As a teenager in Germany, Sylvie Blum had a photograph hanging on her bedroom wall created by famed Hollywood-based celebrity and fine-art photographer Greg Gorman. Decades later, she not only would join the ranks of world-renowned photographers, but she would be enjoying a glass of GKG Cellars’ wine created by Gorman while they sat poolside at her studio in the shadow of the Hollywood sign. At this get-together, Gorman revealed that he had created the cascading waterfall that plunges into Sylvie’s pool for a shoot he did with Brooke Shields the year before. Talk about a small world.
The bumpy road to successful fine-art photographer began for Blum on the other side of the camera. She modeled for photographic luminaries, including Helmut Newton, Andreas Bitesnich, Jan Saudek and Guenter Blum.
DPP: Everyone takes their own route to being a successful photographer. How did you get started?
Sylvie Blum: Since I was four years old, I knew I was going to be an artist. I was always into art, beautiful things. I later studied fashion design; then when I was 19, working as a model, I met photographer Guenter Blum in Frankfurt at a casting. He came from painting and sculpture, and his photography was nudes. He was very inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. He built huge crazy sets and made nude photographs inside them. I was so fascinated by him and what he did. He was 20 years older than me. He was really cool and very artsy. He was the artist I imagined that an artist would be.
DPP: Did you get the modeling job?
Blum: Yes, of course! I not only did the job, I became his muse, his lover and eventually his wife. He passed away from cancer in 1997.
Since I was four years old, I knew I was going to be an artist. I was always into art, beautiful things.
DPP: He had a huge effect on your life on so many levels.
Blum: I was absolutely stunned by the way he saw things, how he approached things and how he could make something extremely beautiful out of nothing. He was the all-around artist. He built the sets, sewed the costumes and made the backgrounds. He taught me how to develop film and print in the darkroom. I went to school for that, as well. In Germany, we have a bit of a different education system for learning a trade. You go to school for three years, but you work practically, as well. I worked in a photo studio that had a shop that sold cameras and supplies, and I took pictures of events, people and weddings. I also had to go one day a week to school and take tests like you do for a driver’s license.