Jan C Schlegel

April 25, 2017 by Laura Gomez

The pictures of Jan C. Schlegel bear witness of the special encounters of the photographer with unique people on his trips through Africa and Asia. Since 1998 Jan C. Schlegel regularly travels to remote places, which are secluded from the tourism of the western world. On his tours the artist observed the rapid decline of traditions and increasing change of the way of life of the people within their tribes due to globalisation. The inexorable changes woke the urgent wish in the photographer to portrait people, to capture impressions and to preserve traditional life forms in his pictures. Thus Schlegel not only creates artistic photographs, but also documents and preserves unique pieces of art – the people themselves. None of people photographed wear special make-up or were specially dressed before the photographs were taken.

Nothing was staged, nothing is fake. They were all captured in their own habitat – at the market, in the village square, or simply on the roadside. The only stylistic device Schlegel uses for each one of his photographs is a simple grey background. With it he concentrates the attention on the people, not on their living conditions. The basic message is the internal and external beauty of the pictured people. Schlegel emphasises their uniqueness, their value and their irreparableness. With his art he fights for the particularity and individuality of the cultures.

During the last years Schlegel visited 61 countries, always in search of the distinctive beauty and variety of the people. The picture’s compositions, the highly contrasted play of light and shadow, the inner dynamics and the extraordinary perspectives, open a crack in the door of secret-treasures of this world that are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Schlegel often stays several weeks with the tribes to get to know and understand its way of life. With his assistant Schlegel lives in modest circumstances among the people, which he tries to portray. Step by step the photographer gains their trust, in order to make pictures in the desired nearness and intimacy. With his photographs Jan C. Schlegel gives us a glimpse on foreign cultures and allows us to discover something about the uniqueness of every single person.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

— Elliott Erwitt

Photo lnterview

Name: Jan C Schlegel
Age: 52
Birthday: 13.09.1965

College: University of the Nations
Color: Turkoise
Book: Paolo Roversi – Nudi
Movie: Lord of the Rings
Food: Sea Food or Sushi
Quote: not really one

For how long have been in photography? How did you start? Where do you find inspiration? Well I feel like I was born with a camera and was always taking pictures, even as a kid. I got trained in photography when I was 20. I started shooting for some major fashion brands with 22. Back then I was working on only commercial and somehow I lost my passion for photography a bit. I realised, photography is only fun when you can choose what you want to take pictures of. About 15 years later I discovered the more artistic side of photography. That really attracted me because I felt I am free to create and to show something to the world that was meaningful. I started travelling to the tribes of Africa and Asia and was trying to show them to the world in a powerful and captivating way. I only knew pictures of Africa that shoed poverty, thats not what I wanted When I went there the first time I was impressed by their beauty and dignity they were wearing. Thats what I wanted to show… It took me about 2 to 3 years of leaning I how could show that. First my pictures were like all the others, poor children looking up to the camera…. thats not what I wanted. Also I needed to develop not only my photography style, but also the technical aspects of it. I ended up with taking pictures with a analog 4×5 inch large format camera, taking a mobile studio with backdrop and lighting to Africa and Aisa… and then of course after developing the pictures in my darkroom the special selective toning.

Inspiration I find when I see something beautiful that I want to show. Like the tribes, or in general people. But of course there are photographers that inspire me, like Nadar, Irvin Penn, Richard Avedon all those amazing photographers that impacted society with their amazing pictures.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life today? Propably Paolo Roversi, Cathleen Naundorf and Anne Leibovitz

What for you is the most enjoyable part of your photography? Taking the pictures! I love taking pictures. The moment when you look at the ground glass of your camera and you already can see the picture and then you know you just burned it on film for many others to see. There is also something magical, and I love that part too, when you develop your pictures and you see the image slowly appear in the developer tray.

Is Brainstorming not the only creative method use to create new concepts? I am not really brainstorming with anyone about concepts. They simply emerge when I see something thats captivating me. For me photography is like a language that I am using to show or explain something. A picture is maybe a sentence and the concept the book.

Please could you tell us about photography and digital technology? There is no digital process involved, no photoshop or file at all. Nothing is manipulated. It’s all on b&w film and then the picture itself on traditional silver gelatine paper. All pictures are developed by myself and afterwards in a many hours process, the skin and hair brown toned. This is a manual process where you apply the cemicals for toning only at the areas of the picture you want to become brown. This process takes about 6 to 8 hours for each single print. This makes each print unique because it turns out differently with each single print.

What type of camera do you use most? I only use my 4×5 wooden field camera. It’s a Ebony SV45Ti.

What is your favorite lens? I own several lenes for my 4×5 camera but 99% of my pictures are taken with my Schneider Super Symmar XL Apo 150mm. I think thats the sharpest lens on planet eart.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why? Well, I dont really have assignments. I choose what I want to photograph. But one of my favorit photo shoots was the one with the warrior carrying the crocodile on his shoulder. It was just the entire situation. Biwa the warrior came back from the river carrying the crocodile. I was already late in the afternoon an the light was perfect but I knew I only would have about 1 hour until it is to dark. Someone made a little video clip of that amazing photo shoot, just have a look: https://youtu.be/QRox45b-9q8

What are your favourite three images you have shot recently? Hard to say, but I really like those 3:

Those are out of my series „Essence“ which is also availabe as a book now.

Currently I am working on a series called „the tribes of our generation“ and these are my favoites of that series:

How important is an awesome website for your business? Very important!

What’s the most important quality a photographer needs to have? I believe photography has a lot to do with your character. It’s not so much talent it smore how patient you are, how much willingness you have to suffer in order to get your pictures, how willing you are to repeat and do it again, how honest you are… I believe in the picture you see a refection of the character of the photographer. People will see how you see a person, what you see in a person…

Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction?

List of your clients? I only have collectors, not really clients. I want to go back into fashion photography, but with my own style. I am particular interested in shooting haute couture.

Who are the photographer’s you admire the most? I mentioned them before: Paolo Roversi, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Cathleen Naundorf….

What are your next projects? Hope to start a series about haut couture, especially I am interested in Dior, YSL or Chanel.

Define Klassik Magazine for the audience? Awesome!