Whether it’s her photography or her life, there is never a dull moment with Claudia Goetzelmann. How can we describe this possibility? She is someone who stops to smell the roses…and also the lilies, the irises and the sweet peas. She leaves the garden with no shortage of fresh inspiration for her next project.
Goetzelmann is an award-winning integrated media photographer with a client list that includes Microsoft, Ray Ban, Sky Vodka, The BodyShop and Bank of America. Her 33 awards include those from the International Colour Awards, CANON proFashional and Photo District News Pix (and there are quite a few awards she has deservedly taken home more than once). She also has a professional association with the notables SanDisk and Hasselblad.
It makes perfect sense that she is absolutely thriving. We interviewed Goetzelmann after she returned from her recent trip to Africa. It was somewhat difficult getting the schedules lined up, but totally understandable. Goetzelmann constantly travels the world, but it is never simply visiting a place as much as it is immersing in it…and it is so important for clients to know they can take their photographer anywhere in the world without a worry! After all, when you don’t limit your experiences, you don’t limit the creativity you produce. Goetzelmann loves nothing more than working closely with her clients, dreaming up projects together and exchanging ideas.
So, in this modern world of split-second attention spans, overwhelming media force-feeding and about a million other distractions, our gaze still lingers on her work. Could it be because her radiant style simply lifts our spirits? Because her worldly experiences have produced photography unlike what we come across everyday? Or perhaps it is because each of her images seem so meticulously arranged, yet effortless – and we’re trying to figure out how that could be.
What sparked your passion in photography?
I got my first camera at the age of four. I always wanted to be a photographer, but that wasn’t what I did. I studied Social Law, only to find out that I didn’t really like it.
I also always loved traveling. So after school, I combined the two and moved to Africa. That became the starting point for me to begin my journalistic work. I photographed a lot of people – indigenous tribes, people I’d just met, etc. I was living in Nigeria at that time. I had an exhibit at the Munich Stock Exchange and the Nigerian ambassador came to the opening.
And then I moved to Indonesia and did the same thing. Asia was way easier because they have a bigger infrastructure and it’s more open to photojournalism. For example, I shot for Cambodia Airlines. I got to travel all around Cambodia to take pictures; I took pictures of flight attendants in Angkor Wat and other remote places for their ad campaign.
I moved into advertising while living in Singapore. I never thought that I would end up in the fashion world. I now happily live in both worlds, advertising and fashion. It’s perfect for me.
I know generalities aren’t easy when it comes to creative work, but what is the message/style you find yourself most often portraying with your photos and why is it so?
I think I don’t take myself too seriously, and my photos reflect that. All the places I’ve lived in are also reflected. I’m German, so my work is very graphic (laughs), and then there’s Asia, so it’s also kind of calm and zen. California, where I now live, is colorful… So I feel like it’s all that, and maybe it’s a little bit whimsical, a little bit understated.
As stated by my lovely agent Marilyn Cadenbach:
“Claudia’s work inspires an energy and playfulness that is highly constructed, yet seemingly organic. Her work is youthful and fun without being cliché. It’s vibrant and poppy without feeling forced. And when you talk with Claudia, you see that her work is just an extension of herself. She’s playful, and she’s upbeat and always super excited. Claudia is slightly quirky, highly energetic and wonderfully creative, and so are her images. The emotions you feel when you’re with her are the same emotions you feel from her work. Her images don’t feel cliché or forced because they really are a true expression of her character.”
I think that when it comes to photographers looking to make a go of it professionally, you have to have a vision and you have to have a distinct style. Clients need to know what they get when they hire you.
I see some amazing photos with balloons, pink facial glitter and patriotic lip color. Can you shed some light on where you get your ideas and inspirations from?
It comes from the many activities I do: my travels, meeting and interacting with people, and cultures I encounter around the globe. I like to get off the beaten track and experience the beauty of nature and things that are out of the mainstream. I try to surround myself with people who think outside the box and dare to be different.
My logo is an old Tao sign that says, “Without observation seeing is impossible.” It’s literally an eye on legs and it also resembles a camera on a tripod. In this era of 20-second sound bites and instant news cycles, it is a very important reminder that we have to look in order to really see. Inspiration is all around if you look instead of just rushing to the next thing.
I just returned from South Africa. I fell in love with the country, the landscape and the people. I feel full filled and very inspired from this trip right now.
On a personal note: what do you think is the best thing about what you do?
I get to combine my two most favorite things: photography and traveling.
Traveling and shooting around the globe has always been part of my life and I know a lot of different crews and production firms in many parts of the world. For instance, I lived in Singapore for six and a half years. I still have a lot of connections and friends there and I frequently visit for pleasure and work.
You have so many awards – clearly you’re doing something right! As advice to other aspiring photographers, what are the top important things to remember in making a good photograph?
You really, really, really have to love what you do.
You have to dream, eat, and poop photography (laughs).
It never stops – it’s not a 9 to 5 job – and you really have to put your heart into it and more… Then hopefully people will recognize you.
Don’t give up, don’t take anything personally, be kind and stay true to yourself. Find your voice. Find your style. There are trends, but it doesn’t matter – develop your vision and stick with it.
What type of camera do you use the most?
I either shoot with the latest and greatest Canon or the Hasselblad systems. It really depends on the type of shoot and-or the job/client and the final image usage. Cameras are just tools, but I do like good, new and fancy tools!
What has the past year been like, working with your agent, Marilyn Cadenbach? How has your business evolved since then?
It’s been a great year of building and setting wheels in motions. We’ve been learning about each other and keeping each other inspired. I love Marilyn’s approaches to the industry. She has so much integrity. I really enjoy the process of building up my photography and making plans on how we can achieve our goals together.
About being an integrated media photographer – what does it entail and what has your experience been?
A couple of years back, when I started getting into motion and video work, it appeared to be the trend that these two worlds would merge or integrate. I wanted to let my clients know that I am offering this service, and that I am shooting stills and motion. In a way it was kind of a natural transition for me, because I always thought of myself as a storyteller. I was shooting all of these stories and editorials, then suddenly, “Ok, now they’re moving.”
Even so, it’s very different to shoot stills and motion – but I really like it. There was definitely a learning curve. I did a class in Final Cut Pro a little while back. Even though I know I’ll never be an editor, I need to know what’s possible when I’m shooting motion and I need to speak the language in order to communicate well with an editor.
If you’re thinking of getting into photography, you have to do motion – there’s no way around it. At least in a commercial world. Maybe in fine art it’s different…
You also became professionally associated with SanDisk and Hasselblad. How did that come about?
I guess SanDisk was looking at various photographers and they approached me while they were building out their relationships with photographers.
It is really nice to be associated with these brands as I love and use their products all the time!
What can we expect next from you, in terms of your next project?
Oh I wish I could tell you, but then I would jinx my luck! But there is always something exciting going on – we can be sure of that.