Spotlight On – Klaus Wohlmann

How did you get your start in photography?

When I was 16 years old, my father gave me a Voigtländer camera. Of course, I took the camera with me when I went to Morocco on my Mokick (bike) in that same year, so I could document my trip. Since then, photography has remained an important part of my life and I have continued to work on my skillset.


For almost 20 years, painting has also played a major role in my life. Until the year 2000, I was intensively engaged in abstract painting – mainly with acrylic lacquers – and over time, I’ve created many collages that combined photography and painting. For example, I printed photos on overhead foil and included them in the painting, or fixed them on a brass plate, which has the nice effect of the picture changing over time. I like change and especially the aging process – in life, as well as in photography and printing.



This type of painting drew me deeper into photography and as I started to be able to earn a living from photography, painting took a less prominent role in my life.


In 2006, I hit a turning point. At that time I went to the Republic of Togo by myself, and that had a strong impact on me. Afterwards, I worked for a company in Cologne creating photographic concepts and organizing workshops for them. Later, I started giving photographic workshops myself. Nowadays, many regular attendees are also among my clients for whom I document events, create film projects or photograph portraits. Making a living from photography takes away a lot of creativity (especially when it comes to fulfilling assignments), but I love my job and like to let my creativity run free when dealing with individualized projects.


What type of photography are you shooting and what motivated you to focus on that genre?

Reportage and travel photography are my main focuses, but I still consider myself a photographic artist. For me, photo art means reaching another, deeper level of photography and creating a connection to the subject.


The inspiration for my work came during my 2006 trip to Togo. At that time, I had a Polaroid camera with me and wanted to take pictures of the people living there. I always waited for someone to approach me and ask me if I would photograph her or him. Then I would take a picture and gave it to the person. We would talk about the picture and afterwards, I would be able to take another picture of the person for my work portfolio. This approach created a connection between my subject and myself – we had a common story. Later on, I published a book about this journey.



What has been your biggest achievement or obstacle along the way?

I live by challenges. Every assignment presents a challenge and encourages me to further develop myself. Therefore, it is difficult for me to really reduce myself to the “biggest” challenge.


One example is when I was asked to shoot a film underground at a depth of 800 meters. There was no electricity there I had to bring all of my lighting equipment down there with me. I had to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything and I had to put my trust in the technology I was working with. Still, there was always a bit of uncertainty and risk.



Another challenge I enjoyed was creating a short film from almost 2000 photographs I had:
I first came up with the concept, then had to search for the right locations. I then needed to get the person (performer) to move the way I wanted them to – a challenge when I was using long exposures. After that, image editing and the task of adding missing details again and again were part of the refinement process.



My trip to Ethiopia was inspiring, and I wanted to capture what life was like over there through my photography. I wanted to portray people in their home environment and had to gain their trust in order to get the images I was hoping for. Focusing on the relevant moments amongst a multitude of impressions to capture just the right shot is a task that challenges me. It’s not always easy to tell capture the full story about someone like a farmer and use ‘just’ images to give insight into his life, his problems and challenges. But that is exactly what makes my job so exciting.



Who and/or what inspires you most?

The world and its people.


What is your approach? Is there anything, in particular, you try to achieve during a shoot (for example triggering certain feelings, etc.) or are there any specific techniques you use?

To me, the starting point for a photo or a photo series is always the development of a concept. I take my time to explore ideas and the challenges that come along with them. This requires a good preliminary discussion with my clients in order to respond to their needs and determine the necessary tools and conditions such as light, sun and shade to make the most out of the assignment.


I always try to tell a story with my images and that means I need to get involved with the people and the experience. Next, I emphasize what I find particularly appealing about a scene and often use this as a perspective from which to stage relationships in my picture.


Why is accurate color important within your workflow?

Colors (or the absence of colors in black and white shots) are particularly important for people’s perception, because they create feelings. Therefore, they are also very important to me, since I want to arouse feelings with my photographs.


In commissioned work, the correct color reproduction is vital for customer satisfaction. If colors don’t turn out right, the entire job will have failed.


Any tips or advice for photographers just beginning their career?

I advise everyone to stay curious and always approach each shoot with open eyes and an open mind. Push yourself to go deeper and further – stretch outside your comfort zone and don’t settle for what you see at first glance. Always challenge yourself and find your own style.



About the Author – Klaus Wohlmann



Klaus Wohlmann has been taking pictures since he was 16 years old and although he completed a commercial apprenticeship, his heart has always been centered on painting and photography. Since 2007, he has been working as a freelance photographer and teaching photographic workshops. As a photographer who travelled the world, his focus has been on projects that deal with people and their culture.


Photography Type: Storytelling and Travel Photography