On new paths with photographer Stefan Heinrichs
Looking out over the sprawling lawns of his Uckermark country home, Stefan Heinrichs is completely at ease. Over the course of two years, the photographer has reconstructed a century-old barn in the small village of Flieth, about an hour’s drive from his Berlin home, into the rustic open-plan house surrounded by shrubs of strawberries, gooseberries, elderflowers, and grapes.
As the sunlight drenches the shoots of his newly planted dill and lavender outside, Stefan reflects on his professional paths — paths that have taken him from Berlin to New York and London, cities that he never felt the urge to call home. Having portrayed people like Samuel L. Jackson and Charlotte Gainsbourg for internationally renowned magazines for over a decade, he describes his early career as centered around the studio until he started to experiment and expand his portfolio that today includes location shoots for clients such as Vogue and Mulberry.
What drew you to fashion photography?
The human being. Fashion is a framework — it can support or accentuate something—and helps me tell even more stories.
How does that attention to humanity define your work?
I understand photography as an exchange and dialogue. I enjoy that it allows me to interact with different people. I tend to work quite abstract, be it in fashion or portrait photography, and always enter a journey with the person I photograph. You build your own little world. When we both like the results it’s an incredible feeling of having completed something together.
How are those encounters reflected in your style?
I’m interested in creating a process that captures the reality of the people I shoot, rather than in overthought compositions and style. The essence is in capturing authentic and tangible moments. Those lighter moments of life, when we see people enjoying the presence of others, and interacting with their environment naturally and honestly. It’s a world away from staged and constructed corporate documentary. Instead, it’s filled with that sense of emotion and energy that makes imagery genuinely compelling, rather than just beautiful.
Where do you see yourself as a photographer today?
I’m at this point where I recognize that there has always been a guiding force behind my work. I always set goals for myself but there was a lot of external influence. When I assisted Bruce Webber after graduation, I was given a lot of responsibility, which has helped me learn to trust myself and follow my instincts.
Was the change of scenery from Berlin to the Uckermark intentional?
You can’t say that I was searching for something new — I had no reason to complain and nothing was missing in my life. I just followed my intuition and everything fell into place.
What has the project taught you?
I enjoy considering other people’s wishes, but I have to listen to myself more often and find time to slow down in order to grow personally and professionally. It’s not my intention to say goodbye to anything; I want to look to my left and right as I tend to feel trapped inside a certain grid otherwise.
How would you describe your life out here?
This is where I open up and let my guard down; I’m 100% in my element. The distractions you have here rather support you or help you advance; gardening clears my head.
How does that affect your work?
I’ve come to terms with myself. On set I’m more concentrated, more focused, and a bit sharper, as I’ve got less impressions to absorb in my daily life. I tend to get stuck in a rut — office, travels, editing — that I’m finally able to overcome here. I’m more conscious with my surroundings and the interactions are much more honest. That’s another form of dialogue — just as it is in photography, it’s all connected.
Have your interests shifted at all?
I was never really drawn to landscapes and still life photography. Now that I have portrayed people for years, I am intrigued to discover the environments in which the person lives and include other elements. Thanks to this more streamlined lifestyle I’m able to appreciate simple things. I want everything to feel natural and not be limited by time so that I can take it in and process it properly. That’s something that Ihave achieved by relocating to Flieth.
Production & Interview by
Freunde von Freunden