Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Charm of Kerstin zu Pan

When I found Kerstin’s work with white models and rainbow hair on the internet, my first thought was “Wow! This is amazing!” Then I wished I have thought of this idea myself. It was brilliant, beautiful and so well done!
Kerstin is a professional photographer from Berlin. I wrote her an email and we scheduled a Skype talk shortly after. Kerstin charmed me right away.

When Kerstin was a child, everyone was telling her that she was an artist. The artistic vision came naturally to her, and when it was a time to choose college, she picked The Folkwang University of the Arts, one of the best academies for creative folks in Europe. She also studied design in London and Los Angeles.

She started as a painter but when she discovered color photography, she never touched brushes and paints again. She was a rebellious student. Eventually, some professors promised to give her a good grade if she vowed to never touch a camera again. Fortunately, it didn’t happen, and Kerstin has now become an accomplished, internationally-recognized photographer.

Kerstin is one of those rare people who follow their passion. In exchange for such boldness, life lays down lucrative opportunities before people who listen to their guts. Thus, the same professors who criticized her work in the beginning offered her a job before she even graduated college! Since then, Kerstin had been swamped by exciting assignments including advertising gigs, editorial shoots, and international travel.

Speaking about international travel… Kerstin started a series of work called Self Service. She takes a picture of herself wherever she goes while she wears a Dirndl, a traditional October Fest dress. Kerstin joked about October Fest testing my knowledge of German traditions, “It is where half-Australia gets drunk every year in Munich.” Self Service series started as a picture of her in a diving suit and a Dirndl dress in her living room, more as a joke to invite some bavarian friends for a visit.

Then she took a picture with an Elvis impersonator as a joke for a travelmagazine, and the editors liked it so much that they printed it in the magazine. In fact, they were more excited about her picture in October Fest dress than the actual shots for the story. Now she has an ample collection of 75 pictures of Fräulein Zu Pan visiting remote places around the globe. Hopefully, we will see a full collection of her traveling photos in a book some day.

We also discussed a few business questions with Kerstin.

Kerstin has an agent who arranges work for her worldwide. As a truly creative person she admits, “I am not the biggest fan of the business side of my job. I don’t like to sell myself. I like to take pictures.”

I asked Kerstin about her creative process and whether she has a favorite work. She said, “I love and hate them (her photo projects) equally.” She added, “I am a person who tends to see everything in black and white, never grey.” Kerstin also mentioned that she doesn’t like compromises. She is aware that not everyone likes what she is doing: “What kind of nightmare would we live in if everyone had the same taste?”

I asked Kerstin if she ever panicked about the bad economy and potential lack of paid assignments." I know many creative professions are quite vulnerable when the market goes down", Kerstin said, “I had that when I was studying. I think you need to have a positive attitude and I think everything will lead its way. Everything will be fine. There will be times when one feels like shit and nothing will work out, but everything happens for a reason. I have been working for such a long time, and as freaky as it seems sometimes, things happen for a reason. There is no such thing as a mistake. You are just taking a step to another path that leads you somewhere else. I would say for everybody who is in a creative business, don’t panic, just be diligent and follow your gut and passion, and you will be all right. Sometimes, I also have to remind myself of that.”

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