A new interview with one of my most favorite magazines, the PhotogrVphy magazine of Poland, has been available online since yesterday. Thank you for the great work Maciej Leszczynski Photography! Also many thanks to Josef Hoflehner and Martin Stavars Photography for the great inspirations which influenced me a lot over the years as a photographer.
“Ronny Behnert was born in Luckenwalde, a small city in the south of Berlin, Germany. Since 1989 he has lived and worked in Berlin. Splitting his time between Berlin and his second home in Frankfurt am Main. More recently he has spent the last two years on the island of Sylt. He has been actively practicing photography since January of 2007. The award winning photographer founded his project Håggard Photography in 2010 and works for various newspapers and magazines. While continuously developing his skills and knowledge, Ronny never wants to give up his amateur spirit. To ground himself in his artwork he tries to spend as much time as possible exploring the world. His recent series and photos from Iceland, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Sweden, and Venice, Italy have already been published in prestigious photo magazines.“
How did you become interested in photography? Do you have any artistic education?
First of all, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your magazine. I am really proud to share my thoughts, ideas and photos with you!
When I was young I started drawing comics and painted a lot. I have always been a person who is influenced by visual arts and effects. After a few years of drawing and painting I lost my passion for that kind of optical presentation and I started taking photos with a friend’s little camera. That was in the beginning of 2007. I really liked the possibilities of taking photos which show my personal view of common or unique places and motives.
I decided that I wanted to develop my work as a photographer and so I tried to study photography in my hometown, Berlin. Studying photography is really expensive here and I was young, so I couldn’t pay for the expensive school. I was disappointed about the fact that I couldn´t study but I didn´t give up. I started learning everything I needed on my own so I’m a typical autodidact. Now, after ten years, I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I got the chance to develop my personal style and a unique workflow.
Where do you get your creative inspiration from? Is there any other artist or photographer who inspires your art?
I find a lot of inspiration in looking at old paintings. On art tours in older cities like Prague or Venice, I try to find old paintings which shows exciting perspectives. The internet helps me find new inspirations. I think it`s important to follow the work of other photographers and be inspired by them. Every artist is influenced by personal idols. I am not only inspired by photographers. Zaha Hadid and Santiago Calatrava, my favorite architects, helped me to create my photographic style. Their clean, modern and experimental architecture helped me to find the visual direction I wanted to pursue.
Josef Hoflehner is one of the photographers whose works inspired me a lot. He is a good example of how one’s own vision can change during years of taking photos. Hoflehner became famous with his minimalistic long exposures and decided to change his method of photography. He not only changed his style, he even changed his spots and motives. Another inspirational photographer is Martin Stavars, editor of ND Magazine. To me, his black and white photos from China are especially amazing.
How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph or series of photographs? Do you have any preferences regarding cameras and format?
Different software like Photoshop and Lightroom are important for my workflow and every digital file I prepare. I think it´s important to stay up to date with the technical advances in photography. It’s a kind of Zeitgeist to put different digital skills inside modern, or better, contemporary photographs.
I am not into creating new digital worlds but I do use Photoshop to emphasize my visual vision. Of course the basic file has to be as close to the end result as possible but I use different skills to change the basic photo into the most minimalistic and clean version I can imagine. For me the most important vision is changing chaotic into clear, harmonious scenes. To create those kinds of scenes I prefer the square format and 16:9. Square formats support stable compositions which are perfect for minimalistic clear visions. I prefer the 16:9 format because this format opens different scenes which don´t fit into the square format. The format I choose depends on the perspective available to me, but I generally know which format I will choose before I am on scene take the photos.
Why do you work in black and white rather than color?
I love black and white images because I think many scenes come alive through black and white contrasts. These contrasts can open new worlds where the monochrome universe looks totally different than the reality. In the last two years I have also focused on colored versions, which are not as deep as my black and white works. I try to transport a kind of lightness through monochrome colors and only add two or three tones which are working in contrast to each other. Not every photo is a black and white photo and it’s important to me to find what is right for the specific photo. Many people believe that they can only create black and white photos when the lighting is bad, gray or boring, but I disagree. The choice of black and white vs. color depends on the spot, the composition and the main motif of the project. The choice is not based only on the available light.
Where is your photography going? What are you currently working on and do you have any photographic plans for future?
At the moment I am developing my color skills to create minimalistic images with only two or three different tones. Not typical colored images but more dreamlike or atmospheric images which should awaken the same feeling of longing created by my black and white photos. I think I will continue working with different ND filters to reinforce these emotional effects.
What are your three favourite photography books?
- Jimmy Nelson – Before they pass away
- Josef Hoflehner – Jet Airliner
- Olaf Heine – Leaving the comfort zone
What do you do besides photography?
I travel a lot and enjoy my life in Berlin apart from the work of being a photographer. I try to discover as many different cultures as I can and I hope to continue my explorations in the future. I think it´s important for every person to travel in order to expose themselves to other cultures. This helps to develop a tolerant, peaceful mind, and broadens our way of thinking.