Spotlight for Inspiration - Manuel Estheim
This weekend I was lucky to be able to sit down with one of our amazing artists, Manuel Estheim. He is yet another young man that is looking to reach his dreams and goals but who is certainly far closer to them than many of us would have been at his age! He is a photographer that I most certainly admire! Read on to get to know more about him and his art!
Rocio Mirelis I'm so happy to get a chance to talk to you Manuel! How about we start the interview?! Tell me your age, where you are from, and if you are married!!!
Manuel EstheimI'm 21, from Austria and no I'm not married but very happily taken!
Rocío MirelisHaha! Very nice! Is this person your inspiration?
Manuel EstheimHe is the model in most of my images and as I like to focus on the human form I think I can safely say that he does, in some way, inspire me!
Oh I love that!! Before going more in depth about your photography... tell me... do you do anything else besides photography?
To be honest, no, not really. I'm a student right now and I study photography. I'm also doing a 365 project at the moment, so that is really time consuming. I stopped partying quite some time ago because I don't like the person I become when I'm drunk. I do love playing video games though. Did you mean if I have a job besides photography? haha
I actually lead a pretty quiet life, some may call it boring, but I feel like it helps me focus on what's important
I love hearing all this. It tells me more about who you are. Having a quiet life does not mean boring in my opinion. Like you say, it most likely means being focused. I applaud you for that. If it's what makes you happy, then it's great!
Thank you for the kind words!
So, tell me, when did you first pick up a camera? What inspired you to do so?
It's difficult to say when I first picked up a camera, I can still remember being on vacation with my family and snapping images of every flower that crossed our way - but I think I can say that I was "photographically born" at the beginning of 2012. It was when I started a 52 weeks project and got more serious with it. I used to draw a lot, but ultimately gave it up because I was not patient enough for it. And I felt limited by my drawing skills, so it was a very natural move from drawing to photography for me
WOW, that's exactly what happened to me. I used to draw but didn't have the patience. The results didn't come quick enough for me and that's when I decided to try my hand at photography!What made you decide to get a degree in photography then?
The Austrian education system is very different from the american one, I think you have to pay tons of money for it, don't you? It's free here and I always knew I was gonna go and study at a university. As I got older, it became more clear that it was the only thing I could study, because nothing else got me interested, really.
Yes, it's true. We have to pay a lot of money!Nothing else interested you. That means you really were born for it!How long ago did you start studying? At the same time you began taking photography seriously?
it was in October 2012 and it was right after I was finished with school. I had just been taking photos for some months when I applied for university.
Oh ok! That is so interesting! Would you say you have learned more at the university or on your own?
That's a tough one to answer! As far as the basics go of photography and photoshop go, I learned everything by myself - it's more the creative environment that's really benefiting me as an artist. my photography professor is always very honest with me and will tell me if something is garbage, and I really appreciate that. We're not really learning anything technical, we focus a lot on how to add depth to series and go past the "pretty" images, if that makes sense. Most importantly, we do have access to studio equipment and darkrooms which, I've been using not enough until now. I plan to spend a lot of my time this semester in the darkroom
Yes, it does make sense. I really like that. It's totally different than from when I studied photography at the university. (I don't have a degree in photography but I took quite a few classes.) They focused more on the technical side than anything else.Oh that's great. Darkrooms are so fun! HAHA.So, how did you first discover fine art? You said you started photographing flowers. What did you move to next? Did you ever do portraiture?
Oh..I would've been really disappointed if we only focused on the technical side, but it's an art university so i guess I'm really lucky that I even got accepted!It was a natural transition I think. I still remember ordering my first (of many..I always lose them) remote controls and taking the first self portraits. I've always been drawn to morbidity and that's what I've been trying to incorporate in my images. I did take some portraits of friends, but I'm really not a good portrait photographer.Lately, I've been thinking a lot about wanting to incorporate a little more sexuality in my images, just very subtly. I guess that's where I'm gonna have to return to portraits for a little bit.
I love hearing this! (reading) lolIt's so interesting. It really is. What attracts you to morbidity?
haha Thank you! I'm glad I have something interesting to say!I've been thinking about this question a lot lately and there's only one simple answer: I have no idea.
hahahaha What do you like about it the most?
I think you're not gonna get an interesting answer to this question hahah! I really have no idea. I also really like horror movies and whenever someone asks me why I just can't really answer it.
Okay, I understand! HAHA
I think it's just part of who I am and it's probably been there since I was bornand was bound to break out at some point..hahah I have no idea!
Now, that we are talking about this... tell me about your style then!
I've been having a little identity crisis (I do have them way too often) considering my photography. That's why I started the 365 project, to learn more about who I am as an artist. I used to limit myself a lot and am now experimenting more. So there's no definite answer, but as of right now you can see a huge tendency towards black and white in my work. Something that's always been there is the human form though, and I don't think it will ever be not part of what I do. I'm also experimenting a lot with film photography right now.
I have also noticed you do a lot of covered faces! Why do you think that appears several times in your work? What does it mean?
I think that's because I used to love to portray anonymous characters a lot. I really like the idea of the viewer being able to view him/herself as the character in the scene.
I love that and completely agree!! Its easier for the viewer to relate.
And also, a lot of my work is really personal and using anonymous characters helps me to get a little distance from it - after all, I upload most of my work online.However, I've just started a really personal series which purpose is to document the relationship my boyfriend and I have.
That's totally true. Oh I love that! Do you want to talk about that?
Definitely! I don't know if I will ever really release it though.
If I release it, I think it might be under another artist name - it's so very different from what people are used to seeing from me and I don't want them to get confused haha! And it will probably be nsfw as well, not that I'm going to do anything hardcore porn or something lol.
I totally understand. That would be so interesting.
I want to portray everything as natural and honest as possible and nudity and sex do play a large role in a relationship.
What is nsfw?
Not safe for work. As soon as you see like breasts or a penis I think it's considered nsfw.
Oh ok I understand. I learned something new today! :) What do you hope to accomplish with this series?
I'm not really sure, I just have this feeling that I have to do it, can you relate to that? I probably also want to get out of my comfort zone and do something COMPLETELY different
I can definitely relate! I thinks it's absolutely amazing. Do you think you will let us see any of it?
I guess I won't be able to keep it to myself anyway. I started shooting it on a analog point and shoot camera that my parents used to use a LOT and I really like the idea of continuing what they did, in a way.
That's amazing. Tell me more about what inspires you!
That's a very easy one for a change haha! Music, definitely. Light and the human form
Love it! Haha!! Is there a theme that you see repeating itself often?
Death and rebirth. Nature dominating humanity and male vulnerability, I think
Those are great themes. Do you think it's something that comes innately or do you purposefully look for those themes.
I think it's both at the same time. Today at university I saw this beautiful spot of light on the floor - I'm kinda searching for it, but they keep finding me in a way if that makes sense
Wow. You know I really love "listening" to you talk. I love what you have to say.
Thank you so much, that's very nice of you to say!
Its the truth!Tell me about your style. Are you influenced by any other artists?
I try not to be, but I think Francesca Woodman probably has some impact on my work. I've also heard people say that my work reminds them a little bit of Robert Mapplethorpe, which I always take as a huge compliment. I feel like I have to mention Gregory Crewdson as well, even though he doesn't really influence my work in a direct way. Oh and Tim Walker!
Do you do a lot of compositing?
I used to do way more, but mostly I did adjust colors. But you can definitely find some more "composited" images in my earlier portfolio. I'm now trying to work more with film, so no more compositing for me, at least for a little while. This might sound strange, but I always have this comparison in my head:I feel like composites would be the big blockbuster movies with millions of dollars as a budget, and on the contrary there's what I'm trying to do right now, the smaller productions that focus more on the emotions, plot and character development. This did just sound really random, didn't it? haha
No!! Its perfect. So... I always ask this question and even though I think I know your answer I will ask anyway... Do you think PS a necessary tool for conceptual photographers?
Useful? definitely yes! Necessary? I guess it depends. Sometimes you have an idea and need photoshop to realize it and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. I have never really considered myself a conceptual photographer though!
How come you don't consider yourself one?
With using the little point and shoot I'm facing the challenge of doing everything I want to be on the image in camera. I think this would be a nice challenge for everyone in our group - snap a cheap camera and try to create something that still tells a story and still evokes emotions. I can only speak for myself but I used to really rely on Photoshop and I didn't like that.
That's actually a really amazing challenge!! We should definitely do that.
I don't really know, I feel like most conceptual photographers idolize the same persons and therefore a lot of the imagery seems to be really similar aesthetically and thematically and II never really felt like my work fit 100% in this category
I think a lot of people are scared to say their work fits in that category. But what is it really? Anything can be a concept. Anything can be fine art. Its what you want it to be. I do agree tho that a lot of it is similar, though!So what do you call your work then?
I still remember a time looking through my flickr stream about a year ago and I really couldn't say who did which photo because everything seemed to be kinda the same. That was when I started to try to refrain myself a little bit from the whole "scene" I do sound really negative right now, sorry! I don't really mean it to sound mean or something; that's also something I've been asking myself a lot lately, and I think I just prefer my work to not be labelled I feel like by labeling yourself you put yourself in some kind of cage, which is really difficult to break out from. My English is getting really bad! hahaI definitely agree that anything can be a concept! I guess I just don't like the term "conceptual photographer" - you know, most artists in the past did have concepts behind their art and weren't labelled "conceptual"..I think it has a very trendy ring to it!
I truly agree with what you say. It’s a great way of looking at things! And your English is great!!So, what are your plans for the future? What are your goals?
The obvious would be to be able to live off of my photography. My goals for my art would be to constantly keep moving forward and to reach people emotionally. To have a solo exhibition and finish and publish my book!
What advice do you want to give the rest of the group or any photographer for that matter!!?
I don't really know if I'm the right one to give advice to anyone haha! I think it's important to keep evolving and experiment a lot. Don't be afraid to do something completely different and out of your comfort zone. Don't care what people say, there are most certainly people that like what you do, you'll just have to find them or make them find you. Never look at someone else's work and go "oh he/she is so talented" - I don't believe in talent at all. If you work hard and put everything into what you do, it's gonna pay off.I think dedication, passion, love for what you do and hard work is the key to successbut as I said - I don't think I'm the right one to tell people this, as I myself haven't achieved as much as I wish I had!
Love it. Thanks for your words and inspiration. Thank you for sitting down with me. This was a truly amazing conversation. Im so glad to have gotten to know you more!
You're so very welcome! it was a real pleasure talking to you.
I think that you are achieving your dreams and you will reach all your goals soon!
I think I got to know myself more as well so thank you for that! Thank you very, very much!
Manuel's Gift of Inspiration:
More textures, from him, to come soon!