It was less than three years ago that Sandro Bäbler from Glarus became a freelance photographer. In the meantime this 28-year-old has become much sought-after. He regularly receives assignments from well-known magazines and fashion companies, and has even photographed Harrison Ford. At “photo14” he presented his latest work: the agent trailer “Advantage” with its photo gallery. He revealed to persoenlich.com why he prefers photographing men to women, and why it is becoming ever more important for a photographer to be able to produce short films.
Mr. Bäbler, at “photo12″ you presented your work for the first time, and now you are exhibiting again, what is the significance of this event for you?
In 2012 I had just started as a freelance photographer. At that time it was the perfect platform at which to make people aware of me. At this event you reached many more people than with a small-scale, solo exhibition. In addition I was able to make a lot of contacts. In the course of the year there were frequent concrete enquiries from people who had seen my photos at the show.
You have only been a photographer for about two-and-a-half years, and were then an absolute newcomer. Now you work for customers like Swarovski and have even photographed Harrison Ford. In a very short time you have achieved what others spend years dreaming about. How do you explain your success?
My recipe for success is impatience. When I have an idea, I put it into practice. If I want to go to Paris, then I don’t delay, just go. I have more or less lived there since March and make portraits for various magazines. In Cape Town too, where I now work regularly, I had the opportunity to work for the magazines “Elle”, “GQ” and “Men’s Health”. An agent I did not know previously asked me. She thought the way I photograph would suit Cape Town well. Another photographer had recommended me. Here the human factor plays an important role. If you make a sympathetic impression, you are more likely to be recommended and so become successful.
You taught yourself photography, do expensive photographic training and courses help at all?
Whether training brings the required results depends on the type of person. During my architecture studies I noticed that I was simply not interested in having to acquire knowledge that, later, I would never use. Some people enjoy listening and like to take time with their projects. For them a formal education is the right way. I am not saying that my way is the best and only true path. However many young, creative people could manage it just like I did, but do not dare to try. They are forced into a predefined structure much too early. This includes that they must first have a formal training. Anyone who wants to deviate from the classical route is often made to feel insecure. That happened to me too. I did not know whether I would be able to make ends meet.
Good cue: many freelance photographers can barely make a living from their work, but you seem to be quite well off.
Yes. I can live well from my work, and that was the case from the start. To begin with the trouble was that the orders came very irregularly. At one point I received not a single mail for two months, and then suddenly everything happened at once. You have to learn to deal with this, and to use such periods to freshen up your portfolio. I enjoy being free and being able to decide for myself what I want to do.
And your current work, which you are showing at “photo14”, you produced without a client. It brings to mind a spy thriller à la James Bond.
That’s right. At some point I would like to make photos for film posters. I produced this work as a way of approaching the subject. It is not pure portrait work, but a fictional story I wanted to tell. Because the setting anyway looked like a film, I decided to make a short film at the same time. The concept is mine, and my cousin was the cameraman. The actor in the trailer came from Paris. This was an expensive project for which I organised everything myself and paid for it out of my own pocket. There were more than ten people involved. I had to fly the actor in from Portugal, because he was on holiday there at the time, and of course for such a project you need the right weather. With this spy-film trailer I want to show what I would be capable of if I had the chance. I have learnt a lot and now want to extend my education in the film sector.
Why is it important for you as a photographer to also be able to produce films?
When I show my portfolio to advertising agencies, I am often asked whether I could also produce short films. Thanks to the Internet and the technical development of cameras, which nowadays can all take films, the two disciplines are coalescing. That is what’s required today. With this project I want to show that I can make films, or at least that I have a team I can offer for making a longer film. The client will not engage two different teams, because the photos and the associated films have to be made in the same style, and anyway it would be too expensive. I hope of course that by presenting my work at “photo 14” there will be more enquiries and for a wider range of services.
Up to now you photograph mostly people, and predominantly men, why this preference for the “less beautiful sex”?
You really can show men in less beautiful situations. Women want to look good and pretty in pictures. When men have some rough edges, they accept it, even when their face does not correspond to the ideal. As a photographer I want to illustrate reality. Many women don’t want that. I like to show people with character, people who you can see have experienced something.
Which shooting is the one that you will always remember?
The one with Harrison Ford. I have never been so nervous as at the moment when I had the opportunity to photograph him for the Zurich Film Festival. However, as soon as I am taking photographs, I forget that I have a celebrity in front of me. The only trouble is that they mostly have bodyguards and minders with them who interrupt and distract.
Who do you unconditionally want to photograph?
There are so many people. I would have loved to photograph Nelson Mandela, I was actually in South Africa when he died. Generally speaking I want to make portraits of people who have done something that is important for mankind.
Interview: Seraina Etter
“photo” is the largest exhibition showing the work of Swiss photographers. Every year over 120 photographers display their current work in five halls at the Maag Areal in Zurich. “photo” provides a representative and up-to-date overview of photographic creativity in Switzerland. Last year the images of, in total, 152 photographers, and the presentations of famous international photographers attracted 17’500 visitors to “photo”. These figures demonstrate that in only eight years it has grown to become the largest show of photographic work in Europe. For further information about the event, please go to photo-schweiz.ch.
You will find more work from Sandro Bäbler at sandrobaebler.com , and he is showing his latest project on advantage-movie.com.
See other posts from Sandro Bäbler: http://news.broncolor.com/?s=sandro