A look behind the lens – the interview with Kaj Lehner

It is as funny as life sometimes plays to its fullest. Kaj paved my career path back then, without me having the slightest idea of it, and I had hers. She also didn’t know what to expect. If I hadn’t written her on Instagram to ask her if she would like to go out and take photos with me, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I found the outfit pictures she uploaded to her Instagram channel quite impressive and very inspiring. However, the idea that she was being photographed never occurred to me, and it didn’t mean she had to have a camera at home. But as fate would have it (I am very grateful to fate), she had a camera that she got fresh for her birthday. A new stage of life opened up for both of us.

During our cooperation, she threw the idea into the room, and asked me if I would like to curate a blog, since there were a lot of pictures left over from our shootings, and I could have used them in other ways, away from Instagram. So I made the decision to start a blog, which is now known as an online magazine. Kaj will soon finish her studies of photography, and has already been to Copenhagen for a semester, where she was able to fine-tune her photography and get new impressions.

How long have you been photographing and how did it come about?

The first time I came into contact with photography was about 8 or 9 years ago, when I wanted to start a fashion blog, haha. At that time I took pictures of myself in the garden with a self-timer and at some point I joined up with other blogger girls and we took pictures of each other. Moubi was then actually the first “stranger” who asked me if I wanted to take pictures of him. We did that very regularly for the first 2-3 years, which led to him blogging and I left. I then focused completely on photography and was only to be found behind the camera.

What was it that inspired you to make photography your profession?

It was not so much a concrete decision I made, it was more a smooth transition from hobby to profession. When I started taking photographs at that time, I primarily found a way to give some kind of expression to my interest in fashion. In addition, photography offers me an incredible amount of variety. You always have a reason to approach new people to work with them – be it models, stylists or make-up artists. Furthermore, photography is a field where you never stop learning and my curiosity never fades. With the time came the first jobs and small orders, with which I could earn my money slowly but surely. So my hobby developed with the time to my job.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I especially like to draw my inspiration from past decades. The 80’s and 90’s are definitely my favourites at the moment. Be it from music videos, books or movies, these are the eras where I find most of my ideas.

What was your first camera? (No idea if you want to have it with you)

Some little digicam from Canon.

What is most important to you when taking pictures? So what is most important to you in the end result?

I pay special attention to a harmonious interaction between location, styling and model. Also the lighting plays an important role for me to add something atmospheric to the whole thing. My goal, I believe, is always to create and convey a certain mood.

Do you want to trigger something special in the viewer with your photos? And how do you bring this out best in your pictures?

I gotta say, I don’t really think about it there. I take pictures primarily for a probably very selfish reason. I simply want to transform my feelings and ideas in my head into something visible. So I don’t really think about what the viewer should get to see. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t want to reach them. But since creative work is something very personal and subjective, I can’t and don’t want to influence what each individual sees in my paintings. I want to leave the viewer room for interpretation and not give guidelines or direct them in concrete directions with titles/descriptions.

Have you ever had difficulties working with the people in front of the camera? I can imagine that communication technology can be difficult at times.

Fortunately it hasn’t been really disastrous for me yet, with hands and feet you can always communicate somehow and remove language barriers, haha. The art lies above all in building up a trust with the people in front of the camera in some way, so that they feel comfortable during the shooting. This warm-up phase sometimes takes longer and sometimes shorter, but so far it has always turned out quite well.

You now had some projects with different magazines and brands. How does the collaboration work there? Can you live your art freely or are you rather limited?

When working on projects for magazines, I have always been able to work very freely and implement my ideas. With jobs for clients I sometimes have to adapt to a certain extent, but I don’t mind that. There it is primarily about the wishes of the customer and not about my “art”. For that I have my free projects in which I can let off steam.

Before a shooting – do you have an exact plan of what you want and how it should all be done? Are you already 100% prepared or does a lot happen spontaneously?

With me, it’s pretty balanced. I often already have pictures in my head that I absolutely want to realize, but just as much happens spontaneously and from the situation. Sometimes my ideas can’t be implemented completely, that you always have to improvise a bit anyway. But basically I like the interplay of static/strict compositions and spontaneous, light movements very much.

How would you describe your art, your way of shooting pictures?

It’s difficult to judge this for myself, but fashion is definitely a big part of my photography, but it doesn’t fit 100% into the classic commercial track for me, even though my photography is mainly always very staged.

Your pictures give off a very chilled and calm vibe. Each picture seems to have a little touch, something that stands out, but not too much, so it can still harmonize with the other components. At least that’s what I personally noticed. Would you say that your way of taking pictures is in line with your actual character? So that your pictures reflect your personality to a certain extent?

Yeah, I think they go hand in hand. I am generally a quiet person, although I often don’t look like one on the outside. I’m a kind of introverted extrovert, I think that could fit my pictures quite well.

What are your plans for the next few years? What do you want to achieve?

In about one year I would like to finish my studies and then go abroad to assist other international photographers and learn a lot more. The rest I will let you come to me.

What else can you give to budding artists and especially photographers?

Photography is a craft and for me it has mainly to do with practice. You can know everything about the theory/technique, but if you don’t know how to use it “right” for your purposes, it won’t get you anywhere. Technique should only be an accessory, because in the end the best photographs are created out of a feeling and intuition, the urge to catch and capture moments. That’s why I find it incredibly important to take a lot of pictures myself, no matter what, no matter where and no matter whether with a mobile phone or a reflex camera. It’s all about gaining your own experiences and training and educating your eye to find your “style” and “voice” in photography.