Ken is a German photographer based in Berlin, but his heart is constantly back in Norway, in which he has developed an 8-year project, riding over 25.000 miles to bring his photographic impressions of the country. We had a talk with him about his career, connection with Norway, image copyright, and the future of photography.
Ken Schluchtmann, also known as “the photodesigner” is a successful architectural, landscape, and commercial photographer based in Berlin. Working as a professional photographer for 20 years now, he has won several international awards, including the Arcaid Images Photography Award in the World Architecture Festival twice.
In his commercial portfolio, you can find big names such as BMW, Bentley or the Robinson’s Luxury Mall in Dubai. But apart from this great advertising work, he also has personal projects that mean a lot to him, as it is with the “Architecture and Landscape in Norway” project, exhibited in Museums and the Nordic Embassies in Berlin. Here, he gives his take on the country, telling a touching story by photographing Norway’s landscape, architecture, and objects.
What makes Ken’s work unique is that he gives special attention to details, making every photography so perfectly put that it looks like it’s been designed. He is one of RYDE’s first clients, having joined the family in 2018, and we were happy to have this conversation with him about his career, passions, and experience with unlicensed image use.
Could you tell us a bit more about your start with photography? Was it love at first sight?
No, it wasn’t. I wasn’t thinking about photography. I was traveling a lot after finishing school and being with the army. I started going windsurfing in several places in Europe, like South France and in Spain. Then, we went to Brittany in the northwest of France, and it was pretty beautiful. I had just an old camera and took some pictures. When I came back, I was very disappointed with the quality.
So I decided to buy a new camera and go back there. I went there again, now with a good camera. The result was relatively better. But at the time, I was only doing some landscapes for private use and some pictures, specifically from windsurfing. Then, in 1998 I went to Norway with a friend. That was a time before Facebook, and even the web nearly didn’t exist, so we did not know what to expect. Then, what we experienced there during a four and a half weeks trip, sleeping in a car, was so amazing that I decided to stop studying law, which I did for nearly six years. I moved from Hanover to Berlin to become a photographer, and I went to Lette Verein to learn for three years about it. I started working as a photographer in 2001.
When we see your website and your former work, we see that Norway is very present. Could you tell us a bit more about the connection you have with the place?
For me, the landscape in the country is one of the most impressive landscapes in the world. It is similar to South Antinea and other places like Canada, but it’s pretty around the corner for us here in Germany. You can reach it within 24 hours by driving in a car. And there, you see how unique nature is; you feel small. Yeah, it’s a special place that we can experience, and it’s worth protecting.
Why did you choose the name diephotodesigner?
Yeah, so diephotodesigner in Germany means not only a photo designer but THE photo designer. I first came up with this name when we did our final exhibition when I finished studying at the Lette Verein, and back then were just a small group of people. Today I would choose a different name because diephotodesigner is not always clear to explain in English. At the time, I didn’t think that because I never thought of becoming international. Also, I usually am not simply documenting things. For my pictures, I want to make the world as I see it because I’m not a journalist.
While you photograph many landscapes, you also have an extensive portfolio with architecture, cars, and advertising. For you, how do these points connect? And which one do you like the most?
There is not one that I like the most. All three are connected. The landscape surrounds everything and what I want in architecture and cars is the design. I love doing pictures because these three things can be combined, like modern design and landscapes. In Norway, a lot of the architecture is planned to fit precisely that place. And the cars are what we use to move within this landscape normally. I love the combination of old wooden landscape and new design, for example. It is a beautiful thing if you make it correctly.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about being a photographer?
The most exciting thing is that you experience many places and meet a lot of people doing it. You experience different cultures if you’re open to it. It widens your horizons. Especially compared to now, when we are just sitting on the same desk the whole day. That’s what I’m suffering and nervous about now since traveling is not possible. I need this kind of inspiration and experience for creating new pictures.
Would you say that the pandemic affected your work a lot?
Yeah, in a way, of course, because all international projects went down. In another way, I still got lucky to have more nationwide jobs and more based in Berlin. It’s not that impressive, but I’m still fortunate to have work to live of it. So, putting it in another way, it doesn’t affect me that much because I’m working anyway from my home office for the last six years.
What was the most memorable photoshoot that you shot?
Oh, I think one of the most exciting projects, of course, is the Norwegian project. I worked for eight years for it. I returned there many times, traveling more than 25,000 kilometers. It was special. There was also another shooting a few years for Bentley that we rented a helicopter. It was awe-inspiring and exciting because, typically, people don’t rent a helicopter for shooting, right? Then I had some shootings in China, and I was just impressed with the big cities because Germany is like nothing. So, I think these three things are the most remarkable ones. Of course, there are countless other ones, but you get used to it in the end. You get accustomed to events, big fairs, and even the big cities don’t impress me anymore after traveling there for fifteen, sixteen years. But these three I mentioned are the most remarkable ones.
What piece of advice would you give the people that are starting their careers in photography right now?
I would tell a new photographer to be critical of himself or herself, train hard, and not expect quick success. I think it’s tough; I don’t know whether I would choose this job again because the prices are really down now. I hope it will change someday; although it is hard because of digital photography, everybody can share pictures. That’s why I work together with RYDE since it is difficult for me. Now, I realize how many people choose to work with my photographs without asking. Because of that is like there are two prices, which makes the market go down. I also think it’s challenging to get into the market now. And for this, you have to be really good and train really hard, working endless hours. You don’t have only to learn the technical thing about photography. You even have to know the law and administrative things like writing an offer and calculating correctly. I think this is 50% of your work. The other 50% is the actual photography.
Interesting. So how do you think will be the future of professional photography since now everyone takes pictures?
I can only think that there will be less and less. Although everything needs more and more pictures, the phones are also getting bigger, cameras have better quality, and you have some filters to use. It’s effortless to make somehow okay photos nowadays. But I think there will still be a market for really high-end photography, but it will be just for a very few ones in the future.
Do you also think the future maybe holds a lot of photography mixed with graphic design?
Yeah, because everything mixes out. Today, you have the VR thing, and you have photography and film combined. Photography and graffiti, or with graphics. So everything mixes it up somehow. I think that can be good because by combining different experiences, you can create something new, and the digital world makes it even easier to connect things.
So you said that you partnered with RYDE because you started seeing that many people were using your images without permission. So is your experience within unlicensed images solid? Did you encounter it a lot over the years?
I got the connection to Philipp and Jan, from RYDE, through a friend who told me three years ago that said to me that they were building up this kind of company and looking for photographers, and I said, okay, I didn’t expect anything. I never expected that many infringements of my pictures. So, I was shocked but also happy in a way that I could get something back from it with RYDE. Otherwise, I would have no chance. I can only hope that more and more photographers would choose a company like RYDE to get back what belongs to them.
#14Questions with Ken Schluchtmann
We have played the association game with Ken, and it was a bit like his images: detailed and somehow profound. Check it out now and get to know more about the photo designer Ken.
Great, but hard work.
I often don’t understand.
Extremely important – surrounds our life, shapes our brain.
I always try to make the world a little bit better with my photos
Changed my life
6. Perfect Shot
Always try to reach it
7. A Place to visit after the pandemic
Bangkok and Thailand again.
Most impressive “thing” on earth.
9. A Book
Only digital ones before sleeping
10. A motto
Always trying to realize good ideas
11. A movie
Sometimes good entertainment to fill gaps, but not that much interested in
Comes from nature and interacting with people
A big part of our world; often useful, but I don’t know if I am happy where it leads to
Not cool, of course.
To see more of Ken’s work, go to https://diephotodesigner.de/.
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