Andreas Ortner, a photographer born and raised in idyllic Innsbruck, has worked in the fashion industry for over twenty years. He has traveled and photographed extensively throughout the USA, Europe, Canada and Asia. Today, he lives in Berlin, Prague and Paris. His imagination and ability to push boundaries in fashion photography give his photographs emotional depth. He finds his inspiration in everyday life itself and the experiences he has had on his travels. Andreas is unique in our industry; his professionalism, perfectionism and emphatic nature are well known by his team, the scene and many clients.
SCHIERKE Artists: Photography usually means more than just operating the camera. What else is particularly important to you besides the technical aspect?
Andreas: For me, much more important than the technical aspect is having a vision. Vision is number one, because without a vision, you cannot create a beautiful picture. You need to have an idea, build a story around this idea and visualize it. The technical part you can learn. But not everybody has the ability to see the picture beforehand. So, if you're creative, you need to have that skill in order to be successful in this business.
SCHIERKE Artists: This "self-made-man" began working as a photographer in 2005, when he bought his first camera, an analog Pentax. How did you get into this profession?
Andreas: I don't really count because time goes by so fast. And I never think about the time. I think about the achievements I've made and the creative things I've done. Sometimes I am surprised at how long I have been doing this because it never feels like a lifetime. It just feels like, "Wow, I just shot that ten years ago. Really? It seems like yesterday". So, you're in a never-ending creative process and it's like a bubble you live in. Time doesn't matter that much. It's more about what you've done and what you've created.
SCHIERKE Artists: How did you come to this profession? Did something happen and then you decided to become a photographer, or how did that happen?
Andreas: It was not the classical way, like when you're 16 and you go to university to study photography. And you always wanted to be a photographer. That hasn't happened to me. I was always in the fashion industry. And this is what I love: the fashion industry and the beauty industry.
I was living in New York and I had the chance to work with a very famous photographer there. He took me kind of under his wing. He gave me my first analog camera and he said, "Hey, have a try. You know, you have a good eye, you're creative, just try it out". And then the first series of pictures I've done ended up on a cover.
So, I was very lucky. I just always had this creative fashion input on whatever I did, and it just ended up being photography. It was a tool that I used to get my ideas out and make them visible to the outside world.
SCHIERKE Artists: You are known to push boundaries in fashion photography and provide emotional depth. Where do you get your inspiration?
Andreas: I do get my inspiration from everyday life. From books I read, movies I watch, just walking through the street, political themes or social themes. It's everything around me. I've walked through life with open eyes since I was a kid. My mom always called me a dreamer because I'm just looking around, sucking in everything and imagining things. So, I've always been a big dreamer. I was not very concentrated as a kid because my mind was just flipping around from one thing to another. But right now, that helps me because I have a million ideas in my head and I'm just pulling them out of my head, like out of a bookshelf. I am from a small town in Austria, and I had a beautiful childhood. All these memories I have from growing up in the countryside, living a very free life with lots of people, with all my cousins, brothers and family around me. We were on summer holidays on the farm of my grandparents with like 20 kids just fooling around, being creative, creating stories or creating new games for us.
I'm not of the PlayStation generation. We had no phones, and we had no TV. We were just outside constantly. And I believe this was very important for my creativity.
Jetzt habe ich immer noch diesen dummen Gedanken im Kopf, dass man alles machen und schaffen kann, was man will, ohne Grenzen.
SCHIERKE Artists:Welches deiner Bilder oder Arbeiten bewegt dich am meisten? Und warum?
Andreas: Es ist wahrscheinlich das Cover für die Vogue mit Barbara Palvin vor etwa drei Jahren, weil es mein erstes Vogue-Cover überhaupt war. Das Vertrauen eines Vogue-Redakteurs zu gewinnen, dass er glaubt, dass man es schaffen kann und dass es schön aussieht. Und es war ein tolles Cover, und das ist es immer noch. Wenn ich es mir ansehe, ist es immer noch ein wunderschönes Bild, das mich bewegt, denn wenn man ein Cover für die Vogue macht, weiß man, dass man in der Branche akzeptiert ist. Die Leute mögen, was man macht, und man weiß, dass man es so weit gebracht hat. Das ist nur der Anfang.
SCHIERKE Artists: How do you feel while shooting?
Andreas: Oh, I mean, firstly, I have to say my star sign is cancer, so I'm a very emotional, sensitive person and it can have a positive effect but also negative effects towards the clients. But for me, it has always been very important to be emotional and create relationships with the people I shoot with.
So, before I even take a picture, I would like to get to know the person and the team I'm working with, build a relationship and get to know more about these people. This is the only way I can catch the moment I want to capture.
I want to see an emotion or feel the personality. And I'm giving a lot when I'm shooting, I'm giving everything. I'm very involved in it personally, so I'm very concentrated but also very connected to the object I'm shooting.
SCHIERKE Artists: The job as a photographer can be super tough physically and mentally, maybe more mentally in some cases. How do you prepare emotionally for jobs?
Andreas: Yeah, that's right. When you think of the job as a photographer, the shooting itself is only a small part of the whole process. You are involved in the whole process overall. So, when it comes to the first drafts of the layouts, the first ideas, talking to the clients, the whole process till the retouching, till the final product of the photo, it's a long process that can be very emotional, but I had to learn to put this all aside. Concentrate on the art, concentrate on the photos, have a mindset that is only focused on the shooting itself and blind out everything else. That's the only way you can be creative without being distracted by any other thoughts, by any other things. And I'm very thankful to have an amazing team that supports me with everything, have an amazing agency that helps me with all the technical and political parts of it so I can fully focus on my creative work. And I think that's the most important thing.
SCHIERKE Artists: Showing emotions can be can still be socially seen as unprofessional. How do you feel about the topic and how emotional can it get on a shoot?
Andreas: To show emotions on your pictures and in your work, it's a whole different thing than showing emotions towards the clients or towards the team. I realized in the 80s the business was so much more emotional. That's not accepted anymore because everybody got exchangeable. You know, there are so many good artists out there and you have to understand the client. Everybody is just a human being. Everybody has his issues in life and you have to be very sensitive talking to them, acting towards them. You want to be respected, but you also have to respect every other person that works on this job. And that's very important.
SCHIERKE Artists: And how emotionally can it get on a shoot?
Andreas: Well, on my shoots, I don't allow myself to get too emotional. If I have a moment, I step out, breathe, come back in focus. I don't allow anybody to be too emotional on set because it doesn't belong there. Everybody can come to me if he has a problem, if he needs to say something, but I don't want to affect the team with it. So, I have a private moment with this person to talk about it. I'm very open to it. Everybody has moments like this, but when it comes to the shoot, everybody has to perform. We're working with huge budgets. There is no space for emotional breakouts. We keep it as professional as you can at the shooting. But I totally understand if things like this happen and I'm very sensitive towards that.
SCHIERKE Artists: What are your wishes, goals and beliefs for the future?
Andreas: I'm very, very lucky when it comes to my profession and my career so far, and I'm very thankful for that every single day. But I never stop working hard and never give up. I don't lean back and think, okay, I reached it all. I did it all. I made enough money. That's not the goal I have.
The goal for me is to keep creating all these ideas that I still have in my head. They're giving me wings, they're making me work hard, and I have so much fun doing that.
There is much more to come and I'm very, very thankful for every chance, for every possibility there is because the market gets smaller and smaller. There are amazing artists out there. And if you have the chance to do something creative with an amazing team, take this chance. Never give up and work hard on it because you're going to follow a dream. And don't give up on that dream.