Calling the hectic environment of fashion show’s backstage areas his creative playground, photographer, fashion designer, and art director Timmi Taubenschreck is no stranger to vibrant, and at times even stressful, situations. Together with his creative partner photographer Detlef Honigstein, Timmi thrives on this sense of immediate creativity – opposed to the analogue images the duo takes as “Honigschreck“, which demand a fair amount of planning and development. Based in Berlin, Timmi and Detlef regularly travel to attend the world’s biggest fashion weeks, one of their latest trips bringing them to Paris last September, where they took along a set of neubau eyewear glasses. We asked Timmi all about his travels, his creative process – and his exciting times spent backstage.
When and why did you first get interested in photography?
I have been taking pictures for over 20 years now. I learnt from my father who used to have a substantial collection of cameras. He would take photos and slides of his various travels whilst continuously exploring new cameras. My first camera was a “Canon Janosch Tigerauge”.
You’re often working with Detlef Honigstein with whom you also form the photography duo Honigschreck, how did you first meet?
We met in the fashion scene about six years ago. A stylist we both know put us in touch with each other. I have actually been doing fashion collections since 2009. Together with Detlef I conceptualized my lookbooks, developed campaigns and worked on independent editorials. We soon came to realize that I did not have any “authentic” backstage photos taken in any of my seven fashion shows. The photos would always be polished, glossy, high end, and beautiful but never seemed to reflect the true sense of magic found backstage. We, however, see the chaos and imperfection of backstage in a different light. We captured these moments including all the mistakes and developed them into editorials which stand for themselves. Our work can be described in one sentence: “In our work we go for the perfect atmosphere over the perfect look.”
How do the two of you manage to successfully merge your different creative approaches?
Our collaboration feeds off our different strengths as well as weaknesses. We know exactly where our skills lie and combine the workload accordingly for a unified result. Using a combination of analogue small format images, polaroids, instant pictures (and soon Super8 video) is unique to our style. After each shooting we throw our results together and filter out a “best of”. Here I would have to say that Detlef is responsible for bringing in the poetry. He takes his time and knows exactly which films are suitable for which lighting conditions. He generates playful moments and gets unique poses from the models, breaking through the conventional backstage setting. I myself on the contrary am responsible for capturing spontaneous moments. I concentrate on details, fabrics, shoes, or I help Detlef with more difficult lighting conditions. My main responsibility, however, lies in taking the instantaneous photos.
How much do these different approaches influence each other?
I am mostly influenced by Detlef’s technical knowledge and image composition. He masters the entire craftsmanship of analogue photography and never fails to impress me with the results. Sometimes I follow Detlef’s example by using his techniques but applying them in my own way. I believe I sometimes surprise Detlef by presenting new cameras that I have sourced for our team or by discovering new labels that we need to feature. Our work is a constant cycle of mutual inspiration. Having said that, I have to admit that I sometimes simply enjoy the role as sidekick.
What is the best and what the most challenging thing about working together as a duo?
As a duo you form a stronger team. We both know that we would never manage a fashion week on our own. The preparation and the post production especially needs to be done together. The great benefit is being able to share work as well as having complete trust in each other. Most of the time I do the preparation for the fashion weeks – finding media partners, contacting designers and labels, reaching out to PR agencies, booking flights and putting together a timetable. In general, making sure that the work proceeds as stress free as possible. Detlef ist mostly involved in post production by selecting images and making sure they get sent out to press. Our skills are complementary and that is what defines us as #Honigschreck. A small disadvantage could be that we don’t function separately, especially during the fashion week. We only manage to achieve the photographic style and workload together and we also share the payment which other photographers would earn alone. We divide the fee but offer a better end result.
With your own work, when do you feel the most creative?
All my work is creative. I am an independent fashion designer, photographer and freelance art director. I simply combined the creative fields I enjoyed working in the most over the past ten years of my career. Currently I enjoy the work as a photographer the most. It has the same level of craftsmanship as fashion design but offers more instant results. As art director I work together with other photographers to evaluate and select their imagery. Such collaborations inspire and allow me to grow creatively. I sometimes look at it as a kind of game and consider myself very lucky to be able to earn my living by working in arts and crafts.
What inspired the shoot you did for neubau?
We combined our latest trip to Paris for backstage jobs with the “neubau” shooting. We didn’t need a huge amount of preparation time or a big formal setup. The spectacles were photographed as they are: urban but classic, timeless and casual. After a Haider Ackerman assignment we wanted to shoot our two favourite spectacles. The backstage shooting had been relatively tense but important as you don’t have the chance to work with such a great designer on a daily basis. We transferred this excitement into the photoshoot. Other spectacles were shot in a more spontaneous manner according to our mood; on the way to the photographic laboratory or simply in the studio of fashion designer Nobi Talai with whom we spent the time in Paris. The spectacles were our daily companions and had to be readily available at any time. We also wanted to show this in our images.
What makes photographing people and clothes backstage so interesting to you?
It makes a big difference whether we plan our own editorial or if we are working backstage on a show. Our backstage shootings are always unpredictable – we don’t know the setting or the lighting conditions in advance. We also don’t know the team and haven’t seen the collection beforehand. We come to the set without knowing what to expect and have to work with what is in front of us – we have had shows in which we had three hours to do our job and even one where we only had five minutes. Five minutes where everything has to be perfect! For photographers who use digital photography this isn’t a problem. They can take up to 2000 images and will have great results in the end. We work exclusively analogue and have only one chance to get the lighting and the models right whilst having to deal with the pressure and the lack of space. Retrospectively, it was these photos which turned out to be the best taken during Paris Fashion Week.
We deliberately chose analogue photography and want to continue using this medium in the fashion industry. We want to show magazines that we, as analogue photographers, can indeed live up to the standards of our digital counterparts. In spite of the time-consuming laboratory processes needed in developing films, prints and scans we are able to deliver the photos in the same timeframe. We can create the same amount of work in great quality but reveal an analogue touch which even with an app is impossible to achieve. The craftsmanship of analogue photography is what makes the job interesting in the first place. We never edit our images, don’t add filters or adjust colors. In the end it doesn’t make a difference if we take pictures of fashion, models, or cars. Although with cars we may not see the thrill as much.
If you could do any shoot of your dreams, what would that shoot look like?
It was only in January 2017 that we started taking the backstage stories and were dreaming of working with the established designers who show at Paris Fashion Week. Suddenly, Paris in September 2017 was upon us and we had the chance to work with big clients such as Haider Ackermann, Ann Demeulemeester and Christian Wijnants. We realized that it is more about getting into these big commissions rather than just dreaming about them. We have already been booked for fashion weeks in Berlin, Paris and Milan for the beginning of 2018. Our dream is coming into being faster than expected, because these are our dream shootings: travelling the world and visiting fashion shows, to capture the greatest backstage moments.
And lastly: If you could travel to any place to shoot next, which place would that be?
We have had the chance to shoot at many different locations: Venice, South Africa, Los Angeles, Paris and Marrakesh. There are countless places we would still like to go to for editorial shoots however our main skills lie within developing backstage stories. What we have learnt from each location so far is: we hardly get to see anything from the city we are in AND backstage all shows have the same charm!