25 Questions for Zurich-Based Photographer Christoph Köstlin

I had the pleasure of being introduced to Christoph Köstlin when he ran an editorial of mine in his fashion magazine Fine Taste. Unfortunately, he is no longer able to manage the demands of his growing photography business and run a magazine, but he still sends me his email blast and I have enjoyed being updated on his work. I really love his eye! After receiving an email from him the other day with some of his recent work, I reached out to him and asked him if he would mind answering The 25 for us here at Breed! So, without further delay, please meet Christoph Köstlin.

1. At what age did you become interested in photography?

There was no specific point in time, so to speak. A friend of mine had one of the first digital cameras, which was just nice to experiment with. I guess I was around 18/19 when I first started shooting with that camera.

2. Why did you decide to become a fashion photographer?

Fashion photography, from my point of view at least, comes more from a story-telling perspective. I’m not really interested in the fabrics, the brands, and the fashion, per se. It’s the story and background in those productions that I’m interested in. Usually, when I shoot, I try to put the model into a setting, for example, a desert, or I’ll build a scene, “invent“ a story around the fashion and move around in it…not just show plain clothes. That’s what fascinates me in fashion photography.

3. Did you go to college for photography?

No, I did a 3 year educational training with a professional photographer in a small photo studio in Cologne, Germany. It was very practical training in the end.

4. How did you start your career and what were some of the hurdles you encountered in the beginning?

I started to build my portfolio in my free time while working full-time as an employee. After months of building, networking, and testing, a few jobs came in and continued to do so. Eventually, I had to have more time to take and perform them, which lead to the biggest hurdle: finding the courage to give up safety (in form of quitting my job) and trying it on my own.

5. Do you remember your very first fashion shoot?

Yes, I just had someone for hair/makeup. The model brought the clothes…. a normal “test-shoot“ so to speak.

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6. Do you remember your first job?

Depends on how you define “job“. I’m pretty sure it was my own fashion-project with styling and concept, which I then sold to a magazine, earning my first “own“ money as a self-employed photographer. My first real job-inquiry: I have no idea, but I think it was a magazine-planned editorial as well.

7. Have you traveled much throughout your career and if so, what are you some of your favorite locations that you’ve shot in?

Oh yes, I’ve traveled quite a lot, although the farther and more exotic places have been “private“, which means I traveled to shoot my own fashion-projects there. Namibia was certainly one of the favorites. Because it was very hard to get to… You have to fly to Cape Town, then to Windhoek, then drive 4 hours, then 1 hour, then go with a jeep half an hour, then you walk half an hour through the desert and then you are there. A lot of effort production-wise, but it was well worth it because the location is very magical and just stunning!

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8. Who was your favorite photographer when you were young?

Vincent Peters. He has a great style.

9. Were your parents supportive? Were they artistic?

Supportive in my decisions for sure. Artistic not so much, although my father enjoys landscape-photography as a hobby.

10. What kind of DSLR do you shoot with?

I shoot with Nikon D4. Occasionally with a Hasselblad H4D, depending on the job.

11. What kind of skills do you need, outside of being really talented at shooting, to make it in this industry?

You have to have the ability to “sell“ yourself to potential clients business-wise and convince them that you are the best photographer of all. Something which I honestly hate, because there are a lot of photographers out there who can talk much much better than they take photos. The sad part is: it works! As for me: I’m very calm and simply glad if people like my work. I don’t aggressively push myself into people’s lives unless they have a genuine interest in my work in the first place. Hopefully creativity will win over time and that’s all I will say about that.

12. What is your proudest moment so far?

Actually I’m proud all the time for making a living out of my profession and to try it on my own with my own work in the world. Something, which I never would have dared even four years ago. People might have different perspectives on that but again: this step actually took a lot of courage for me and it still does.

Additionally, my “archive“ on my homepage does a pretty good job of showing how proud I can be to do this job.

13. What is your favorite photograph, ever?

Your own esthetics are always changing, same goes for your perception of beauty. Therefore I don’t have a static favorite. Music might be a good example for that 🙂

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14. Do you belong to any photography associations or groups?

No.

15. What have been some of the obstacles or challenges you have faced in your career?

Dealing with bad business partners would be the only one so far, and that alone was worth not easily trusting anybody for the rest of my life 🙂

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16. If you weren’t a fashion photographer, what would you be?

I actually have no idea. Something practical, hands-on stuff for sure.

17. How do you get inspired? What are some of the things you do to get inspired?

I would say the location.

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18. How do you market yourself to clients?

I don’t really do that as much as I should to be honest. I just send a newsletter to show people my latest work. Otherwise, again, I’m not into “talking myself up“ for the sake of business.

19. Do you have an agent?

No, hinting to question #15.

20. What has been the worst job you’ve ever shot?

I don’t really get weddings, if you know what I mean 🙂 Something which I had to do when I was employed.

21. Is it really as glamorous as the media makes it out to be?

I’m not really sure about fashion photographers but I think the media shows a glamorous version of being a model. As in every job there are negative sides, which the media doesn’t expand upon. Long hours, often working for no money, huge competition, constant stress and pressure regarding your physical appearance, annoying photographers and clients are some of the points.

22. What advice would you give to a young photographer who is just starting out?

You have to be careful with social media in my mind, because it’s very easy to be successful on there even if your actual creative output is not.

23. Who do you love shooting most, men or women?

Probably men, because it just feels easier in my mind. Unfortunately it’s not that common than shooting fashion for women.

24. Are you working on anything at the moment either for yourself or for a client that you’re really inspired by?

Yes, it’s in its early stage but an idea is getting formed where I’m trying to find a team to work on this with. Again, it’s with a male model and a nice location.

25 Beatles or Stones?

To see more of Christoph’s work, please visit his website.

Melissa Rodwell