Growing up in a small German village, Philipp Paulus developed a fascination with the beautiful covers of fashion magazines. He started photographing in late 2007 at the age of 16, hoping to create photos like those he saw on the magazine covers. He soon recognized that it is probably not that easy, but he continued to pursue his passion. While he was still in school he continued to teach himself photography, doing a lot of free shooting, collecting experiences and meeting people who understood the business much better than he did. Then last summer, upon graduating from high school, Philipp moved to Paris to work as an assistant and live in one of the fashion capitals of the world. Last fall Philipp, with his Leica D-Lux 4 in hand, documented the runway and behind the scenes action at Paris Fashion Week. Here Philipp shares the story of his young, but promising career.

Q: You started photography just a few years ago at a young age as a high school student. Did you have have any formal training through school or workshops?

A: No, I have no formal education in photography because I just graduated from high school a few months ago. I started photography at 16 and have taught myself during school. After graduation this year I decided to go the assistant route to finalize my knowledge and I am now a fixed assistant with a great photographer in Paris.

Q: What have you learned in your months as a photo assistant?

A: In an assistantship you will not learn how to become creative; a lot of people hope that. The main thing you will learn by being an assistant is how to be responsible for a really big production and how to manage these huge productions. For sure you can finalize your creativity skills, but there should be a good base from the beginning. The same is true for technique; you should establish that before you start working as an assistant.

Q: What is your motivation for pursuing photography?

A: Photography is very important for me whether personal or professional. I love to capture beautiful things and in the end, no matter what happens, a photo is all that remains.

Q: You also said that you were fascinated by beautiful fashion magazine covers, which inspired you to pick up photography. Are there any particular photographers whose work you admire or have had an influence on your work?

A: I wouldn’t speak about an influence yet, I think when you have the dream to become a famous photographer you should start with as little influence as possible in the beginning — just for learning how to create ideas without getting too much outside inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, inspiration is wonderful and absolutely legitimate, but in my opinion it is better to start with your own real ideas. Anyway, of course there are a lot of photographers with photos I love. My favorite photo ever is the famous shot from William Eggleston that was taken sometime in the ‘60s or ‘70s; it shows a very elegant woman having a drink in a plane and it’s full of luxury and lifestyle.

Q: Having moved from a small village in Germany to the cosmopolitan environment of Paris, what influence has Paris had on your work? Also, on a personal level, how do you like living in Paris?

A: When you want to become a fashion photographer moving to Paris, London or New York are definitely the best choices (and of course the only ones)! All three of these cities provide you an with unbelievable, high creative input and you can build up the best networks there. Also, the opportunities there are the interesting ones! My personal reason for moving to Paris, rather than New York, was the fact that it is still in Europe and maybe easier for a 19-year-old. But New York is permanently in my mind and will be a destination very soon.

Q: How were you first introduced to Leica Camera?

A: When I started with photography, I learned that there is a very traditional brand called Leica … thatʻs it! One year later I saw the Leica booth at Photokina and got more information about the brand, the cameras, how they are produced and so on. I was immediately fascinated and was pretty sure that this will be the camera system I will photograph with sometime! It’s not just the quality of the cameras and the photos they take, it is also about this unique feeling Leica provides. When you travel with a Leica, you will meet Leica fans all over the world! In addition, Leica has such a reliable support, the cameras are very robust and it is based in Germany!

Q: You used the D-Lux 4 to shoot fashion week. How was that? Did you experience any unexpected benefits or challenges?

A: I love the D-Lux 4 because it is one of the smallest Leica cameras with a brilliant resolution and image quality. The video quality is stunning as well! And I must admit that it is also a nice fashion accessory.

Q: Besides your D-Lux 4 what other camera and equipment do you use?

A: It depends on the job, which camera is needed, but for my personal editorial work I am currently working with a Canon 5D Mark II. I would love to replace my Canon with a Leica M9 and go on shooting my editorials with it. You spend more time on a single picture with the M9 because you have to concentrate more on the focus.

Photographing with an M9 would make shooting more comfortable for me. It starts with the fact that the camera is much smaller in comparison to the Canon. I also prefer the viewfinder of the Leica and the better handling. From the creative point of view, it is easier with a Leica to select a fitting frame (e.g. playing more with the unsharpness, etc.) just because of the manual focus! It is just great to work with one.

Q: Your images are just as much about the chaos surrounding the runway shows (the photo pit, the backstage action) as they are about what’s happening on the runway. What made you decide to portray Paris Fashion Week in this way?

A: Because I am not a runway photographer, I was just there as a visitor. Everyone is photographing the runway, but I think it is also very interesting to capture what happens surrounding the runway.

Q:  What made you choose to depict the photos in black and white rather than color?

A: I think you are more focused on the whole photo/situation when the photo is black and white! When you see a color photo, you first see the objects with bright and strong colors; it’s different with black and white photos.

Q: Your photo of the model in the white bikini standing in front of the photo pit is very striking. How did you come to compose this image and what is the message you’re trying to convey?

A: All my photos are open for interpretation by the viewer, but my personal experience in capturing this moment was the fact that this beautiful model looked so shy from behind because of her posing, but from the front she seemed so tough and strong, just because of her attitude. This fact is always fascinating with very good models, changing her look just through her eyes.

Q: You have two photos that seem to have been taken in quick succession, but with very different styles. Your photo of a model walking up the runway, which is very sharp, is followed by a photo of the same model walking back, but now both the model and background are completely out of focus. Was this a stylistic choice? If so, what were you trying to convey with this pair of photos?

A: Her back is out of focus to stimulate the viewers mind!

Q: In many of your photos from Paris Fashion Week, lighting is a major compositional element. Was the show lighting a challenge you had to work with or was it something you proactively wanted to incorporate into your images?

A: I never try to change the existing light (you can maybe navigate around it, but not completely change it), with exception of a studio shoot.

Q: As a digital native and photographer you have been utilizing tools such as Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. How do you think these tools have affected the course of your career and what advice do you have for other photographers trying to integrate social media tools?

A: Social media is, in the current century, very important and indispensable. Nobody can ignore it and, in my opinion, it provides us a lot of chances to start a good career. I think it was really more difficult to make contact and build up networks in a time without Internet, fast communication tools and social media. It is up to you how much you use it and how much profit you make with it.

Q: How do you foresee your photography changing over the next few years? Do you have any interest in exploring genres beyond fashion photography?

A: I also love to take portraits, snapshots and I would gladly get up at 4 o’clock in the morning with my camera and tripod to catch a beautiful sunrise photo in Rio de Janeiro, but my main preference and professional view should remain in fashion!

Thank you Philipp!

-Leica Internet Team

You can see more of Philipp’s work on his website, and blog, You can also connect with him on Facebook at and on Twitter, @PhilippPaulus.