capturing & creating | TANJA LIPPERT INTERVIEW & UPCOMING WORKSHOPS
Asiel Design has been in business for well over a decade, and when we find a true talent who’s art represents their heart, we do everything we can to work with them as often as possible. Tanja Lippert of Tanja Lippert Photography, is by far, one of those talents who has not only changed the game of photography, but has also kept it grounded and rooted in the honest magic of the moment. Not only has Tanja been a successful model before her photography career began, but she now uses her experience in front of the camera to create a uniquely beautiful and stunning picture behind the camera. In short, working with Tanja is like working with Magic; the end results are breathtaking and aw-inspiring.
This interview was conducted by Jonathan Asiel, co-owner & styling director of Asiel Design. Although, it is not the most thorough and complete set of questions and answers, it is nonetheless the most extensive discussion yet available with Tanja Lippert about her incredible work in the photography industry – Someday, the rest will be filled in, but in the meantime, it’s a pleasure to present this as a starter.
Tanja, it is such an honor to have you here with us today. To start, you are one of the few photographers who still shoot with film in combination with a lot of natural light. Can you talk about your process and how that effects your photos?
I really love the organic quality of natural light and film. There is an aspect of film that I have not been able to replicate with digital – even the process of shooting during a session is much different. I think that not being able to see the photograph is a blessing not a curse because if forces me to put my attention in front of the camera and into the scene instead of getting hung up on knit picking every little part of a photo. When that happens, you loose the organic, natural ease and energy that can be created only with flow and momentum.
Was this something you experienced as a model?
Yes, it’s interesting because I’ve been on so many sets where everyone is watching the model and there is this electricity, this energy in the air because they are getting this immediate feedback and interaction with the model. But, when there is a computer screen on set, everyone gathers around the screen and the model is usually left on the side and only hears from the clients when it’s not working. I feel like this zaps the energy on set and I do everything I can to keep that “vibe” alive during my shoots.
I feel like it’s my job to create magic on every shoot and honestly, I feel like I do – at least that is my goal. I do think there are times when things come together in a magical way, and part of that, is allowing for the magic to happen. We did a Nautical shoot that was very magical and a lot of that happened because we were able to be flexible with a sense of direction. Sometimes I see pictures in my head and I need to get them out through the photograph, but if I’m too sold on these pictures, and it has to be done a certain way, then it doesn’t leave room for the organic, magical flow of things that could happen naturally – and these can easily turn out to be better than what I saw in my head! I said this earlier, but for me, being flexible with some sense of direction while allowing there to be a magical, natural element, and that could be the “spirit of god”, that can come in and fill in the gaps – That’s the ultimate.
You’ve mentioned the words “Organic” and “Energy” in relation to the process. Would you say that digital is ‘too removed’ from the process?
Definitely! I need to feel like I’m in the moment. Even if I do a digital shoot, I sometimes feel like it messes with my head. I start looking at the photos and start questioning everything. With Film, I’m shooting from my heart and soul. I know there are great digital photographers who don’t experience that feeling, but I’m just not one of them. My goal, is to put myself into my photographs and make sure that I am shooting directly from my heart.
‘Rubber Meets The Road’ is a week long, super intensive photography workshop that I feel like is different than most of the photography workshops out in the world today. I believe photography is an art and we are artists, and I want to help photographers discover their own unique voice and who they are as artists. Anyone can copy somebody else, but it’s really difficult to dig deep and find out who you are as an artist.
Do you feel as though other workshops don’t encourage that kind of artistry?
I feel like there is a pretty strong workshop style where everybody learns how to shoot like everybody else or what the “biggest trend” in photography is at the moment. I don’t like seeing this because it’s all about technique and duplication and not about experiencing and capturing the true magic, passion and energy of the moment – it’s not coming from the heart. To create from the heart is a skill all by itself and that is what I like to teach – how to listen to and take action from your heart and soul.
I think a lot of photographers rely heavily on the model or their subject to get the photo. Hoping that the model will do all the work of expressing the emotion or moving within the frame in such a way that makes the photography feel like something is really happening here.
What I desire in my own photography and what I want to help others get to, is to the level where no matter who the model or subject is, they are able to “pull out” consistently something that is magical – where the photographer becomes the master of the photo and how the model expresses their presence in the photo. This is why I created the Art of Directing workshop. I always say that it’s %100 my responsibility to get what I want from the photo and out of the model.
How do you see these skills that you are offering in your workshops transpire into weddings? Is it the same kind of concept?
Absolutely. Most of my clients are not models! Most of them are terrified of being in front of the camera. My job is to bring out the best in every client that I can, whether they are a model or a bride and groom. I’ve got a personal arsenal of tools that I pull out in any moment in order to meet someone where they are and pull them into a place where they read like a super model on camera. It’s a vulnerable position to be in and it’s my job to meet them wherever they are and pull them to the other side.
What would you say is the biggest difference between doing a photoshoot with a bride and groom or doing a shoot with a professional model?
One of the biggest differences is the amount of time I’m give! [Tanja Laughs] Sometimes, with the bride and groom, I’m given 20 minutes or half an hour and I have to create this magical moment in this time restraint. Considering the circumstances, this can be a challenge because the bride and groom have so much going on in their heads – dealing with families, times lines and the general stress of just being the bride and groom and everybody wanting a piece of them that day. The trick is getting them to be in the moemnt and turning their energy into being a couple in love, which is why they’re getting married in the first place. That’s when you get these moving, beautiful pictures of true love instead of acting love out.
With professional models, it can be a challenge because they do this thing where they “turn on.” [Tanja Laughs] And I know! I used to do it when I modeled. It’s like a personality that kicks in and they start “modeling.” Sometimes, trying to take the ‘model’ out of the model is a difficult task because I like my photos that feel raw and real – and with professional models, they can sometimes feel fake or phony. So it can be a challenge both ways and both have unique challenges.
It sounds like even more so than photography, you’re dealing with people?
Exactly! It’s about human connection and vulnerability.
It is exhausting or exhilarating?
Both I think…and that’s a great way to describe it.
In the industry, whether the photography or wedding industry, what is the biggest shift or change that you’ve seen from when you’ve started now?
Well, it’s funny. Wedding photography used to be really looked down upon in the industry and it was something you did if you were NOT a real photographer, and I feel like that has changed a lot. There has bee a huge shift in the respect that wedding photographers get. Now, there are so many standards to live up to. And, people don’t just want a wedding photographer anymore, they want someone with special skills who can make them look like super models when they’re afraid of being in front of the camera. At the end of the day, my job is make the ordinary look extraordinary.
The other shift is that the weddings have become less about the people and the love and more about being a show – something where they want to impress their guests. It’s about their wedding being “amazing looking.” Sometimes, I feel like this takes president over the reason they are getting married, which is because they are in love and celebrating their union. So for me, I like to do my part to get back to what it is all about – two people celebrating their unconditional love and union with each other.