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Friday, June 15, 2007

Holger Maass - The Idea Comes First

German photographer Holger Maass is an artist whose surrealist images are firmly grounded in photographic and digital technique

This philosophy leads Maass to be meticulous when planning an image. He leaves nothing to chance, from the lighting to the composition of various aspects of the photographs that will eventually be composited into a single finished image.

As a man whose entire career and professional image have been shaped by the color and beauty of digital photography and manipulation, his views on how they affect the industry are shades of gray. As a master of the art, he feels as though many young photographers, both pro and amateur, ignore the “photographic idea,” lacking shape and structure to their images. Says Maass, “These ideas are what should come first. They are the foundation of spectacular images. It's the ‘photographic idea' that creates ground-breaking photography.”

This is something that Maass should know about. He has the ability to breathe an air of individuality into each of his images, whether it's an advertisement or a portrait of a famous celebrity. He treats each photograph as a work of art, fine-tuning and honing in on the psychology that makes a good advertisement or connecting with his subject beyond a superficial level. If you're drawn to an image, you'll inevitably be drawn to the advertisement. If you're drawn into the portrait, you'll be drawn into the people themselves.

As Maass describes it, “Today, the boundaries between art and commerce are melting. I think I am somewhere in between. My style of photography is a mixture. On one hand, my work looks like some of these advertising shots—perfect models with perfect bodies, always smiling faces, sex and commercial products; on the other hand, you get the feeling that this can't possibly be an advertising shot—it's too much, too artificial. With hints to European art and symbolism, you'll never have this in a ‘real' advertising shot!”

For a man with such a vivid and extraordinary knack for creative and risqué photography, it was a surprise to find out that this wasn't an inherent trait. It was a happy accident that led Maass down the path of professional photography. After learning about the business through an editorial photographer, and after being encouraged by his parents, who obviously saw an immense creative talent, Maass started working as an assistant to various photographers in his native Germany, all the while submitting his personal work and photo essays to magazines and newspapers.

As is evident when you look at his work, Maass always has been drawn to the storytelling aspect of photography. His work is more than the provocative, dazzling two-dimensional image that first pops out of the page at you. In every shot, he plants his political and social view of the world into a cleverly landscaped single-frame tale. Says Maass, “I am trying to convert my personal understanding of the world we're living in back into my photographs.”

Maass' relationship with film is unlike that of many of his peers. Most photographers of his generation were raised shooting film, switching to digital only when the arguments for convenience and efficiency became overwhelming and the industry standard among advertising clients began to turn digital.


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