Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Feature: Bernd Talasch

Berndt's bio: "Bernd Talasch doesn’t remember being hatched in a research laboratory in Omaha in the late 1950s so maybe that never happened. (Placeholder bio – remember to replace).

All images on this post © Bernd Talasch

Click on Bernd's work to access his portfolio, recently posted: 

"It was a dark and cold morning. I’d just come from my hotel, which was so cheap and nasty that my four hours sleep ended up being four hours spent UNABLE to sleep...." click to read more (BAFTA Awards 2014)

I have asked Berndt several questions, as always with photographers/artists I feature, I always find it interesting to know more about their passion, process and inspiration.

I find it refreshing to see these well known individuals photographed other than in posed, studio shots. This, combined with Berndt witty comments and descriptions, make his portfolio and work very unique.

When did you start?

I am an avid photographer, but street photography is more my thing and I’d only been in London for about three months. I decided to document the experience by taking one photo per day, every day. Then I heard that there was going to a Premiere for a movie called ‘Hancock’ starring Will Smith and Charlize Theron, both of which I was a very big fan of. Expecting nothing except maybe a chance to photograph something different and new, I walked to Leicester Square with my camera in tow…. and in spite of the huge crowd I managed to take photos of both. It might sound like nothing, but that felt really amazing! I was kind of stunned that I could do that – I thought it was so cool that London had events like this and that I could actually take photos of people I’d otherwise only get to see on screen. I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep doing it whenever I had time. I also decided that unlike most of the people who go to these premieres I didn’t want to shout out and get the stars’ attention. Instead, I wanted to capture what goes on at a premiere and see whether I could get good photos more organically and candidly – street photography at a public event, kind of. I’m now shocked to find that I’ve been doing it for almost six (minus one year when I was back in Australia). I had a quick look at my the Redbubble menu/journal for all the premieres: I’ve now done over 200!

I love photography and I love movies, so for me it’s a pretty awesome thing to be able to combine the two. It’s amazing to me that I can love a certain director or even film composer and have a chance to photograph them myself, maybe even get an autograph… and in a couple of very rare instances, take a photo at one premiere and then have it printed out and signed at another premiere. I don’t usually do that but for really amazing people like Quentin Tarantino, Will Smith and Charlize Theron I managed it.

 (Pentax K5 + Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 + Hoya Filter + Giant f***ing Nikon Speedlite Flash 8) :)

I’ve always shot with a Pentax DSLR. However for the past year I’ve added a second DSLR (prior to that I was switching between two or three lenses throughout an event). So now one is a Pentax with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, and the other is a Nikon with a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. I usually don’t change lenses unless I go wide-angle for ‘establishing shots’ for the journals I write. They’re specialised lenses, but I slowly acquired them over the years. The lenses need to be fast for three reasons: firstly the majority of events are nighttime events; secondly I need them to be fast to capture candid moments that last only instants; and thirdly because I shoot without a flash. It’s more difficult to shoot without a flash, but I think the results look better and different to what most people take. Beyond that, I make sure to take spare batteries, I make sure my SD cards are formatted and blank, and given it’s London I’m very glad my cameras are weatherproof (the Pentax is particularly good in that regard). In winter, my ‘equipment’ extends to my clothing : lots of layers, beanie, and waterproof jacket.

Do you have/need a pass?

No I don’t have a press pass – I shoot from within the public areas. These areas are filled with people who are there to see the stars, get autographs, maybe get photos WITH the stars, or just there to see the spectacle. But even if I could get a press pass, I’d be somewhat reluctant : there are already a lot of press photographers and they shoot from a dedicated pen which stars pose in front of. But again, I’m not a huge fan of posed photographs – they’re beautifully detailed and have the advantage of being taken from a place where other people don’t get in the way, and I’m sure they’re what sells to newspapers and magazines. But those photos do look somewhat alike – given there are dozens of photographers all pointing cameras at the same person at the same time. Taking photos from a crowd is more difficult but I do find it more rewarding!

I’m pretty lucky. Generally at premieres, the cast and crew make time to sign for fans – maybe not all but as many as possible, so usually STARS come to the FANS. You kind of have to be in the right place, and be lucky, and act quickly. Over time I’ve gotten a bit better at finding a good spot. Having a long 70-200mm zoom on a DSLR helps me get close, too! The main factor is that for big premieres, fans can start queueing quite early and so it’s very hard to get a spot in the front row or front rows. Because I work a regular job, I can’t manage to queue all day (nor would I want to!), but taking photos from the second row (or if I’m very unlucky third row) isn’t too bad. It cuts down your options and restricts you… but that’s not always a bad thing, either.

The waiting time...

I have made a fair few friends over the years, many of them are fans of movies like I am and they also like taking photos or in some cases they’re into collecting autographs. This means that I have people to talk to and also people around me who won’t jostle or shove as much! I’m fortunate in that although I work a 9-5 job, I have flexible hours and leave early to get to premieres. Usually I can get there about three hours prior to the start, which can be pleasant for catching up with friends and get me an okay spot. Right now in London it’s winter though and it can be quite cold. And it can be wet. At last year’s BAFTAs it even snowed!

The competition…..

One thing I like is that I’m not doing this to earn a living – I do this for the enjoyment and the photography. So the main ‘competition’ comes from everything that can get between the subject and my lens and my ability to get a good photo. The things that make this difficult includes other fans, other photographers, media, entourages, red carpet security, other people and guests milling and crowding on the carpet, and people in the same pen pushing from behind and above to get things autographed – plus any limitations in my Autofocus or my ability to track focus. It’s not easy but it’s worth it when you get a photo that turns out good and sometimes looks like nothing anybody else could take because if they’ve got good equipment they’re not usually standing where I am in the middle of a crowd! I have some friends who also take photos from within the crowd but we’re friends not competitors.

Possibly your best and/or worst experience photographically speaking with shooting famous people?

I don’t really have a ‘worst’ experience. I take semi-candid photos at public events from within the crowd so I know I’m not in any position to impose my will on famous people…. and therefore can not judge or ever say I was snubbed by anybody famous, or found them ‘difficult’. They’re there to be seen so they want to be acknowledged, or alternatively they have a clear list of priorities of things they want to accomplish.

One thing that happens, albeit rarely, is that I find myself in a position where somebody I REALLY like (this would typically be a director) comes close to where I am, signing autographs and I realise that I could, if I wanted and if I’m lucky, actually get an autograph of (say) Steven Spielberg or James Cameron. Which is amazing. But it raises a problem : put down the camera and not take photos and HOPE to get an autograph… or keep the camera up and get a photo when they’re much closer. For Spielberg and Cameron, I went for the autograph and got it. For Quentin Tarantino I didn’t. Sometimes the stars don’t get very close to where I am and I end up not getting a good photo which can make it feel like I’ve wasted hours and not getting the photo I want.

The best experiences are when things just suddenly go amazing right and I’m there to catch it.

Nicole Kidman poses for the press photographers perpendicularly to me and a flash lights up at the same time as I take the photograph.

Madonna is completely mobbed by security, attendants, assistants and red carpet media and then they all suddenly almost magically part and my camera is right there.

Morgan Freeman, who often doesn’t mingle with fans, decides that he doesn’t want to sign but instead waves mischievously just as I’m pointing my camera in his direction.

Daniel Craig spontaneously turns away from the VIP press photographers and beams a grin into the area of the crowd I’m in… and moments later Rooney Mara does the same..

 I’m kind of glad I have a lot of these moments!

The worst experiences usually accompany rain, when everyone’s umbrellas go up and security wear high-visibility raincoats that deflect all light. There’s very little you can do about that! The other ‘worst’ experiences are when too many things conspire to go wrong – the autofocus is distracted at a crucial point, or something amazing happens but my camera is pointing the other way, or somebody rushes past and I miss them. All of those things are inevitable but it’s disappointing to take a photo that would have been amazing had I not been unlucky. I make sure to delete those ‘almost’ photos so I’m not haunted by them!

 Other works by Berndt 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting interview, Berndt !
    i follow your posts in Redbubble journals and always wanted to know better who are you and how you started this genre of photography, how you involved to take candid photographs of stars ! so i got all answers to my "questions"
    thank you Anne !