Thomas Radlwimmer: Catching gifts of light through his lens

Thomas’ Artisster video begins with a bang. A statement that echoes his philosophy on his craft, and maybe his outlook on life. He says, “Being in the right moment, at the right place, looking from the right perspective, from the right angle with the right lens on the right camera, taking a photograph at the right moment. That’s a gift.” And it’s one that he has worked long to perfect.


In 2016, Radlwimmer finished his MFA as Director of Photography, Film and Television at the University of Television and Film Munich after having completed his qualifying exams in Graphic and Communication Design at the HTK in Linz in 2007.


Through his passion for fine arts and photography, coupled with his love of music, Radlwimmer has developed his own particular eye for detail and precision. When he’s not out shooting photos, Radlwimmer devotes his time to other art forms like playing the tabla (a percussion instrument from India) or the shakuhachi (a type of bamboo flute from Japan).


He comes across as a master of his artform and an eternal student of life. I interviewed him from my office in Hamburg to find out just what makes this Munich-based photographer click:

What made you decide to join Artisster?


Thomas: I produced the Artisster video for another artist here, Sylwia Synak. [In the editing phase,] I took a look at it and thought that an online gallery like Artisster actually makes sense for me too. I saw that her work was able to shine through. I find that photography can have the same.


Ericka: Well, Artisster is surely glad you did! You and Sylwia are a perfect example of how Artisster works. Artists move it forward, recommending other artists to the platform. It’s truly an artist-driven platform. At the moment, you’re doing a lot with music videos and films. You have over 40 photographs here to sell. How did you decide which ones to include from your portfolio?


Thomas: I am passionate about taking photos, so I shoot a lot. I always have my camera with me, because you never know when that perfect shot can be captured. The photos I selected are not from a single series. I’ve taken these over many years, on many walks in the forest or wherever I may be. I think many of these photos work well together, but also independently. For example, the “Frozen” series is able to stand alone or as a group. I would hang any of these as stand-alone pieces.

Ericka: I noticed you didn’t pick any of the portraits of musicians you’ve worked with that I saw on your website.


Thomas: I feel some of these portraits are particularly personal and may not speak to many. But I really enjoy shooting people too.


Ericka: Speaking of people, can you describe yourself in 3 words?


Thomas: Attentive. Calm. Cheerful.


Ericka: That was quick! Most find that question hard. So can you do the same with your photography style?


Thomas: [pause] Isn’t that something someone else should comment on? It’s hard to qualify with words. What’s the saying about “a picture and 1,000 words”?


Ericka: That’s an answer in itself, arguably the best answer. So what about your camera? Do you have several or one trusty, magic instrument?


Thomas: I use several cameras, mostly Canon, preferably the EOS 5D Mk III. But for me the type of camera is not the important factor. It is the kind of lens that plays a tremendous role in how my photographs turn out. For example, I don’t use a zoom lens. Part of my style is being able to capture the perspective, so to say, manually. It’s all me. That’s the skill in the art form. I get the depth I’m seeking purely with my lens.


Ericka: So do you develop the prints yourself?


Thomas: No, not anymore. I used to have a darkroom, but now I work almost exclusively in digital formats. I’ve built a relationship with a developer I trust. I either go there or upload my data. Otherwise it’s pretty difficult for an independent photographer to develop a really high-quality prints. And that’s what I’m after.


Ericka: I actually imagined your darkroom to be your studio.


Thomas: Well, I see nature as my studio. I can manipulate the light depending on what time of day I’m out shooting. I really like the way natural light itself makes the perfect lighting. I’m always outside. In that way, the entire world is for me “on location.”


Ericka: What’s something you always need at hand when you’re working?


Thomas: You mean some kind of talisman?


Ericka: Hmm. Maybe.


Thomas: No, nothing like that, but I always have a second battery pack and additional memory card – just in case!


Ericka: What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve gotten and from whom?


Thomas: Concerning photography, it would be: “Examine the great masters, and analyze them. Find out what makes [it] a remarkable photograph.” And for myself, well, I have to say first that I practice Zen meditation. And one of the key principles is “to be in the moment/im Moment sein.” It’s become the basis for my personal livelihood. It’s extremely difficult to work with full intensity and concentration, devoid from distractions. So when you do, it’s a gift. So simply said, yet difficult to manifest consistently.


Ericka: So who are some of the great masters you’ve studied?


Thomas: To name three very different masters: Richard Avedon for his portrait work, especially “In the American West”; Hiroshi Sugimoto is a master of reduction, just look at his “Seascapes”. And of course there is Sebastião Salgado, all his work is touching and technically brilliant, his latest project “Genesis” overwhelmed me when I saw the exhibition in Paris a few years ago!

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