Photographer and art director Luca-Mercedes Stemer is one of the founders of HONEST., a magazine dedicated to preserving the tangible aspect of film photography. In this interview, she looks back on her early days as a young photographer and dishes out some tips on how to make it in the industry.
Name: Luca-Mercedes Stemer
Location: Nomad; born in Vienna, to be found in NYC, LA, Cape Town or somewhere else
Profession: Photographer and Art Director
Website/Social Media Links:
Luca-Mercedes Stemer - Website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
Honest. - Website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
Aside from photography, what are your other interests?
Surfing, food (yum), tequila, dancing, reading, politics, connecting people
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is life. I love doing all kinds of things but I've always wanted to be a photographer, teach photography, express myself through photography, make others happy with my photography (or create any kinds of feelings really). It is a way to live my life and present how I approach this world with interest and curiosity.
15 years in and it shaped me. I feel that a big part of who I am is because of photography. Or am i the way i am because i am a photographer?I don't know but photography has been the art of the brave and the curious. You can take your time preparing, looking, designing, and than it is all about that one second. This blink of a second can tell so much. No long explanations needed, a good photograph just takes you somewhere and tells a story immediately. And it all happened in 1/500 of a second (or whatever your exposure was). Photographers are creators and hunters who tell you stories that might or might not be true.
How did you get started in photography?
I started at the age of 12 after I got my dad's Leica camera. I still love the first 3 rolls that I ever shot. Two years later, I got accepted to “Die Graphische” Photography school. Quit half a year before I finished it with a big f*** you and took off to NY for a month. After that there was some soul searching, trying other things, making too much money working behind the bar (at 19, my glorious year!) and eventually giving in on the idea that I AM a photographer. I have to sit down now and learn that damn Photoshop (and later LR) programs and actually start doing what I really want to do and find a way to make a living with it too.
While taste is subjective – in your opinion, what makes a good photo?
As mentioned above, a great photograph creates a strong feeling in me. It makes me think, takes me on a journey, and it makes me want to be that person or be at that spot. It generates some sort of strong emotion.
What is your fondest photographic memory?
There are too many. Every time I know I just took a shot that is the "one million dollar shot” not because it will make me that money, but i know I just caught this precious second where the magic happens. As a photographer you know when this is the case.
Other things like having my first collector, sending me pictures of her walls with my photographs and telling me how much she loves looking at the art every day. This just makes me happy.
With so many cameras and other image-making devices available today, more and more people are getting into photography – it can be a little difficult to make one’s work stand out. What advice would you give someone who seriously wants to pursue and succeed in this craft?
Puh, I am not sure if I have fully mastered that yet myself. But a few advices:
- Don’t give up. The first 5,000 pictures suck. Take more. When you think you are good, take more photos.
- Understand what you want to photograph and find your clients. There are many markets, find your niche. It doesn’t necessarily only need to be concentrating on one or two things, but it sure makes it easier.
- Be a good business man or woman. If you don’t know what you are doing in that department, learn, listen to others and get help if needed.
- Don’t be an ass
- Don’t sell your work for cheap.
- Be focused! [Laughs] Who am i kidding? As an artist, this might be the hardest part, but that is where your inner business(wo)man comes in and probably what will make or break it in the end.
- And just have the right amount of luck, I guess.
Meet the rest of the TEN AND ONE Lomography Awards jury.