Member Showcase: Marco Ribbe
I met Marco Ribbe through Facebook, and even though we have never met in person, we became fast friends because I love his energy! I’ve gotten to see Marco’s work through Instagram and Facebook and I’m always impressed with how strong and sensual his work is. I reached out to ask him if we could showcase him this month for our Breed’s Member Showcase! I’m so proud that we have such talented photographers as our Breed Members!
1. How old were you when you became interested in fashion photography? What was the inspiration behind it? Did you see a photographer’s work, or what got you interested in it in the first place?
I learned classic analog photography in school when I was around 18. Mostly basic theory and processing in the lab, as we had neither models nor fashion in school, nor an elaborate studio or lighting system. But there were books. Newton, Avedon, Lindbergh etc. It sounds almost cliche, but you need to remind yourself that it wasn’t the digital age back then. There were no social networks and no Internet. You didn’t come across a lot of media that easily. All we had was MTV and a few famous books and magazines about the real kings of their class. Those were handed around like treasure. I remember admiring Lindbergh’s shots of Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer, analyzing them to bits. Of course, that wasn’t something we could reproduce back then, but it struck deep.
2. When did you decide “okay, this is it, I’m going to start shooting fashion photography! Who were some of your mentors or inspirations when you got started?
For whatever stupid reason I decided to pursue a career in IT after school, software development in particular. This quickly transformed into things like website design and later print and film advertisement with the occasional customer asking for media production. Just simple jobs like portraiture or architectural photography. However, we all know that at some point the dotcom bubble burst and my agency went out of business. Luckily I had developed a weird interested in historic costumes and was already part of a reenactment group regularly organizing renaissance fairs, so I became a retailer for costumes and alternative fashion, which I still am to this day. In need of high-quality product photos, I started to pursue photography again, got my first professional lighting equipment and built my first studio. From there on I was shooting every day, thousands of clothes and costumes, developing my own style to set me apart from the competition.
3. What steps did you take to start shooting? Did you use your friends as models, or how did you start out?
Hell yeah! There weren’t such things as modeling communities or online modeling agencies where you could hire models on a budget. We started casting friends, co-workers and customers, people from the street. I even remember modeling myself occasionally. Thank god those pics are long gone now. But you’d be surprised how many beautiful faces we could find, and how easily it served our needs back then. Today, of course, things are very different. Demands have changed, we improve and always aspire more and more perfection. Great photography is everywhere, everyone has a superb camera, everybody is a photographer and even cellphones make astonishingly professional looking shots. You simply can’t use friends, amateur or alternative models anymore to stand out from the masses if I want to maintain a decent portfolio.
4. How do you communicate with the team you’re working with on a shoot to achieve your goals? Do you create mood boards?
Most shootings are planned online in advance, we use services like Pinterest to gather ideas, moods, and inspiration and then move to Evernote for planning. Moodboards are sometimes done in Illustrator or Photoshop, but most of the time we just print out everything relevant and stick it to a huge flipchart when we talk through the shoot. I always choose a team that is on the same page. At the time of photography, everyone already has a distinct plan in their head and I honestly don’t recall a time when things didn’t turn out as planned. We always worry, but we never disappoint. Knocking on wood here.
5. What skills do you think you’ve learned from the past that help you today? How would you rate your photography from 1 year ago to today?
Today I constantly try different styles and looks, whereas I would use the same lighting setup over and over again in the past. Now I often change lighting approaches, also over the past year we came across a lot of new equipment to work with, e.g. finally usable full spectrum LED lights. With photography, you never stop learning, and creative experiments often give wonderful results, but as much as photography has reinvented and modernized itself, I still think the things I once learned in the photo lab are essential, even if today you don’t have to deal with chemical processing anymore. The understanding of film, optics, light, and color is still crucial. The camera is still always in manual mode. Of course, neat tools come out every day that can make your life easier, or simply drain your purse, but after a while, you end up using your old-school tech again, more wisely and more appreciative than before.
6. What are the three things in your camera bag or photo bag that you can’t live without? Any particular lens you love?
This is a tough one. The most important thing in my camera bag is what I call photographers emergency rations, a little invention of my own. Basically a package much like standard military rations, with a few minor changes. Because let’s face it, no matter what location you have to work at, no one ever remembers to feed the poor guy with the camera. Apart from two full instant meals our emergency rations also contain booze, which you sometimes just need to cope. Considering lenses, the prime 85mm f1.2 is my go-to choice of glass for fashion photography. However, it’s also the heaviest lens in the bag, and I really hate not being able to live without it. And believe you me, I struggle every time I pack. As for the third and probably most useful item in my bag, it would be a magnetic viewfinder hood for the camera display. If you ever tried to look at your shots in bright sunlight, you know why.
7. What have you learned from your early days that you can share with other Breed members who are reading this? Do you have any advice for them?
I’d have to say, as long as you have a good lens and camera, don’t spend your cash on fancy equipment. Train your eye, know your basics and instead try to invest in real proper professional models, a good stylist and an exceptional makeup artist. Don’t work with amateurs to build your portfolio. Don’t do tf work for everyone just to get a few moderate photos. It’s nice to be able to experiment but many times you’ll end up wasting a lot of time fiddling those mediocre shots into something usable in Photoshop. In fact, forget about Photoshop altogether and demand on-set perfection from the people you shoot. Don’t be afraid to reject an offer, if it does you no good. If you still need the training to develop your skills, I’d advise you to attend a really good professional workshop or assist a really good professional fashion photographer to learn from them. Business is very hard and you need to move forward quickly. Oh yes, and don’t waste too much time on social networks to showcase your work. I made this mistake for years, but high-class customers won’t look for you there. Stick to professional business platforms and photography communities like breed, advertise your very own webpage and build a personal network. Another thing I can vouch for is to get at least some basic knowledge of fashion design and the fashion industry if you really want to specialize in fashion photography. I took courses at London College of Fashion, they were an inspirational blast. Not only does it help you to understand the subject you are shooting, it’ll also massively boost your own creativity to a whole new level.
8. Where do you see yourself in 3 years with fashion photography?
Well, there is still lots I can learn and lots to improve. I’m not happy with my portfolio at all. Sadly due to a lot of personal and financial setbacks my enthusiasm with photography has somewhat stalled over the past few months. You can think of this as something like writer's block, also I lost partial eyesight on one eye and have to get occasional injections into my eyeball, no kidding, to stop things from going worse. That really sucks on a whole other level. However, the same few months have given me the opportunity to form new, wonderful friendships with a lot of other fellow photographers which also set the spark for new ideas, including certain shoots and editorials which I always wanted to do and hope to be able to fund in the near future. I'm also still in fashion retail which eats up my time, so the main goal would be to set aside more time for photography and get better-paid jobs. I also really miss traveling to London and the US, and I would love to be able to shoot more abroad again. Really hope to get to work with Melissa one day. Big fan!