Nikolaus Gruenwald, a brilliant photographer out of Stuttgart, Germany, joined us for an interview to discuss photography, his early career and his current projects.
Hi, how are you?
For someone who loves to travel, 2020 has been a bit weird so far. But besides the new realities that we all face nowadays due to the COVID-19 related restrictions I’m doing fine, thanks.
Great to hear. So, you started with a legal career and made a switch to become a photographer, how did it all come about, and what made you do the switch?
If I had been more honest to myself as a law student, I could have figured out back then already that reading complicated texts and spending plenty of time with arguing people was not really my thing. I have loved taking landscape photos already back then, but I lacked the necessary spirit to cancel my law studies and pursue a different career, so I finished my bar exam before dealing with reality. At this point, I really understood for the first time what kind of consequences the selection of the wrong job would have for my future, so I decided to give my passion photography a try and see where it would take me. I will forever be grateful for all the support of friends and family in this time, and somehow I managed to make it through the critical first two years. Back in these days, I, of course, had to learn plenty of things and was fortunate enough to pick up at least some of them. So Ive got myself into a position to consequently improve my work, and have tried to do so since then.
Your most iconic pieces would arguably be your landscape and architectural ones, what inspired you to focus on these at the start of the career and then shift to a broader range of photography?
As I used to be a pretty shy personality back in my Twenties, I found landscape and architecture very appealing as they would not require any kind of communication. Also, I love hiking, both in nature and cityscapes, as you will get to see the most of your surrounding when moving slowly through the scenery. Photographing people was a weird notion for me at the beginning. I certainly didn’t want to annoy anybody by forcing them to pose in front of my camera. This changed when all my friends started to get married and asked if I was willing to shoot their wedding. So I would get my free head start into people photography, and they would get their wedding pics as a gift. From that point on, I have started to teach myself how to use flashlights and create images in the studio or on location, and this kind of photography is a big part of my job today.
What advice would you give to a person that wants to become a photographer but is worried that they might fail or simply does not know where to start?
It has probably never been as easy or and as hard at the same time to become a pro-level photographer. There are thousands of free tutorials on YouTube alone on every subject that will be important for photography. You will get pro-level camera gear for a low-level four-digit number on eBay. Photoshop will run on many computers, and it is 120 € per year. Available light photography with a natural look is highly demanded. So if you want to dive right into things, you are able to do so, even though I believe that a good photography school will still be able to support the development as a photographer for most people. Also, there is an ever-growing demand for imagery as the number of media outlets continues to grow, and the half-value-period of an image gets shorter and shorter.
On the other hand, with the success story of Instagram, photography is as popular as probably never before. Every day people shoot tons of pictures as they travel to all sorts of destinations and sell these on microstock sites with ridiculous licensing fees. Spots have to be closed down because everybody wants to have his shot of the location as well. Fashion magazines no longer pay money for the editorials, and some even charge photographers to feature their work, whereas the rest of the print media also cut their budgets with regard to the digital world. So if you have not been able to get overly popular on Instagram (I currently have 180 followers), or get a YouTube channel going, you really have to find a niche for yourself that works for your photography as well for your personality.
What is your latest project and where we can find more work by you?
My latest project is still work in progress, so I am not able to talk details. It is a landscape project, and I guess I will be out for some shots in the Alps this summer and fall. The largest collection of my projects can be found on the Behance network. If you are sincerely interested in all sorts of visual artistry, the Behance network is a great place to be! My website can be found here. And if you feel sorry for me and want to skyrocket my failing Instagram-account to the number of 200 followers and more, feel free to go to my Instagram here.
Thank you for joining us Nikolaus!