We had the pleasure of catching up with award winning, globe trotting fine art photographer Marius Vieth. He answered our questions, and provided us with some of his stunning work. Enjoy.
SPi: You have inspired many photographers to take up street photography already, how important is it for you to continue inspiring future generations to take up this art?
To this day it puts a huge smile on my face when someone tells me that they started out with street photography because of me. Although I’ve heard it quite a few times now, I still can’t really believe it. Isn’t that crazy? Someone loves your work so much that they decide to embark on their very own street photography journey. If there’s one thing that means the most to me, it’s that. Inspiring others to pour all their eye, heart and soul into their photography is the biggest gift I could ever give and get!
SPi: Out of your portfolio of award winning shots, can you select just one as a favourite? If so which one?
Although “Urban Lights” has won the most awards, my favorite one has to be “Retina”. It means the world to me. Why? After “Urban Lights”, I thought I would never be able to get even close to it again. It taught me a very important lesson though. Don’t aim to recreate exactly what you achieved before, but look for something new and different. Although I wasn’t sure how to do that at first, I simply kept my eyes and heart open for new opportunities and one day I finally created “Retina”. What I love most about “Retina” is not only the highly unique moment and composition, it’s the firm belief that the best photos and moments are always ahead of us!
SPi: What themes do you look for in a photo?
Generally I’m not very fascinated with faces, clothes or other distinct features. That turns me into a rare species in street photography, I guess. I’m simply in love with the synergy of an abstract human being in a certain environment. I even felt bad for shooting that way in the beginning, because it’s generally “frowned upon” to shoot people’s backs. But I always felt it that way and eventually turned it into my style.
SPi: A huge number of people admire your work, and there will always be a very small number of critics. How do you deal with critics?
As long as someone offers me constructive feedback, I’m always very grateful for it! Let me tell you what I think whenever I encounter a street photographer that criticizes with me in a very hateful way and acts all tough. You know what's really tough? Having the will to become better than ever before, hitting the streets even when it's pouring cats and dogs, transforming your weaknesses into strengths, and still finding the motivation and discipline to go out again even though your last five photo walks weren't that successful. With a positive mindset like that you don't even have the time for such unnecessary and pathetic behaviour. Why? Because you are too busy actually taking street photos.
SPi: On a typical day, how many hours do you shoot and what would you define as your success rate?
During my 365 project I was actually out shooting literally every day for a year. That was pure insanity, but the best thing I ever did. Nowadays I’m also taking care of other photography-related projects that I have and want to bring to life. That leaves me less time for shooting unfortunately. But that’s fine, these are just as much part of my photography dream. Of course, I take my cam with me whenever I can, but focus more on dedicated photography trips. While I had a “success rate” in my early days, my perception of it changed. The true success in photography is every little moment you spend taking photos and giving it your all, whether you bring home the golden ones or not!
SPi: What was the biggest challenge you faced when you started street photography? How did you overcome it?
It wasn’t even overcoming my fear of shooting strangers. My biggest challenge was to create street photography that truly felt like my own. What made me feel really insecure in the first 1-2 months of my street journey was the fact that my street photography was in a way different compared to most of the street photos I had seen back then. I had a picture in my mind’s eye of the typical street shots — black and white with lots of things going on in them — and I just couldn’t make those happen. I tried and tried, but it just didn’t feel like my street photography. Eventually I reached my breaking point and said, “You know what Marius, this is your street photography and you can do whatever you think is right!” With this attitude in mind, I began trying to put my personal stamp on my street photography. It felt amazing to take photos the way I felt them, without thinking in terms of genres and rules. I felt as though I had broken my chains for the first time.
SPi: Many of your photographs have a cinematic quality, including the slightly elongated ‘letterbox’ frame. What attracts you to this format?
My cropping is the reflection of how I "feel" my moments. To me the world around me is a stage and since I'm highly fascinated with atmospheres it already feels like a movie to me. Why not portray it in a very cinematic way then? If I had to do it in a rather classical 4:3 format, for instance, it wouldn't feel like "my" street photography. I never really cared much for conventions, certain dogmas, or how other people produce their street photography. Once you go down that path beyond getting a little inspiration you'll find yourself creating what everyone else does. Street photography is art and your deepest source of inspiration and guidance should always be your inner creative child, at least that's how I see it.
SPi: You travel a lot, what has been your favourite place to take photos?
Although I’ve travelled around the world, I must admit that I’ve taken the most beautiful photos in the ugliest of all places. Sometimes true beauty lies hidden between grey buildings and creepy alleys. However, I loved shooting in Seoul in South-Korea. Such a vivid city with so many beautiful places and really kind people. I’ve learned that no matter where I go, you’re having a great time as long as you’re open-minded, nice and have a smile on your face.
SPi: In Broken Amsterdam your lens gave the subjects anonymity, was this your original intention when going to do this work and if so, how did you plan to achieve it?
My classic signature shows anonymous human elements for 99% of the time. I somehow always wanted to take close-up photos of people, however, I never wanted to show their faces. I loved the idea of doing it in a very abstract way though. With the “Broken” series I’m giving the viewers an abstract idea of the person, but most of it is still left to their imagination. I simply love that! Although this is a key element of my “broken” signature, the more important intention of the set was to show how you can “develop your negatives” and turn bad moments into great photos. For those who don’t know the story: my precious 1600$ L-lens fell to the ground, it couldn’t focus at all anymore, I looked on the bright side, fell in love with the blurry look and created a whole set with it.
SPi: Getting out and taking photos is one way to improve your photography. What other publications, media, or literature helped you on your photography journey?
This may sound very strange and even egocentric, but I rarely read or looked at anything street photography related back then. Wherever I did research for street photography, it pretty much recommended the opposite of what I did. It simply made me feel insecure. That’s when I decided to just do it my way and do what I shouldn’t do. That’s how I developed my minimalist style with the rather abstract human element. Funny how this “mistake” turned into my signature in the end, isn’t it? If you’re just starting out with street photography, it’s absolutely fine to educate yourself though. As long as there aren’t too many rules and dogmas, it’s very healthy actually. I hereby officially invite you to check out my website, YouTube Channel, and free street photography e-book. It teaches you a lot about street photography while still encouraging you to create your very own interpretation of it. Never forget: At the end of the day, your are holding the pen of your very own street photography story!
SPi: Thank you, Marius!