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Boy, he knows what he does! Denny Walentin (born 1988) actually grew up in a Village in Northern Germany, but his Photoart could not be more urban or artistic.
When I flipped trough his Portfolio, I really thought I had a Lookbook from a great Fashionlabel in front of me.
So artful, so well staged, so Zeitgeist.
By the way, he learned at the Photo+Medien Forum in Kiel. I’m pretty sure there is still a lot coming.
Denny you are such a strange creature, but in a good way. You have so much depth and so much heart. Chatting with you I've learned a great deal about your background and the things that make you you. Tell me what made you go into Photography and about your amazing aprenticeship at the renowned LBS PHOTO+MEDIEN in Kiel, Germany.
Thank you so much for those kind words, thank you! If I was half as good as you describe me, I would be very thankful. I’d love to tell you more about me and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to give this interview, I’m a huge fan!
The Story how I came to Photography is strange somehow. Well let me tell you this: You know those books in the US, in wich kids write in some nice words for their friends so they can remember them later? You also have questions for the friends in there like what kinda pets they like, what they love to eat and so on and so on. So about a year ago I found the book from my sister, I wrote in there when I was about ten and after the question wich job id love to do when im a grown-up, I wrote: Photographer. That’s really funny. I took Photos my whole childhood long, since my dad gave me my first camera when I was about nine or ten I even have some amazing funny photographs with my siblings in front of a blue backround that I made from rubbishbags, I tried to have my own little fashion shoot with them and I was not even in my teens then. But then again I have to admit, that when I grew up I never really thought about the option of becoming a Photographer. I’m not sure why so, but maybe I thought of it like becoming a rockstar and maybe I wasn’t so false with that… Its hard! So after I finished shool I thought of becoming a cook, because I love good food and lots of other things and when I searched in the web for oprtunities for me and my future I suddenly saw a commercial for the apprenticeship I made. I was shocked, because it was like someone giving you a slap. OF COURSE! That’s what I wanted to do. So I made everything to make that happen and also my boyfriend was a huge help back then, we already knew each other. So they gave me a chance and I had a hard but also wonderful time while doing the studies for three years. The School is really good and original in their way to teach.
What kind of photography do you shoot and talk to me about the idea and craft behind it.
I shoot portaits, because im faczinated by people. I love watching them, I’m a voyeur somehow. And I love to show fantasies with them. Because the most thing we fantasie about is us and other humas, right? In my case its like that. Inspiration goes it ways, litereature, media, whatever it might be, we get inspired in every second and of course that affects my work.
Talk to me about your boyfriend whom you adore.
My boyfriend is the smartest person I know. Sometimes I think he might know everything, wich is of course not true, but he has a wide horizon and I love that. He also has a wonderful sense of humor. In my opinion that’s very important, he makes me laugh. What more can you ask for? Of course he’s a sexy beast, but that’s another story. “laughing”
You are very patriotic about Europe. What are some things that make you proud?
No, I wouldn’t say I’m patriotic, I don’t like patriotism, you cant be proud of something others did. I would say I like it here. I like the mentality of the people, the art, the culture. I feel home. I like how open we are about sexuality, about art and everything that has to do with that.
Your parents met at a carnival; Your father was Turkish and your mother German. She was 14 and he was 19. Tell me about that love story.
Wel I actually don’t know much about it, what I know, is that they we’re truly in love at that time. I know that because I found some old letters from my mother to my father, she wrote him those when he went back to turkey to go to the army. It was beautiful reading it, very romantic.
You grew up in North Germany, near Kiel...right next to Denmark. Tell me about your upbringing.
Well in the north of Germany theres not that much after Hamburg really. Of course we have some citites and everything but its mostly countryside and the both coasts, the north and the Baltic sea, so its pretty much about the water. There are a lot of havens and beaches nand its very green in summer. Its quit and wonderful to grow up like that as a child, but later when you grow up it can get kinda boring, it did for me. I always wanted to see the cities of the world, I wanted to live at a place like Berlin. I always wanted that and I still love it.
I've never been to Germany. How is it being Gay and German; and also, what are the differences and similarities with American and German life?
I think being gay in Germany is much easier as in most countries. We had a strong sexual revolution in the sixties and the people are much more open minded than in many other states. Our secretary of state is openly gay, the mayor of berlin is and so on and so on. Its fine for most people. Of course, if you live in a small village in Bavaria it could be very hard, but sometimes I think everyone here in berlin is gay.
I have never been to America yet, sadly. So for that reason I can not really tell you much about the differences and similarities, but I think americans are way more patriotic and religious than people here.
We both share a love of the French Cinema. Such a uniquely apt society and the way they view film is much different than German or American. Name a few movies you love that are French and why.
I agree with that very much. I think French cinema is not lying, that the reason I love it. It shows life as it is, not how we would love it to be. One movie I count as one of my favorite movies is The Dreamers. It has something magical in it, something forbidden,very intimate, I would say watch that movie to everyone I know who haven’t already. And I think Chanson d’amour is wonderful for it bitterness, the beautiful music in it and the funny and sexy moments. And of course im a huge fan of les fabuleux destin d'amelie poulain, this movie is legendary and it should be a rule to watch it. Amazing!
You say that photography for you is Art, Reality, A Dream, Sex, Slavery, Everything. Talk to me about that.
Photography can be everything, that is so wonderful about it. It can be a documentary about life, but it can also become a piece of art, not only if you stage it. You can speak to people or you can just show something, I like that fact. Sex of course, because we are pretty much oversexed in the western society, Photographs play a big role here and surely that is a big point in our lifes. And it can be slavery, when you cant stop looking, if it faczinates you so much, that you cant look away.
What does Denny do on his down time?
I read a lot and I watch a lot of movies, mostly I dream about whatever. Life, death. I would say im a pretty boring person who always dreams about changing that.
Your photography is quite exquisite and enigmatic, mostly black and white. What are you thinking and what goes into a shoot?
Everything I am and want to be, everything I have seen and dreamt about. Black and white gives you the opportunity to reduce it on the very important, the person.
Can you tell me what goes on when you shoot your models? It must be a spiritual revelation.
I don’t know if its spiritual but its very intimate, vey close, both, the photographer and the model give and take and then something magical happens.
Name 5 things people don't know about Denny?
1. I’m lazy until I get concerned
2. I had a twin, that was never born
3. I’m always concerned too much about lot of things
4. I wake up in the night to eat and have a cigarette
5. I melt away when I hear French accent
What's your favorite curse word?
In german? ;) Well I take the universal English one: FUCK!
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 15 year old you?
Make more sports!
A still young but already matured Photographer. We could meet in Berlin, where he lives by choice and ask him about his Passion and Job: The Photoart.
How important is Glamour in your work?
Actually not that much. But i think everyone hast he right to get staged in a positive, beautiful way. When glamour is what comes out then, well even better!
What makes a Picture sexy for you?
The atmosphere of the Photograph. When the viewer fells directely addressed or even seduced.
And what makes a model sexy?
A model should have something special. Beautiful lips, beautiful Eyes, exciting Charisma or even some spots. Not perfect, interesting. Its great when a model associats me with something or remembers me on something. Then the Inspiration comes.
Are many models vain?
After my Experience yet not really. The women and men are often very sporty, but not vein. Many of the models I know just wear comfortable clothes in their freetime . I think the distance to that comes mainly trough work.
How do you plan a Shooting?
Hm, sometimes i have an idea and search a model afterwards. Sometimes I see a model or someone else and then the idea comes. Then I have to see if everyone is open enough. Then we have the pracitical things like technique e.t.c.
Who helps you?
Thats always different. Sometimes only me, sometimes with Stylists, sometimes with Make-up Artists, Colleagues or friends as Assistants.
How hard is it to live from that?
Actually not that easy. But i hope that i can in the near future. For that I need interested People of course.
What are your plans for 2013?
Many Shootings, many Photographs and that I can fulfill more of my dreams. More provocative things.
What is provocative for you?
Mapplethorpe showed that a Photograph of a Vagina or an Errection has not to be dirty. I think so too. But for sure this is provocative. Also those kinda Photographs is what i want to do.
But also everything can be provocative, when you ask questions with Photographs for example.
•Interview: Michael Rädel/ Blu Magazine
We caught up with photographer and artist DENNY WALENTIN as we discuss his inspirations, how he feels about the female image, strength and empowerment, and how a nifty quote from Helmut Newton taught him to keep his trade secrets to himself... as always we've got you covered, dig in!
What inspired you to create this series of photographs?
Inspiration goes it ways. We don’t always know wich ways it took, before it comes to our mind, do we? Its literature, media, music. Could be everything. And of course the own desires, fantasies and thoughts.
Why the emphasis on 'The Visitor'? Is there a moment in your past that has influenced you to focus on this aspect?
I wanted to show the visitor as a male vamp. I’m, very inspired by confident, sexual men, even aggressive in their way to seduce. I like the gay male from the eighties, this trashy, dirty thing who might get everyone, even straight guys and who is not afraid to kiss a girl. He does not really care, but about himself. That’s sexy!
In what way for you does a woman inviting a man to take part in a threesome, with herself and her partner, create a symbol of empowerment?
I think, even though times have changed, women who claim their sexual fantasies, wishes and desires are still dirty somehow. I hate that fact. I wanted to provoke by showing a strong female fulfilling her dreams, even if society is not okay with that. If that woman seduces her boyfriend to invite a third one in their bed, this woman creates a symbol of empowerment on her own.
Do you find that a woman's sexuality and her character of strength walk hand-in-hand?
That’s an interesting question. First I wanted to write yes, but then again I think of the borders of society and I ask myself if a strong woman, strong in every aspect of her life, is also strong in that case. Of course she might be more the person, that tells what she wants, but how far will she really go? I ask that, because I know women who say what they need, but who are clearly not satisfied in their sexuality. Maybe that’s because we still want women to be the submissive part.
Do you feel more needs to be done to empower the female image?
Many Feminists I like a lot, like Alice Schwarzer did a lot for the empowerment of women. I’m not a woman, nor a feminist, but I am a photographer that loves women and as that person I would say, yes there still a long way to go. There is a huge part missing in feminism in my opinion: There’s the sexuality. I mean the strong, sexy, even naked woman who might be like that not to be an eyecandy for men or the slave of media, but who is just like that for herself and no one else, for herself to be powerful, for confidence, even might.
In your personal work, you beautifully capture the male physique - perhaps we could even say you portray the male form in a female light. Is this something you intended to do?
Absolutely not. That’s very important for me to say that I never intended that and I really think that its not that way. Female light is nothing but the opportunity to show a woman sensual, sexy, close and soft. A man is just like that and we are allowed to show that, that’s what I try to do. There is only a picture or an expectation of man we have. You don’t simply are a man, you only become one, because society tells you how to be. But men are just as sensual, emotional and soft as every women. And woman are just as strong. We have to forget old clichés and for that we have to show the people just like that.
Do you find Berlin is an emblem of your work? As a city it has the reputation of being a place with no boundaries.
I don’t know how much I cross boundaries in my work. Actually I don’t think I do that at all, I’m not sure. But one thing is for sure: I hate them. So of course I feel very comfortable in a city like this, wich has a very easy mentality and that is as open as berlin, but I’m very sure I could live and work in other places as well and I’m also really interested in that. For now it feels good living here and you can feel the creativity everywhere wich is for sure a good thing for people in media.
What do you look for when choosing your models?
That’s more intuitive. When I ask myself why I choose someone afterwards, I often see how their look has something special to me, something interesting or what reminds me of anything from my past. Like the way I imagined someone from a good book.
Do you intend to become 'The Visitor' yourself and take your work to other cities?
I’d love that. There are so many places on my list, I’ve already visited or I’d like to be the Visitor to in the future. There is London, New York, Rome and I love Paris a lot, since I’ve been there as a child the first time.
Finally, what camera do you trust to perfectly portray your ideas and imagination?
You know, id like to tell a little Story I heardt once: Helmut Newton visited a Restaurant and as we know, he was famous already in his lifetime. So the Cook came personally to him to show his respect. He asked Mr. Newton wich camera he uses and Newton answered: Wich pot do you use?
I think that’s everything there is to say about this. Of course I’m not Helmut Newton, but that’s a good point he made.