How did you initially get your start in photography?
I suppose, I picked up my first camera in my early teens and toyed with it over the years, until I decided a few years ago to focus on photography as something more than just an occasional hobby. Before then I was an actor in movies like “Good Burger” and TV show’s like “Felicity” in the 90′s. I went by Jan Schwieterman, but decided to shorten it to Jan Kaar for ease, when I transitioned into photography. I actually painted before I learned how to shoot! I was pretty much in my head all the time and naturally ended up pulling from what I’ve learned about the visual arts and applied it to photography. Just recently I ended up getting my ‘beauty/celebrity’ work syndicated by Contour, Getty’s celebrity and beauty division. I am pretty new to the industry and learn something new everyday.
Fashion photography is competitive – combine that with the cattiness and sometimes large egos that are involved…what made you choose fashion photography as a focus?
Probably for the same reason I became an actor… I seem to be always looking for the “art” of it and that can come back to haunt you if you don’t figure in the business aspect of your industry too. In the end there’s a story element, that I like to hint at when I shoot editorials. Making the story open for interpretation – allowing the viewer room enough room to make up his own mind! David Lynch does this with his films and Miles Aldridge presents this with a lot of his editorials. Steven Klein too. Doing that without losing your audience is the trick.
What inspires and motivates you? Inspires and motivates me? Artist’s in general. Anything that shocks my mind and isn’t vulgar without reason. Im NOT into “shock” for “shocks sake.” I try to pull from my memory, as a well source, from an image or idea. Picasso, Bocionni, Balla, Cezane, Banksy, Schiele, music videos, documentaries… I like to put elements of sex, love, death, immortality, beauty, and yes, even politics. Politics. Not because I love it, but because in time’s like these, you need to be savy as to what’s happening in the world.
What is the one thing about the industry that you love and one that you hate?
I suppose the idea that you can create a story from an editorial is one of the aspects, I love whether the story is about a person, the clothes, accessories’ or shoe’s. As for the bad? I’d say non paying clients, end of story. The fact that some clients don’t pay the photographer even though the publication has a good reputation is upsetting to say the least…
What makes a perfect picture for you?
The perfect picture is an image you can’t forget, whether it’s because of the content or the composition. A great image is like a great one liner. It has just the right amount of everything.
What camera and lenses do you primarily use?
I’ve got a 80mm for my H3DII-31 and 28-105mm, 20mm for my Canon 5D. I rent lenses if I need to.
Do you have a preference between studio or location shoots?
Hmmm, studio or location? Is there are different challenges when deciding to shoot outdoors or indoors? Each present different problems. I initially preferred studio, but found most of the publications want location. So, at this point in my career, that’s what Ill focus on, but I’ve never really had time to develop a preference. I suppose, if the shoot entailed traveling half way around the world to capture an amazing “location” with amazing wardrobe and models… then I’d have to say, definitely location!
What are some of your favourite music tracks to listen to when you are shooting?
I usually choose something that will match the overall mood of the shoot. Usually it’s something high energy and fun. STP, Alice in Chains, Air, Dandy Warhols, Goldfrapp, Peaches, Lady Gaga, Ladytron, MGMT, Fisher Spooner… Anything to keep the mood alive!
Let switch to some of our typical C-Heads questions: Your favourite city?
Milan, Paris or NY. Anyone wanna do a flat swap with me in LA? :)
5 Things I can’t live without? Mike and Ikes, love, hope, beauty and my imagination.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’d say in 5 years I hope to be doing the same thing but more consistently!
Thanks for your time Jan!
Interview by Christine Guggenberger