“Photography is my Plan A” – Interview with Johanna Brinckman

The second photographer of our mini series about young female photographers based in Hamburg today is Johanna Brinckman (23) who already shot some of the bigger names of the german and international entertainment and fashion business. Read all about her shooting with Rihanna’s Dudley O’ Shaughnessy and what her Plan A is about.

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Johanna Brinckman
Bild: Danijela Barbaric

Margarita: You once said in another interview that you started out by making films. When and why did you switch to photography?

Johanna Brinckman: It was actually just a hobby of mine when I was about 15 years old. I was very interested in corporate video production and film scores, and I can still imagine directing a corporate video shoot one day in the future. But I chose photography primarily because it is a more independent way of working and not so much part of a big project like film. I prefer working in a nice team consisting of 5 to 10 people.

What lead you to fashion photography?

It was clear from the beginning that I wanted to take pictures of people, portraits. I did not think of fashion photography as a crucial part of my work right away, but if you like modern photography and art, then fashion photography gives you of course a lot of inspiration and material. I actually still prefer having a special setting, interesting characters and a certain look over just photographing clothes on a real life clothes rail on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, you have already shot two lookbooks for Iris von Arnim and also a New Yorker campaign. Are you actively seeking for new projects or do they come to you by now?

The campaign for New Yorker resulted from their request after they had seen some of my work at an open air exhibition at HafenCity/Überseeboulevard. They thought my style would fit the campaign and therefore contacted my agency afterwards. 

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Dudley O’ Shaughnessy
Image: Johanna Brinckman

At the exhibition you also showed your pictures from the shooting with Dudley O’ Shaughnessy. How did this shooting come about?

Around the time when Rihanna’s video started to spread internationally, I received the monthly newsletter from his model agency which was based here in Hamburg. They presented some models who would be coming to town and I was interested in a project with Dudley without knowing about the video, just because he has a very special look with his green eyes, light hair and dark skin tone. I am not much interested in shooting male models who have this classic handsome-Adonis-look, so I contacted his booker right away and organized a very spontaneous shooting day with him, while not only being the photographer but also the stylist as there was no one available that fast. It was a lot of fun!

Which designer would you like to work for the most?

That’s actually a tough question for me as I am not that focused on certain designers, labels or blogs. I could be inspired by a collection or one piece of it, but I cannot name any specific designers who would be that. I am curious about Karl Lagerfeld and his work – but I would be much more curious to have a shooting with him as a character.

Do you have a favourite photographer who is somehow your idol or your orientation when it comes to a certain style?

Some days ago I have watched a documentary about the life and work of Annie Leibovitz, which really impressed me. The way she implements the character of the people in front of her camera is one of a kind to me. This is something to look up to as a photographer: not only to be able to set the scene with a beautiful model or to have a portfolio with hundreds of celebrities but to have a story to tell with it, to polarise people and their opinions about it and to create something which will still be relevant in years to come. 

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Balls n’ Dolls
Image: Johanna Brinckman
Fashion design by Claudia Tyborski

What was the greatest experience in your professional life so far?

Definitely the UNICEF-Cambodia-project with Eva Padberg. It was a great opportunity for both my professional and my personal development because I was confronted with new and very different working circumstances. At the end of the day, you have to deliver a product which the magazine (editor’s note: Gala magazine) needs to print to show its readers what is happening there from a realistic point of view, without pretense. Stepping into these sensitive living conditions in a slum and in poverty, with all the kids around me, challenged my way of working and my sensible observation at the same time.When I looked at the pictures some time after having taken them, I realized that this was a one of a time experience and pictures, which no one can take away from me. Reportage photography on a regular basis would not be something I could see myself in because this journey with Eva really moved me emotionally. But I’d always do it again.

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Eveline Hall
Image: Johanna Brinckman for Gala

What would be your advice to other young photographers who are just starting out?

Try out a lot of things, styles and the most important thing is to have a lot of shootings! And don’t go uploading every picture you took somewhere on the internet, don’t show off too much in the beginning. Better choose 10 pictures which represent your specific style than just having your customers clicking through a gallery of 1000 photos. Also: be tenacious when meeting people you are interested in, represent yourself. When I finished school, of course I thought about going abroad to study photography. But then I was lucky enough to have my first projects here in my hometown and later on in other german cities and when I got to be represented by an agency, I wanted to take this chance. It is my way to photography. And what is most important: there is no other job I could think of working in with as much passion as I have it for my job as a photographer. This was and still is my Plan A.

Thank you a lot for the interview, Johanna! Good luck with your upcoming projects.

Contact Johanna via her website or facebook.

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Beautiful
Image: Johanna Brinckman

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