Interview with Birgit Krippner
Published on October 13, 2013
Birgit Krippner is originally from Linz, Austria and currently lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand. She is a master photographer, who has shot Corporate and Family Portraits, Weddings, Landscapes and Travel images. Her specialty is in the use of Leica cameras and high speed lenses to capture candid images in natural light without the use of a flash. Her images have been exhibited and sold in galleries around the world. And have been featured in the TV3 programme “Nightline” as well as periodicals such as “Metro Magazine”, “BSC News”, Air New Zealand’s “Kia Ora” and “Art Forum.”
Birgit Krippner is also a Premium Photo Competition Judge with the I-Shot-It online photo competition site.
Birgit Krippner used to be a Nikon D700 shooter, but then on September 12, 2009 - decided to give the M9 a shot along with an Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH and Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH... A week later the Nikon was sold! Today she shoots with a Leica M (Type 240) camera and 1965 Summicron 50mm f/2 "rigid" lens - complete with Barton 1972 camera strap:
You have a masters in graphic design, would you say it has an influence on your photography and if so, why?
Birgit: I became a graphic designer, since I've been a visual person from young age on. It's hard to say what would be different, if I would have chosen a different career instead of graphic design - how my photos would be different now.
At times I wonder, how much influence graphic design has for me as a photographer - or better, how much influence photography used to have for me as a graphic designer. I guess that the bottom line is being a visual person. Graphic design never was my passion - and photography always has been!
Do you consider black & white photography a trend or a timeless art form?
Birgit: I see black & white photography as a timeless art form, but not saying, that every black and white photo is art. Photography started with black & white and later colour was introduced. I do see some people/photographers using all sorts of filters, apps and alterations to modify a black & white image in post processing - I don't see this as timeless, nor art.
You are a world renowned photo competition judge, what makes a good picture?
Birgit: Besides of all the rules there are, which makes a good photo - at times I see an image that shows something different, or even breaks the rules. This image can be genius (in my opinion). It is difficult to put into words what makes a good picture. Ultimately a good photo is a personnel thing that moves you emotionally and/or intellectually.
The name Birgit Krippner is synonymous with Leica , how did the Leica M camera influence your photography and did the fact that you are a “Leica shooter" open any doors for you?
Birgit: When I changed from Nikon to Leica, first of all I had to take a deep breathe. I felt a bit lost for the first couple of days, which was not a bad thing. It made me really confront this new tool and its potential. And after a week time I felt so comfortable with the camera. I am not sure how much Leica M influenced my photography - but one thing that did and still does is time. To have the camera with me in many different situations and to shoot almost every day. Some days I force myself to leave the camera at home, just so I can be more social and enjoy my friends and conversations, without always looking around and feeling photo opportunities.
Shortly after I got my first Leica M, I designed myself a website. This website connected me with many people around the world and shortly after, I was approached by the Leica store in Paris to have an exhibition. From then on, one positive situation lead to another…
Give us a peek inside your camera bag, your favorite lens and how do you use it?
Birgit: Not that much in my camera bag. My most used lenses are a Summilux 50mm f/1.4 Asph and a Summicron 50mm f/2, which I only recently purchased in mint condition from 1965. I also have an Elmarit 28mm f/2.8 whenever I need a wider angle. All my lenses have a UV filter on them to protect the glass. Then you'll find a Leica EVF external viewfinder in my bag, which I don't use so much but it is helpful in low light situations. I also have a few microfiber lens cleaning cloths in my bag which I use all the time. A little notebook and my fountain pen, as well as some chewing gum you'll find in this bag too. And yes, a spare battery and a spare SandDisk Extreme Pro 64GB SD card. Most of my photos I shoot with aperture wide open and with manual exposure. Especially manual exposure, when the light is challenging or tricky. A high percentage of my images I convert to Black and White.
Did you ever experience a moment in photography where everything just fell into place and you knew this is as good as it gets?
Birgit: Yes I did and I do. For example some years ago when I was in New York, I visited a store named Dean & DeLuca. I noticed two men - very different in appearance from each other. One, a hasidic jewish man, the other looked like a traditional italian man, both with a lot of character. I followed them around and just when I exited the store, both men sat next to each other at the window inside the store. I photographed them through the window and knew, that I got the shot what I was hoping for. When this happens, it's one of the most fulfilling moments.
Tell us more about your book project and other projects you are currently working on.
Birgit: 'Private View'. Private View is a photo book project which will comprise of contemporary and emerging New Zealand artists, gallery owners and curators in their private lives. It is a visual story of the people behind the art, a personal view which captures what would appear to be an entire world in a millisecond moment. Private View was born in June 2011. Over the course of more than two years, I had the privilege of working with approx. forty five of New Zealand’s most well established names in the art world, as well as some of our best and brightest emerging talent. My vision for this project is to preserve this time, this slice of New Zealand’s art history – the now, for future generations.
Another project I've been working on for some months, is 'Creating Opportunities'. Billy Graham, a former national boxing champion of New Zealand has devote his life to boys, who entered this world with nothing; being hungry, no self-belief, little hope. Back in 2006, Billy converted a Salvation Army Hall in the suburb of Naenae into what is now known as a hugely successful boxing academy. Billy’s emphasis is not on creating champion boxers. It is on giving the young men of one of the worst areas in New Zealand a future, a focus and something to believe in. I've been visiting Billy and the boys many time and photographed them. This project is still on going with an open and unknown ending.
Favorite places you have been to and what you like to visit in the future?
Birgit: I am not such a big friend of favourites. Almost any place can be special, depending on the situation. Saying so, a wonderful mystical place in New Zealand, which is called Rotorua definitely has the wow- factor.. There are mud pools and geysers which erupt daily, and the light is just wonderful and moody. Also the New Yorker and Berliner subway have a great feel to them. Would love to be in New York in the next couple of years again. Taking the Orient Express Train one day would be a dream to come true.
Please share with us one of the best tips you received regarding photography.
Birgit: Many years ago, a photographer friend made me aware, of always holding a camera in a way, that horizontal and vertical lines in images are going to be straight. For many years I followed this advice. Now I'm at a point to say, that you need to know and understand the rules of photography. Then it is up to you how to use them and only then you can break them.
Where can we look at photos and follow your career?
Birgit: In November, my project 'Private View', photographs of New Zealand artists and art dealers, is going to be exhibited at Melanie Roger Gallery in Auckland. My work can also be viewed on my website. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ and of course, you can simply send me an email as well.
Thank you so much for your time!
Below are some samples of her photography, covering several projects - including the people, water and land, with passion, unexpected, and creating opportunities. You can see more on her website.