By Max Houghton
Sexy, intimate, cool, youthful, playful… these are all words used to describe the distinctive aesthetic of Diana Scheunemann’s photographs. The abiding theme of her prolific work, however, can be encapsulated in a single word: freedom.
Aptly, her new book, Scheunemann’s third, is called Freedom in Flashes. Using the gorgeous young models who she might otherwise be photographing for British Elle, German Vogue or The Sunday Times Style section, Scheunemann creates a perfect world, a kind of Neverland where no one gets old and everyone oozes an easy, innocent sexuality. An everyday task such as washing the car ends up as bubble and breast fest, nipples pressed up against the windscreen. It should be pornographic, but in Scheunemann’s deft hands, it is sexy and spontaneous and we are all seduced.
In her earliest work, many of the models in Scheunemann’s pictures were her personal friends. She says that allowing her to photograph them was the ultimate proof of trust for her as a friend. ‘Now I am older, my friends don’t get naked anymore,’ she laments. Luckily, her models often do, even if they had no intention of doing so at the outset. They are comfortable, playful even, in her presence. She believes the nudity that is still a central component of her work ‹ flows from a sense of complete abandon, from a time and a place where freedom reigned – childhood.
Among her fans is Rankin, redoubtable photographer and co-founder (with Jefferson Hack) of Dazed & Confused. When Scheunemann first showed him her work in 2001 – they share the same agency in Zurich – the attraction was immediate and Rankin published her first monograph, Ambisexual, on his imprint six months later.
Of her famous patron, Scheunemann says, ‘He’s a maniac! He’s brilliant. He’s a total workaholic. I mean, I’m a workaholic, but he never stops.’
When Scheuenmann herself takes time out is not clear. Born in Germany and trained in photography at the University of Applied Science and Arts in Zurich, 32-year-old Scheunemann has bases in New York, Shoreditch and Switzerland, and says she travels ‘all the time’ for jobs. ‘I move around a lot because you can’t do nothing,’ she says. ‘The more you see, the younger you stay. If I stay in one city too long, everything starts to feel comfortable and secure – too secure. I feel more creative when I travel.’
While many a young photographer attempts a travelogue, Scheunemann’s All My Love From Tokyo finds an original voice, in part due to the poignant, pithy and highly personal annotations that appear everywhere from sushi plates to toilet seats, which are then photographed for posterity. According to Scheunemann, the project was borne out of a desire to forget the horrors she saw in a Japanese sex shop; it was a kind of self-therapy.
Another as – yet – unpublished documentary project, Behind My Face, is an undertaking that began in 1999, and remains an ongoing commitment in which Scheunemann photographs herself every day of the year, allowing spaces for ‘blackout days’ – days she’d prefer not to remember. Also described as ‘self-analysis’, the resulting document is a compelling study of how the human face can reveal the vicissitudes of the years, as well as achieving that rare thing: a personal project utterly without vanity. In her intelligently paired diptychs, it is evident that Scheuenmann is always travelling, even when she is standing still.
Years worked as photographer: 7
Clients: Sony Playstation, Amnesty International, Levi Jeans, Guru Equipment: Canon or Hasselblad, depending on the project
Technical tip: Don’t let yourself get kept back by technique
Photographer to watch out for: Valerie Philips
Max Houghton is editor of Ei8ht photography magazine
By Gareth Gardner
Some photographers choose the humdrum world of big advertising accounts, a Porsche and six-figure budgets. Not John Angerson. There’s no studio, no team of assistants, just a well-worn Saab with six-figure mileage and an obsession to tell stories.
The documentary/editorial photographer – whose book Love, Power and Sacrifice has just been published – combines commercial commissions with personal projects. His striking portraits for the Saturday and Sunday Times magazines may present a world of glamorous celebrity, but his personal projects and work for charity clients offer a different – and less agreeable – view of the world.
Cut Angerson, and he probably haemorrhages developing fluid. Photography has obsessed him since childhood. ‘When I was 13, I went on a school trip and borrowed a Zenit camera belonging to a friend’s dad,’ recalls Angerson. ‘I remember walking around the grounds of the chateau where we were staying and taking photos. I thought it was wicked.’
Having photographed a Navy helicopter visiting his Northampton school, he audaciously took the film to the local newspaper. ‘I was told to come for work experience.’ What started as making tea for darkroom assistants led to photographic commissions – at the tender age of 15 – and ultimately a full-time job.
Angerson eventually moved to Yorkshire, working first with an agency then freelance, and only during the past few years relocated to London. However, it was back in Northampton at the age of 17 that he embarked on his epic Love, Power and Sacrifice project about the controversial Jesus Army.
Believers are expected to renounce all their possessions, live in communes and share all earnings. The 20-year project began when Angerson was stopped in the street and asked to attend a meeting. ‘I asked to take my camera and they said it was fine.’ He returned every few months, gradually befriending people and building up an archive of powerful monochrome images which really get under the skin of this religious community.
Starting such a project today would be difficult, he believes. ‘Things are harder on the street. Attitudes have changed radically.’ People are increasingly suspicious about having their photo taken. ‘I try to get people’s permission, if only by a smile, and I very rarely do surreptitious photos these days.’ Instead, Angerson is increasingly interested in recording the ‘traces’ of life, such as a project for the Leeds-based St George’s Crypt homeless charity, where he shot the locations where people slept rough.
Angerson is also trying to introduce a documentary vibe in his portraits, and many have a naturalistic feel. His ten-year relationship with the Saturday Times magazine means he is given projects that interest him, ‘quirky stuff and documentary’. His interest in the unusual led to photographing trainee astronauts at Kennedy Space Centre, cod fishermen in Iceland and airports around the world. He also works for creative agencies including B&W Studio in Leeds and London’s Hat Trick Design, and believes he maintains a 70/30 balance between commerce and art. But whether paid or personal, it’s all good fun. ‘Taking photos for me has never been a chore,’ he claims.
Years as photographer: 20
Clients: Saturday Times magazine, Sunday Times magazine, New Scientist, El Pais, Du Pont USA Equipment: Hasselblad 503 with Phase One digital back, Leica M7
Technical tip: Have a spare one of everything
Photographer to watch out for: Documentary photographer Corinne Silva – she conveys a sense of intimacy in her work, and her pictures can resonate with the viewer even if you know nothing about their subject matter
By Oliver Bennett
Jason Tozer is cradling a dagger – the kind of prop that would cause all kinds of problems were he to brandish it outside his studio in London’s Old Street. ‘It’s for a shoot about tattoos for a specialist magazine called Sang Bleu,’ he says. ‘We’re expecting a galleon and a skull-and-cross bones shortly.’
It’s another day in Tozer’s busy studio, where highly finished still life photography remains a stock-in-trade. But the photographer’s unique selling point is his work that freezes matter in motion, via a working practice that makes use of high-speed flash techniques. ‘It’s what I’m best known for,’ he says. ‘I’m interested in pictures that capture something that we wouldn’t normally be able to see.’ For example, a shoot for D&AD earlier this year, with design group Build, found Tozer photographing glass at the point of shattering. ‘It was to suggest that ideas are fragile,’ he says, adding that there was a lot of broken glass on the studio floor afterwards. Another shoot, for 125 Magazine, found him taking pictures of a bursting balloon. ‘You’d never ordinarily see a balloon in the act of bursting, and it’s fascinating,’ he says.
A forthcoming campaign for O2 instant text alerts, with VCCP, shows a rugby ball hitting a cup of coffee: Tozer captured the coffee in mid-air. Oddly, it appears still and solid. ‘I always aspired to do polished still life,’ he says, ‘and I like the images to be as frozen as possible.’
Ever since Jacques Henri Lartigue captured leaping dogs and cats in mid-air in the early 20th century, the camera’s facility to freeze the moment in time has long excited photographers. Tozer takes it a step further, using digital technology to explore the imagery of the micro-second and, sometimes, to conceptualise brand ideas. A shot of smoke for Hyundai, in which the smoke represented the spirit of the car, is on his mood board. It wasn’t used, but Tozer doesn’t seem fussed, as he believes that photographers should be given freedom to experiment. ‘The work is usually better that way.’
People commonly think that Tozer gets his images with very fast shutter speeds, or by CGI, or by taking 200 frames a second like in a film. ‘Not at all,’ says Tozer. ‘Each shot is a separate event and is down to flash speed.’ These shots are phenomenally fast – down to several thousands of a second – and Tozer often uses a noise trigger to capture the moment of impact better. ‘With the balloons, it was so quick that I had to position the noise sensor very close,’ he says, ‘and had to retouch it out later.’
It’s a working practice that has gained Tozer many design clients, including: Yacht Associates, GBH, Dixon Baxi and Stocks Austin Sice. A Jamiroquai CD cover through Yacht was shot with a shower of pyrotechnic sparks behind the singer. And a job for the Sci-fi Channel through Dixon Baxi involved shooting a wax pyramid on a hot plate, capturing the way it melted.
In Tozer’s ambitious view, no image is unattainable. So, what next? ‘I’d like to see what happens when you shoot a bullet through things.’
Years as photographer: 13
Clients: Sony Playstation, Levis, Acuvue, Puma, 02, Volkswagen, Vogue, GQ, Tatler
Equipment: A Sinar P2 large-format camera, with a Phase One back
Technical tip: It’s not so technical perhaps, but if people could sometimes be less specific with clients and let the photographers have more space, that could only be a good thing
Photographer to watch out for: Wilson Hennessy