Interview With Photographer Felix Kunze
I partly owe where I am to Felix Kunze. I met him on set when I was co-teaching a workshop with Lara Jade. Oddly, I became the student. On Lara's day of shooting, I would listen to how Felix would explain lighting setups and even a slow learner like myself understood everything.
A couple of months later Creative Live had asked me to do a three day class. Shooting and lighting was one component so I reached out to Felix to be the photographer! From there I continued to see his growth with his own work but also in how he motivates others.
In line with interviewing other creatives as a part of my Photoshop group, I wanted to sit down and talk to Felix about what he was up to and what inspires him. I saw that he had a new lighting series course out and wanted to also ask him about that too! His view on personal projects and more really intrigued me.
You seem to be constantly traveling. What are a few places you frequent and what brings you to those places?
I’m actually writing this while seated on a flight to Cape Town. I was born in East Berlin, behind the iron curtain and my family didn’t really have all that much. And even though I was very young, the fact that my parents did not have freedom of movement stayed with me. I think it’s why I’ve got an insatiable travel bug. We can take it for granted, but I like to use my freedom of movement while my knees still work!
You always shoot a lot of personal projects. If people don't understand the importance of it, what can you tell them from personal experience that would convince them in doing so?
I’ve got a couple of key personal projects I work on every year: my Halloween series; my Explorers Club portraits and a third secret project that revolves around groups of people in interesting place across the planet. I’ve tied that third one in with my travels and will eventually publish a coffee table book.
Personal projects are how I connect with broad numbers of people and get to insert myself temporarily into worlds I’m interested in.
For example, I’ve been working with a geology professor at Appalachian State university, Sarah Carmichael. So far I’ve shot her at The Explorers Club, in a cave in North Carolina and in mid 2018 I’m accompanying a team of geologists and biologists to the Gobi Dessert in Mongolia for National Geographic. It’s a dream come true and it’s all because of a personal project I’m shooting.
As a photographer, personal projects are the only way to reach the kind of people you may not already know.
Your lighting group is so inspiring, what is the last three things you've learned from people in the group?
Teaching in general has taught me so much about WHY I make the creative choices in my life. Generally when you have to explain your thought process to another person is when you learn the most about yourself. Having my group ‘Lighting with Felix Kunze’ with a huge number of active photographers who are really opening up about their struggles and successes with lighting - it’s been amazing. I’ve met so many amazing people, like Kate Woodman, and feel we’ve really been able to help a lot of photographers become good at what they do.
The group embraces a kind of positivity I haven’t seen anywhere else. Perhaps because of my ‘one stroke you’re out’ policy on trolls and negative people or because I push for people not to get bogged down in the technical aspects of lighting - but I love seeing people’s work. It’s a highlight of my day to check in on what people have been doing.
I always see you as someone who is always producing epic work and on the inside I imagine you to always be happy with everything you produce. Do you still have doubts and insecurities with your work? If not, how long did it take for you to get over it?
Doubt is what drives any creative. I’d have to give up if I had no doubt. I think highly of myself, but I’m a deeply flawed human being, always working on making myself better.
I don’t think there’s anyone on planet earth who has conquered doubt. We have to use our insecurities and demons and allow them to be a driving force in our lives. I could think of no worse curse than a problem-free life.
Speaking of learning, you have a new course! I feel pretty well versed in lighting, but I'm happy to say I learned a lot about light shaping that I never thought I would! How did you find a way to strike a balance between making this course appealing to beginners and experienced photographers alike?
Sue Bryce and I have been chipping away at the magic formula behind teaching studio lighting. Studio lighting is actually incredibly SIMPLE, but there’s some annoying technical hurdles to get out of the
Under Sue’s mentorship, I’ve been thinking for years about how to make a class that shows how I myself shoot, that shows that light is simple and completely turns the subject on its head.
I spent years developing this: The Lighting Series:
www.thelightingseries.com (currently on sale till 31st of Dec).
In setting out to make this class, I set some rules:
- no ratios, no complicated maths
- no methods designed to confuse people into thinking that lighting is
complicated. Lighting is SIMPLE.
- no showing off. This is not the ‘look at the amazing things Felix
can do’ class. I want to show others how I produce beautiful work. My
measure of success is other people’s ability to replicate my methods.
So far, it’s working. Thousands have taken advantage of what I teach and they are posting their improvements in my group and I have about 8 ‘WOW’ moments a day where people are finally producing world class work. And they are doing it with speedlights, they are doing it with low ceilings, tiny studios and shower curtains as diffusers. It’s been an incredible thing to see so many people post their beautiful work created in artificial light.
Looking into your long term goals, what is coming up next in your journey. Is there something on your photography bucket list you're aiming to tackle next?
Well, I’m going to Cape Town now to sit down for a couple of months, regroup, retouch, edit, think about what’s next. There’s a lot of big things on the horizon including my book, National Geographic, and building out the lighting series platform. All the while developing my career as a photographer! Exciting times!
Thank you to Felix for spending the time!
You can follow Felix via Instagram and his FB group!