Looking at the work of photographer Kevin Pilz is a lot like having a conversation with him -- images are alive with so much detail but still they beg to be asked questions about many different things. Kevin is a master when it comes to coming up with stories in his own artistic way. We were lucky enough to his work here on the Magazine and we're ecstatic to have spoken with him about his style, why he shoots, and so much more in this short interview. Enjoy reading!
Hello, Kevin. Could you tell us about how you discovered photography? When did you know that photography was for you?
I initially started photography in order to shoot quality photos of my daughter back in 2013. However, there is more to it than that. I want my daughter to pick up my pictures in 20 years and recall the stories behind them.
How would you define photography?
I think photography is about observation and getting close.
What's your favorite thing about it?
You can tell stories without writing anything at all. Photography is a universal language.
How do you prepare for a photograph?
One approach to my work is to just walk the street and react to a trigger scene or subject. However, that way I often end up rejecting 99% of all my images. As one can imagine this approach can be quite frustrating.
What’s your favorite subject?
Sure, it is my daughter. When it comes to street photography, there is no favorite subject as such. I am looking for light and something interesting to happen. It basically could be everything.
How do you stay creative?
Looking at photo books. I have a good selection of books from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Alex Webb. The biggest inspiration for my work however, is traveling and getting to see unknown places.
What would you say are the most challenging things about creating images?
Hands down, it is to take visual risks. Finding your shooting style is important; on the other hand, you should not repeat yourself too much and always try something new -- no matter what others think of it.
We find your street shots amazing. What made you pursue that area of photography?
So, what inspired me to start taking pictures of strangers? It was a visit to the exhibition “Eyes Open! 100 Years Of Leica Photography.” I was simply blown away from the sheer intensity of the pictures from Bresson, Capa, Korda and many more. I instantly knew that street photography would be my thing.
What are the main things you consider before you take your shot?
First of all, I did my homework and checked the legal situation for street photography in Germany. Unfortunately, we have a strong privacy law which prohibits taking pictures of identifiable people in the public and sharing them without their consent. So I have to turn this restriction into an extra photographic challenge; in other words, when photographing people, I have to limit myself to backlit subjects which appear as silhouettes or motion blur to be in accordance with the law.
In addition, I got myself business cards, so that I can introduce myself as a street photographer to people I photographed and ask them for permission in case someone is identifiable. Furthermore, you should only photograph others the way like you want others to take pictures of yourself. In this regard, every photographer has his own code of ethics.
What would you like to get across with your photography?
I don’t want to explain my artwork/photography, instead, I want the city to tell the story itself.
We love how you capture detail, nuances in motion, stillness, and action in your shots. What attracts you to them?
In order to train my vision, I started so-called “vision enhancing-projects”. Therefore, I leave home with an idea in my mind, like a specific color, gesture or detail (e.g. patterned sweater) but I certainly do not know where this idea might take me. This approach has proved to be highly rewarding.
How would you describe your style in five words?
My style is still growing.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good photograph?
A good photograph makes me pause and look at it for more than a couple of seconds.
What’s your favorite photograph? Why?
If I have to pick one favorite shot of my own photographs, I would say, it is the one which hasn’t been shot yet. After taking pictures, I always take my time to develop them; therefore, I lose my emotional attachment to them. I am always looking forward to the next photograph.
Are there photographers/artists that you follow religiously?
I do not follow any photographer/artist religiously. I follow many great photographers and with time my photography style changes, therefore, I start following other photographers/artists.
Who’s your dream collaboration?
At the moment it would be Alex Webb.
If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?
I would be a drummer in a band (I actually started playing the drums in the third grade).
Any upcoming projects? Please talk about them.
The refugee crisis shakes Europe to its foundations. Borders are being closed and walls, both, physical and mental getting built. Xenophobia is emerging in all social classes. The motto of the time is back to nationalism. Therefore, I started a project called On The Trails Of History, which can be seen on my homepage. In 2016, I went to the Concentration Camp Dachau, close to Munich. I wanted to see for myself were xenophobia and nationalism once ended.
Right now, I am planning to carry on with this project, so stay tuned.
How do you think people should handle success and failure?
A realization won through experience, is that you have to learn from your mistakes in order not to repeat them.
What do you think matters more -- talent or skill?
Talent and skill go hand in hand and complement each other.
Any last words for our readers?
Always keep shooting. Learn to free your mind and to keep annoying “social media noise” at a certain distance.