by Patrick Ilagan . March 9th, 2015
Juggling studying at the university, photography, graphic design, a small business and a future photography magazine. It might be hard to juggle but Switzerland-based creative Aurel Fischer seems to manage them all without dropping a sweat. In this edition of Featured Photographer we had a little chat with Aurel discussing his schooling, Iceland and ultimately his love for photography.
Patrick:Hello, Aurel! How are you? How was your recent trip to Iceland?
Aurel: Hi Patrick! I am very fine thanks! Wow, I mean it was just breathtaking. Iceland is such an unique place with it’s weather, it’s unbelievable otherworldly landscapes. An island where time seems to have stopped. The raw force of uncontaminated nature. The continuously changing landscapes when you are driving. It can be quite exhausting to see so much in such a short time. But definitely worth it. Just an absolutely amazing country!
P: You mentioned in your website that you are currently a student taking up photography and visual communication at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art. How’s that going?
A: Yes that is right. I just started in my second semester this week. It’s going great altogether. Some ups and downs but the study program in general is pretty cool and also unique. It has a lot of very contemporary approaches to photography and the problems and challenges we as future photographers have to face in this digital age.
P: I understand that being a student, you are asked to do a lot for your classes. How do you manage your studies and photography as well as commercial work all at the same time?
A: Well, it is often very stressful I have to admit. But I try to manage all the stuff for the uni during the semester and all other projects like travels, personal or commercial projects during the semester break. I am also starting a small business and a photography magazine (Einhundertelf) together with a friend and this takes also quite some time. But to be honest I haven’t found the right balance between uni, commercial and personal projects.
P: Was photography and graphic design something you have dreamed of ever since you are a kid?
A: Actually yes it has been in my things-I-want-to-become-when-I-am-grown-up list for some while back. Together with architect, goldsmith, perfumer, explorer, I have photographed for quite some time now and it has gripped me ever since. I also think the combination of photography and graphic design works quite good.
P: Do you think it’s a necessity to have a formal education in photography?
A: Well it definitely depends on the person but in general I would highly recommend it. I think today, when everybody has a digital camera and snaps some photos here and there the people who want to take photography more serious have to get on a higher level of knowledge and experience. The technical aspects are simple to learn. The formal ones need a lot more time to develop and finally the narrative character needs a lot of experience. I do think that a formal education would help to develop these experiences and expertise.
P: I love how your images are well-structured and organized. Is that because due to your training in graphic design? Or it is your visual style from the very start?
A: It is more of the later one. This style represents pretty good who I am and how I see the world. I love structurization, simplicity and i am (sometimes) perfectionistic. I think that is why I also love Graphic Design so much and not the the other way round.
P: The Minimal series is gorgeous! We’d like to learn the process and inspiration behind it.
A: Thank you so much! Well, the Idea and the Inspiration behind it are quite simple. I really like Architecture and its shapes and form languages. So I wanted to capture the details and characteristics of buildings. I did this minimal series during some time when I was walking though my city (Basel). I wanted to challenge myself to look closely and to explore the space that I already know quite well. So my limitation were the forms of the buildings but also my camera. I took these pictures only with my smartphone (S3). Limitations I think often pushes you and gives you a new creative view of something.
P: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
A: At the moment to be honest I try not to think too much about the future but live in the moment and enjoy life. At the moment I am starting a small business and a photography magazine with a friend. It is called Einhundertelf and is a magazine for documentary photography and we want to get people back to take their time and appreciate and think more about photography and not scroll though thousands of pictures. Something a bit like slow journalism. I hope that this will get bigger and that I eventually be a freelance photographer and entrepreneur in the near future.
P: If ever you are to pick only one visual art form, what would you chose? Photography or graphic design? Why?
A: For me it clearly would be photography. The possibilities are so big and my urge is to strong that I could ever resist it. Also the different forms of expression are so versatile and I often discover new ways and styles of photography. Although to be fair this also could be said for graphic design. But personally I am much more experienced in the field of photography.
P: For you, what makes a good photograph?
A: Well, that is a really big question, regarding the endless discourses we have in the uni about this theme. Personally when I look through magazines, books or platforms on the internet I really like photographs that tell a story or start my imagination. This doesn’t mean that it has to be something deep or elaborate but something where the mind can start and wander around. I really like serial documentary photographs, because they draw me into another world or place. I think this makes a good photograph. But for me the overall look and artistry of composition, lighting, point of view etc. to be at least as elaborate as the subject. This combination makes for me great photos. Of course this is extremely subjective but that is what makes photography so exciting and versatile.
P: What is the most memorable photography assignment you did so far?
A: About half a year ago I had an assignment for a newspaper in my city about an European boxing champion and his preparation fight. I only had limited time to shoot him and his fight. It was quite exhausting and hard to get good images because, well, they were fighting. But in the end it was a lot of fun to shoot and I also had a lot of freedom about the look of the images.
P: When doing photography work, what are the most common obstacles you encounter? How do you go around these obstacles?
A: For me the biggest obstacle are people. I would consider myself an introvert and I don’t like being in big crowds or approaching people on the street. I don’t want to intrude in peoples personal space and so shooting on the street was and still is exhausting for me. In the last months and years I slowly but steadily did more and more of this stuff i don’t felt comfortable with. Taking small steps and staying at it for some time often helps to face a challenge. First I went to places with a lot people and just walked around. Then sometime I started taking images. Only a very few in the beginning. But after some time I got more comfortable and so on. For me taking small steps with persistence works quite good when facing obstacles and challenges.
P: You do a lot of photography genres — from documentary to architectural, and even street photography. If ever you are to pick one genre, what would it be and why?
A: My interests and styles changes quite often. Now with my trip to Iceland I am again in love with Nature and Landscape photography. Before that I did a lot of street and architecture. I have to much interests that I could just and only concentrate on one of these genres. But altogether I think that documentary photography would be my absolute favorite. Not only because you can fit most of the genres I love into it but also because I think, that documentary photography is the most purest form of photography. The genre and work that separate it from all other art forms.
P: Where do you draw inspiration for your photography?
A: I really like photography books and magazines. If they are well printed and show a certain genre or focused theme it gives me a lot inspiration for my own work. The internet and for example tumblr or instagram are also a source of inspiration for me, but it often has to much bad images to scroll through and I think it really takes a lot time to find the hidden gems in the pile of s***. No its not that drastic. But still. A lot of people don’t really think about their images and haven’t developed a good eye for Images and just post some random stuff.
P: Is there any designer or photographer close to your heart that inspires you?
A: Yes in recent times I discovered a lot photographers that I really love. For example Saul Leiter or Lee Friedlander. They were/are both amazing photographers who just did what they loved. I also love the better known documentary photographers like Sebastiao Salgado or Steve McCurry (and a lot more). Also I discover all the time new amazing photographers through magazines or the internet.
P: What advice would you give to fellow students who are also doing photography and design?
A: Do what you love! Try out different things and be bold. Do analog work! Both photography and graphic design. I work a lot on the computer and I am very comfortable with it, but I also love analog photography and being in the darkroom. Also with graphic design sometimes doing something analog and combining it with digital work can give a new perspective. I think working with analog photography can bring a lot insight and knowledge. Also you are forced to deal much more profound with the images you create. I, for example, love the limitation of medium format and having one film roll with only 12 or 10 Images. It really makes you look and observe with much more mindfulness.
If you want to see more of Aurel’s work you can visit his website for his cool stuff! Don’t forget to leave a comment below and let us know what you lovely folks think!
Patrick Jude Ilagan is a graphic designer/photographer hailing from the vast jungles of urban Manila. Always on the look out for visually appealing stuff he scours the internet and the bustling city in search of inspiration. His tools for mass creation is a Canon 500D along with a wide array of lights and lenses plus a 4 year old (but still fighting) laptop. Check out his work on Tumblr.
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