"It's fantastic," he says of staging elaborate productions. "I love it if you can feel what you're shooting. If you create everything in reality, the model has a much easier time because they live it in the moment, and you consume it, and it's all there. It's much more fun, and a much bigger show, than shooting in front of a green box and creating it in Photoshop. Oh, my God, it's dead! It's not life!"
Schuller shoots wide, allowing space for the garment to move, adding context to a scene and otherwise encouraging any bit of theatricality to find its way into the frame.
"I love to explain the woman not just by the outfit," Schuller says. "The outfit is very important to explain the character of the woman, but the surroundings where she is, that's also part of her life, it's also part of the scenario of the interpretation of her. So, in the end, it's cherchez la femme by using a bit more wide angle, a bit more showing on the right and left sides."
Even in the studio, the simple proposition of a girl in a gown becomes something more. Schuller relies on movement and motion to add energy and texture, whether it comes from twirling fabric or swirling smoke, splashing water or exploding powder.
"It's not that you start and say, 'Now, I want powder and I automatically want something crazy,'" he says. "Creativity is always a process. You start at a point, and it can happen that there's just no way out, and you don't find a solution to make the image work, so then you try to break it and you use the powder and suddenly you create something new. It can happen by accident. Other times, you can really plan something and your ideas are running away like wild horses and you end up somewhere.
"Sometimes you create these flowers," Schuller says, "and everything is beautiful and elegant and poetic. But sometimes it's just a wonderful mess. It's just like if you put your fingers in the dirt and you play."
Schuller possesses more than just a flair for the dramatic. He's a total pro, dedicated to precision in camera, composition and lighting.
"When I was a student," Schuller says, "my professor was Vivienne Westwood, a fashion designer from London. She was always saying, 'Creativity comes from technique.' And I learned from the very beginning that creativity in our work—it doesn't matter if you're a designer or a photographer or something else—it's always based on perfect technique. Whatever we're creating, we create it by light. Light is never something that's used by accident. It's very precise, and you know exactly before you start shooting what light you're using and why you use it and how you use it. Because with light you create an atmosphere. You decide, is it bright and fresh and positive, is it dark and dangerous? All these attitudes—the basis of all of that is the light. And then you put the character, the model, the actor into this light, and then they have the perfect base to play the role."
Adds Schuller, "The funny thing is, at the end of the day, you break all of your knowledge of the technique, and you take a little snapshot camera and you shoot everything with that, and there's no technique anymore. But that's something you do of your own will. You decide what technique you use."
See more of Kristian Schuller's photography at www.kristianschuller.com.
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