“Whether a moment is authentic lies in the eye of the viewer. For me, you and someone else, a certain situation may be authentic because you may be able to project yourself very easily into it. For others, it’s so far away that it seems imposed on them.” Berlin photographer Felix Kayser gives us food for thought when we chat to him about how photography can still be authentic in a world full of social media. But when we look at the girl he photographed in front of the U-Bahn we know that it could be us standing there, and we know that despite times changing photographers like Kayser capture those moments we will remember one day to have been in. And they were real.
Your first touch point with photography?
I was born within sight of the Berlin Wall and still live here today. 15 years ago my district began to change perceptibly and I had the urge to capture it somehow. Back then I bought a small digital camera from one of my first earnings as a trainee. This was the beginning of the random capturing of all corners and things in my district. In addition there were other interests such public transport however I was quickly bored with a certain visual language and experimented more with other composition. For a while I enjoyed this urban street photography with clean lines and then I started with Instagram. Already at that time I had the need for more human contacts and stories. At the same time I also began to deal more intensively with other pictures at exhibitions. I really visited many exhibitions, sometimes 2-3 per day on 2-3 days in a row. Over time I got to know more and more photographers, new friends and like-minded people. Then through Instagram the time of the influence of French photographers like Jean-Philippe Lebee, Theo Gosselin or Guillaume Gaubert began for me. They had quickly captivated me with their photographic style. I absorbed all the information and content from them like vital water. I tried to understand their work and tried to put myself in their situation. Only after many months did I shoot my first photos with models and non-models, but it was really hard for me. Beside new cameras, I have also dealt very intensively with the available light. I tried to analyze my psyche and personal attitude in order to overcome hurdles. For 3 years now I’ve been improving my photography with people like it is now and I’m never 100% satisfied like any artist.
I can feel in all your work that it is important for you to capture emotions and personality in your portraits. How do you manage to get that from your models?
That’s one of the most frequently asked questions to me. Everybody has pictures in their head and complete scenes to the pictures. Before the first photo is taken it takes 20-30 minutes and I try to understand the first behaviours and reactions. Emotions and moments can only arise when we as human beings can build a living relationship in the form of conversation and listening. In order to be able to capture real natural emotions, I talk about acting. The model has to use her own creativity to interact with the environment and to interpret the situation. I always try to give as few guidelines as possible. This makes it exciting for everyone and results in moments that are not always tangible, but unique. The viewer must finally decide for himself whether this is natural or not.
“Emotions and moments can only arise, when we as human beings can build a living relationship.”
“Authentic moments” – This is one phrase you wrote on your instagram page. Do you think that nowadays photography with all the social media really show us authentic moments?
Thanks for the question! Yes, that’s the big discussion, and I don’t think there’s a real answer. Whether a moment is authentic lies in the eye of the viewer. For me, you and someone else, a certain situation may be authentic because you may be able to project yourself very easily into it. For others, it’s so far away that it seems imposed on them. On the other hand, there is the term portrait itself, an artistic staging of a certain person. On my Instagram description I search for these intangible authentic moments. Some people have the talent to create these moments through their lifestyle, maybe I am a part of this process behind the camera. I can’t tell you yet, but if I know, then I will tell you.
“Whether a moment is authentic lies in the eye of the viewer.”
Whom would you love to photograph?
Léa Seydoux, Alizée Gamberini, Lisa Louis Fratani, Annabelle Belmondo, Lena Klenke, Emilia Schüle, Liv Lisa Fries, Saskia Rosendahl, Mathilde Gautier, Léa Villani and so many more… but also a men Mr. Frederick Lau.
Do you sometimes doubt your own path or you know exactly where you are heading to?
I am one of the greatest doubters of myself and basically never satisfied. For me it is very important to always keep a certain distance to my work and then to look at it from a new perspective and develop it further. Where it goes depends on which people you will meet in life, because I am open-hearted, that can only be exciting. However, I would also like to photograph more according to my sustainable lifestyle and speak specifically to associations that deal with climate protection, organic farming and car-free mobility.
“I am one of the greatest doubters of myself and basically never satisfied.”
What is your perfect Berlin weekend?
A weekend always starts on Fridays with a photographic exhibition to meet friends and photo buddies. On a typical Saturday morning you can find me at the market in the ecstasy of fresh foods. Then the day is divided between friends and new people in front of the camera. I like to hop spontaneously on the train to go into the green outskirts, which is very close to Berlin so it is cheap and fast enough. Sometimes Berlin has so many culture & art events that I would have to divide myself into four parts to take everything with me.
Sunset or Sunrise?
A sunset is the most interesting thing for photography. From warm daylight to difficult artificial light. Sunrises could be nice when you’re awake ;-)
“European cinema is one of the most inspiring sources, and the more independent and smaller the production, the better.”
Books or Movies?
I like the analogue trend, but I only read weekly magazines about politics, sorry books. Movies are so important for me. For me, European cinema is one of the most inspiring sources, and the more independent and smaller the production, the better. Europe has so much great young cinematographers! I like to be able to put myself into a cinematic position, I can only do that if the scenery is most similar to mine here in Berlin.
Citytrip or Nature tour?
My body tells me nature, my photographic soul prefers urban spaces.
The best moments in life are…
…when chance surprises you and completely unpredictable encounters enrich your life.