things with good people on the planet. When it’s possible I like to reflect the personalities of the people I shoot, too. Also, I like to play with colours. I like the feelings they portray and they can sometimes even act as therapy for myself. They show us life, they add character. And maybe this is also why I enjoy very hard blacks
and whites. Colour is full of life, but black and white is more of a portrayal of someone’s soul. That’s also why I sometimes like to combine the two. During a shoot, I like the energy and the silence of myself and the people I work with. The dynamic of the shoot. The explosion of things. And the quiet moments after a shoot. It’s always up and down.

When did you start to develop your distinct ‘Chris-Neumann-style’…?
My style became more clear to me near the end of my studies. In 2008 or 2009.
Do you always try to portray a balance between your commercial and artistic background?
When it’s possible, I try to bring my artistic view into my commercial pieces as well.

What do you think of the zeitgeist in photography?
A person can call themselves a photographer if they own a camera. They invest money in expensive gear and don't think twice about the history and theory of photography- or even pay respect to traditional formats or exactly how photography has grown over the years. It's so easy for someone to open a file in photoshop or hipstamatic, quickly edit it, and share it immediately. It's almost ignorant for one to not pay respect or show some kind of appreciation to the fathers/masters of the craft.

A lot of people want to stand on the big stage but never want to give respect to those sitting in the audience. It's similar to the art & music industry in this way as well. People steal albums from the internet but never attend a live show or offer any respect to the artists. They somehow make it to the top without providing any support for the industry itself- just themselves.

I would prefer to give before I take. I think this is important if you want to succeed in photography (or art, or music..).. I like going to exhibitions, buying work or publications and speaking with the artists. Supporting them and interacting with them.

Closing statements?
The interesting pages in the book are the empty ones.

View more of his work here!