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Big Ideas

Holger Pooten: Back to Basics

Taking mini-breaks, maintaining a lean team, and exploring through personal projects are all part of photographer Holger Pooten's work-life ethos.

There’s a reason clients like Adidas, Marie Claire and Vogue are enamored with the work of Holger Pooten. Unafraid to take risks or ruffle feathers, Pooten was honored early in his career with both the Agfa Talents Award and the Hasselblad Scholarship for his provocative, fantastical and innovative imagery. Behance sat down with with the German-born, London-based photographer to discuss finding fresh perspectives, streamlining workflows and the frustrations often associated with commercial assignments.

Pooten finds reinstating the slower pace associated with traditional photographic processes aids and streamlines his all-digital process. “Actually I work very ineffectively, having a lot of short breaks, but I realized that I need it to keep my mind fresh. Let’s say in the age of photo labs, you always had to wait for a couple of minutes until your print came out of the machine and always had this, but with a digital workflow you don’t have that anymore which can lead to a point where you can’t really judge things properly anymore. So through my mini-breaks I try to avoid that and try to see things objectively.”Finding perspective is something Pooten has fined-tuned, also. “When I need to find new ideas or topics I will take an afternoon off lie on the bed and let my mind wander around, asking myself questions like ‘what is your core interest in photography?’ or ‘why where you so impressed by this image you’ve seen 3 years ago?’  Normally after 3 hours, I have a lot of raw material that I can transform into shoots and there are ideas that normally stay with me for years, until I finally find the time to realize them.”

I recently limited my team to the absolute minimum as I found it leads to crisper, more focused results.

The sometimes hindering restraints often associated with commercial work are channeled positively into his personal endeavors. “It’s definitely very frustrating when you did an excellent job but because of strategical reasons it will not be used, that happens in advertising as in editorial work. There’s nothing you can do, so I try to put a lot of effort into my personal projects, where I don’t have to make compromises. For me, a good picture contains an objective or true part and a subjective or personal part and ideally I try to make them visible.”

Getting back to basics seems to be boding rather well for Pooten. “I recently limited my team to the absolute minimum as I found it leads to crisper, more focused results. My sources of inspiration can be everything, other photographs but also movies, art concepts or the feeling of a song, but most of the time it always leads to the same question ‘why do you do it?’ and once you can answer that to yourself it’s almost a logical consequence what subjects you have to shoot.”

Comments (1)
  • nicklausdeyring

    His process sounds like the ‘breaks’ are almost meditation. Very inspiring, it’s great to hear the back story of great creatives’ process.

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