Anja Hammaecher

Anja Hammaecher


by Anja Hammaecher (Germany)

Anja Hammaecher, living in Zurich, working as a manager, love to do photography. I am into photography for many years now, but restarted doing it more intensly 5 years ago. First I did a lot of streetphotography and then experiemented in doing more documentary photography. Doing a workshop with Patrick Zachmann helped to make a big step forward in the way of creating the space and guide the person I want to take on a picture and actually happened to be my first series of portraits of random people on the street.

Portfolio from the Portrait workshop with Richard Dumas, October 2013.

Written review by ERIK VROONS,
Editor-at-large for GUP Magazine

I have reviewed Anja’s work in relation to a previous workshop with Patrick Zachmann. She then attempted to encounter random, anonymous people on the street, and approached them to ask if she could make a portrait – then and there.

During this workshop with Richard Dumas her aim was to create a series of intimate portraits. She also planned to guide the models more then she did previously.

In the comments on the Zachmann workshop, I advised her to make a more conscious choice in order to create an artistic signature. According to the statement, she now consciously stepped away from the street photography approach and decided to spent more time with the people portrayed and treat them as ‘models’, instructing them to take (or avoid) certain poses. In essence, Anja wanted to take less focus on making a pretty picture per se and, instead, concentrate on capture the charme or beauty of the models reflecting from their ‘persona’. I think that this is an essential and fundamental decision to be made on beforehand.

So how did it work out this time?

What I see in the portraits created for this Richard Dumas workshop is that, more that in the case of the previous workshop with Patrick Zachmann, Anja gained more control over how to get pose for her camera so that she can create a high quality portrait, from an aesthetic point of view, but at the same time give the model enough space to open up and reflect something unique of themselves. I at least get the impression that, although I have never met these people in the pictures, that they are already a little less anonymous.

So that is one thing. Another was to have a recognisable style or approach that is consistent and outstanding. This, however, is far more difficult to establish in ‘pure’ portrait photography when compared to the previous task of shooting portraits of random people in the streets. In conversations with ‘professional’ portrait photographers (so their core business is making portraits for a living) I often hear that around 70% of the strength of a portrait is in choosing the right model; someone that has the features and character, so the potential, to create what you have in mind.

This is something difficult to judge for me, as I do not know exactly what the aim was here and if it shows in the end result. But what I do see is that the photographer (Anja) managed to control the image. That is to say, normally, in the beginning of a shoot, a model is overly aware of being the subject to the picture and thus starts to act accordingly. It takes some time and effort of the photographer to get the model comfortable and ‘off guard’ so that the mask is taken off and the ‘role play’ – i.e. the act of modelling – is a little less obvious.

This does not mean that you have to make it look all spontaneous – you can’t get around the fact that this is a model-photographer relation and the viewer will always see that, first and foremost – but at least the pictures get a more relaxed and naturel ‘feel’.

This is another thing I previously mentioned: the background; that it would be a strategic decision for the photographer to choose a location. I think that this will help to create a more articulated signature, for portraits outdoors significantly create another atmosphere than studio portraits. Also, shooting people in their natural surrounding/habitat makes a difference to how they act to the camera. Normally, people feel more comfortable at home or work – so in the places that are familiar to them – but they need to get time to adjust to the fact that they are now going to be photographed in that place.

I do not see studio portraits so can’t make a clear comparison here, but I think that it is obvious from Anja’s pictures that she managed to get the people at ease and confident to model, both outdoors as indoors. To conclude, I think these can be useful portraits to support a background story about the people being photographed – so more journalistic portraits that show something of an actual individual and not so much about an artistically created, fictional character or ‘persona’ as you see more in fashion. These are portraits you expect in the supplement magazine of the Saturday’s newspaper, supporting an interview with someone.

So all in all: Good job! Final suggestion would be to just keep up the good work so that it becomes more easy to define your ‘standard’ quality and then start building a portfolio.

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