OBERWERTH ASKS: CARSTEN BOCKERMANN
INTERVIEW WITH CARSTEN BOCKERMANN
Our Brand Ambassador and Oberwerth friend Carsten Bockermann can look back on over four decades of experience behind the camera. In 1976 he discovered his interest in photography. He has been running it with great passion since the early 1990s and has witnessed its change up close over the years. We met with Carsten and chatted a little.
Oberwerth: Hello Carsten, thank you very much for taking the time to tell us a little about over 40 years of photography. At first you don't take photos full-time, but photography is much more than just a hobby for you. Back to the beginning: How did you find photography and where did your enthusiasm for the picture come from?
Carsten Bockermann: I think my fascination for photography began as a little boy. My parents and I couldn't travel very much back then. We saw the world through the eyes of Robert Lebeck, Thomas Höpker and others who published their reports in STERN, for example. Incidentally, I later met Thomas Höpker and told him that he was partly to blame for my passion for photography.
Then in the early 1990s things got more serious. A friend who had lived in the United States for a few years through his job brought me to the attention of the group of photographers around National Geographic Magazine. The offer of photo workshops with well-known photographers was also new to me at the time. Later I went to workshops myself, for example with David Alan Harvey, Alex Webb and William Albert Allard.
Photography is not an end in itself, but a medium for telling stories, and so it became increasingly clear to me during this time what I actually want to photograph and communicate.
Oberwerth: The telling of stories is also a central element of your pictures. How would you describe your photography?
Carsten Bockermann: The focus of my pictures is almost always on people in their environment. At first I found the apparent differences between the cultures of the countries I was traveling to be extremely interesting. Over time, I found the similarities more exciting than the differences. I have the most joy when I manage to capture a universal moment, a situation that is understood all over the world.
Oberwerth: Over the years, photography has taken you to many different places around the world, so you call your pictures a “travel documentary” yourself. Looking back, which story was the most exciting for you? And which country would you describe as an absolute highlight?
Carsten Bockermann: I can't rank them there. I haven't been bored in any country because photography allows me to meet interesting people everywhere. It even works at home in Germany, even if taking photos in familiar surroundings is a challenge of its own.
But exotic countries can also be difficult. In India, for example, I found it very stressful to avoid stereotypes. The visual impressions there are initially overwhelming. You have to concentrate a lot to show what is important to you.
For a few years now, the US state of Montana has been very important to me. In 2011 I attended a workshop there with Willam Albert Allard, who is known for his pictures of the American West. After that, I drove around there for a few days and immediately felt at home. Since then I've been there for at least four weeks every year. In the coming year there will also be an exhibition of my pictures from Montana.
Oberwerth: You are not afraid to leave your comfort zone and travel to countries such as India. In addition to your annual trip across the pond, what project do you have next?
Carsten Bockermann: One topic that is currently moving many people rightly is the disappearance of many animal species, primarily through poaching and the destruction of habitats. But it's not all bad news here. In some regions of Africa, for example, people are discovering that animals are worth protecting and can even bring economic benefits, for example through tourism. I have a project in mind, but can't give you any more details at the moment.
Oberwerth: Africa sounds very exciting and is definitely a very exciting continent. We are curious to see what your project will actually look like. We want to leave the here and now a little and ponder photography in general. As already mentioned, you have been taking photos for over 40 years. How has photography changed over time? And what is your conclusion - positive or negative?
Carsten Bockermann: From my point of view, photography has changed significantly in two respects.
One concerns the technique of recording. I learned to take pictures with film, but I certainly don't mourn it. Digital technology has opened up possibilities that never existed with film, and the image quality is without question superior. On the other hand, the chemical process, especially when using slide film, required a completely different discipline. You had to get everything “right” right from the start, because there was practically no possibility of subsequent correction.
The other aspect is the publication of pictures. Today everyone can make their pictures available to a broad audience. The resulting flood of images does not make it easy for the viewer to find the really interesting photos.
Oberwerth: In addition to photography itself, equipment naturally changes over the years. What was your first camera and which system do you trust today?
Carsten Bockermann: After all, I can say that I have switched to mirrorless cameras for the second time ... (laughs)
My first “real” camera was a Nikkormat FT2, a Nikon SLR. Then other models from this manufacturer were added. In the early 1990s, I bought a Leica M6, initially only to have a more discreet camera next to the SLRs. But I found working with a rangefinder camera so good that I switched to it completely.
In 2004, more out of curiosity about digital photography, I bought a Nikon D70. Since Leica didn't have anything to offer in this area at the time and I was fascinated by the possibilities of digital technology, I worked with them again, this time with digital single-lens reflex cameras.
At Photokina 2010 I saw a prototype of the Fuji X100 and became one of the first customers in Germany at the beginning of the following year. Since then I have stayed loyal to Fuji and now mostly use the X-Pro2 and the X100F. I just like working with an optical viewfinder. In addition, these cameras do not cover the photographer's face like a large DSLR, which is a great advantage when photographing people.
Oberwerth: Carsten, thank you very much for the interesting and informative conversation. In conclusion, all we can do is to wish you a lot of fun and interesting impressions on your upcoming trips. And of course we would be happy if you could find the time to let us be a part of it afterwards.
Carsten Bockermann: Thank you very much and sure, gladly. See you soon!
Pictures: © Carsten Bockermann
You can find more pictures of Carsten at