Paul Ripke is a Hamburg-based professional photographer who specializes in advertising, fashion, portrait, landscape and sport photography. He has shot campaigns for well-known brands such as EA Sports, Nike, GE and more. His eye-catching images are known for their creativity and shiny, attention-grabbing look.
Q: You’ve shown a great deal of versatility since you’ve started to make a name for yourself as a professional photographer. Besides people, advertisement and fashion, you also have shown great potential in landscape and sport photography. Has your focus changed since our last interview?
A: Yes and no. I’m still the person who can’t concentrate on one single thing for more than two hours. With my photography, it is basically the same. If I am shooting fashion for more than a week, I really need to shoot some sport photography or portraits. Since my life motto is “maximizing my rate of excitement,” I really like changes in my life. I am happy as hell to have a job like this, where you have the sway to change the subject of your work every day if you’re really willing to. However, I shot way more portraits than sport photography in the past year. I have two kids now and I need to pay the rent somehow. So my work-life has changed quite a bit to focus more to advertising, what my accountant actually obliges.
Q: How would you describe your visual style? What different stages did you go through developing it?
A: I would say that I represent the saucy generation of portrait photography. I use flash a lot, but mainly just one source of light. Furthermore, I utilize a lot of post-production, which I don’t do by myself. Gladly, I have very talented people at my studio for the final touches. I tend to do some very quick and rough editing in the beginning to get an idea how to optimize a photo in a way I’d like it. I would say that I am one of the fastest track-pad retouchers in Europe. But when it comes down to details, I am way too impatient. For the most part, I love a very shiny, jazzy look that catches a lot of attention. Utilizing a lot of post-production is, for me, a legitimate way to achieve this.
Q: Next to paid jobs, you also demonstrate your creativity in various personal projects, like “Kindsköpfe” for instance or the “PR yourself” series. In general, what’s the idea behind these projects? Have these images had a substantial impact on your popularity?
A: Initially, we created “Kindsköpfe” as a little fun project for an exhibition in Hamburg. This series was an idea from my post-production team and me while we had some beer and fooled around with face modifications for another job. We simply tried to illustrate what advertising photography nowadays should really do. When you ask me, it comes down to three important things: clever art direction, you need a good idea; photography, you need to take a good picture; and lastly post-production, you need creative and talented post-production guys who push the limits of photography to the next level.
“PR yourself” was also more or less a fun project in order to do some marketing for my photography. I simply took a photo booth to parties and made very close portraits of punchy characters in order to find real people with extraordinary and funny expressions. I still do it from time to time, always with amusing results.
I never really got money out of either things. But after all, a couple of campaigns copied the idea of “Kindsköpfe” and even American bloggers showed a lot of interest in these pictures. I even got a call from CNN.
Q: Similar to “Kindsköpfe” you gave your series “Hands up” a surrealistic touch. Please tell us something about it.
A: This was the follow-up of “Kindsköpfe.” It was just another idea we had in our team while we were playing with stereotypes and their typical hand gestures. In the end, this story is also a very good example of what you need in modern advertising. Next to good photography, you also need creative art direction and advanced post-production to achieve a great deal of attention.
Q: When you are shooting people photography you work with lots of interesting and authentic characters. What is generally important for you in terms in selecting your models?
A: I was asked to present the new jersey of the German soccer club “FC St. Pauli” to the fans. This was the first time we used a photo box for a real commercial purpose. So, instead of using dressed up models, we announced that each fan who would like to take part could come to my studio to be photographed. Overwhelmingly, about 300 St. Pauli supporters stood in front of our doors one day later. Since all the models were real and enthusiastic fans of St. Pauli, the whole series shows a great deal of authenticity and excitement. We’ve shot the pictures of them, and the next day we sent them out so they could use them as their Facebook profile picture, which – as a side note – most of them did very proudly.
Q: You’ve been using Leica’s digital medium format S-System. For which specific purposes do you choose the S?
A: I always use it when it comes to location photography. Wherever I usually used my Canon, I now try to use the S-System. It handles pretty well, very similar to a DSLR, but with a much bigger sensor. I did use it for some portrait shots as well, but lately I changed over to full digital format.
Q: You‘re also an avid rangefinder shooter and M9 owner. How does your approach, working with rangefinders, differ from your studio photography?
A: The M-System is a totally different cup of tea. I bought myself an M8, which was my first M, just because my father liked the R-System so much and always dreamed of an M. That was the reason why I decided to get one. I am the type of person that first buys full running gear and equipment to get himself started to running. Basically, I wanted to take pictures of my life, of the things around me. And, for sure, I did not want to use my professional DSLR equipment to do that. But, same with running, I did not really make it fit into my normal life. The digital workflow did not really work out for me, so I was not using it very much.
The M9 however, to which I changed right away using a 24 mm f/1.4 lens, is pretty much always next to me. I use it for rather personal photography. I go out quite often to capture the world as I see it and present it later on my blog. Next to stories about my professional work, I’ve set myself the goal to put at least one personal story on my blog each month. For this it is like a universal weapon for me.
I collected the best shots of last year and created a book as a personal recap of my favorite moments.
Q: What do you think of the M in terms of handling and design?
A: One of the main things in my photography is communication. Your images are greatly affected by the way you present yourself to another person. And here, the Leica is a huge catalyst. Everybody has an opinion about it and everybody starts chatting about it, no matter if it is the S or M-System. In my street photography, I use a leather protector so everybody thinks I am an art student or the like. So generally people act quite normal in front of my lens. But honestly, it’s a rare and special occasion to use an M9 in a real fashion shoot, It is a bit too slow for my commercial photography, but I do use it when camera teams are filming me, because it looks way cooler than those ugly DSLRs.
Q: Are there any future projects that you’re currently planning to work on?
A: We’ll do a documentary with moving and still images about Africa. To be fair, I normally do not know what will happen next week. One of the best things in my life is that I never know on which part of the earth I will be the next month. Be it music, sports, people, politics, fashion, landscape or whatever. This is absolutely what I always dreamed of.
Thank you for your time, Paul!
– Leica Internet Team
To see more of Paul Ripke’s images, visit his website, blog and Facebook.