The photographer Cordula Schäfer was born in Bremen and today lives and works in Berlin. We took a look at her home and through her lens and went on an outing to the botanical gardens.
A lot of your work features New York City. What do you find so inspiring about that city?
To me, New York City has a unique dynamic that basically makes it impossible to sit still. Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder - I'm fully aware that the city is crowded, loud and dirty - but then again things and places don't necessarily have to be all pretty to be interesting. Also, so many people seem driven by this 'if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere' idea, and they just go and work towards their vision. So seeing ideas take shape is something I find very inspiring. This creative atmosphere as well as the unlimited visual impressions just created the perfect match.
Is there an artist/musician/person that has influenced you? Tell us about someone that inspires you and influences the way you work.
I take inspiration from many things or artists and couldn't really narrow it down to just one name. Even though I shoot in color most of the time, I would say classic black and white photos inspire me most. Naturally, they only rely on the effects of light and shadow so it's basically back to the roots in regards to composition and framing. Looking at cityscapes, a great example would be 'Sao Paulo' by Rene Burri or the New York series by Andreas Feininger. And of course there are the grand masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson or Ansel Adams whose work I always enjoy looking at.
While in the US, I came across the work of Max Wanger, who has a very unique way of composing wide-angle shots and using depth-of-field blur. My photos usually don't have people in them but a similar approach to his could be something to try out sometime. I also like how Andrew Smith from Cuba Gallery processes his work. He also uses Lightroom and his photos always have beautifully clear and vibrant colors. That is definitely something I take inspiration from when editing photos as I always try to work with the available image and not wildly manipulate it towards something it has never been.
What research do you do? Do you go to specific places to shoot, or do you just take you camera with you and decide spontaneously?
The level of research I do really depends on where I go or how much time I have at a specific location. On the weekends or when I'm on vacation and have plenty of free time, I love to just venture out and explore. Those images are mostly the more honest ones, if you will, because your mind is not biased by any images you have previously seen. Then again, when time is limited and I'm looking for a certain point of view or building, I do some research beforehand. For example, roof tops might have restricted opening times or outdoor locations could need detours to access them. The same goes for sunrises or sunsets; checking the times for those is a must to make sure you are set up on time.
What’s your background? Did you study art? What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
Personally, I have always had a thing for photography. Both of my parents are avid photographers in their free time, so there was almost always a camera around at home and great books to look at. Actually this also had an impact on my twin sister who even won a major photo contest with one of her works.
My professional background is in media design and I first worked in an agency environment before moving on to study Arts & Media and History. Actually I had also applied at a university of the arts but they dismissed my work for not being progressive enough. While I was engaged in jobs in corporate communications most of the time, I always continued to work as a freelance photographer and designer on the side.
What work do you most enjoy doing away from work? Does photography feel like work to you?
My current job is for the aviation industry which is obviously entirely different from what I do in my free time so I'm glad to still have a creative outlet. So far photography never felt like arduous work to me, I just truly enjoy it.
What is your dream project?
I recently spoke with a friend about collaborating for a book project. She is a graphic designer and we toyed the idea of creating a customizable notebook that would bring together both of our creative outcomes. Other than that, I would love to shoot and write an actual documentary or portrait some time, maybe of a certain place or longer journey somewhere abroad.