Creative Showcase

Stefan Radtke

New York-based photographer Stefan Radtke crafts compelling stories with his camera, one portrait at a time. Explore more of Stefan's controlled creative brilliance at studio.stefanradtke.com

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Berlin and Munich, and 10 years ago I packed up my stuff and moved to New York.

You have a background in film and entertainment. How does this connect or overlap with your work as a commercial and editorial photographer?

I spent about 14 years of my career in the film business, mainly in production, licensing, marketing, and acquisition. Those are all quite useful business skills to have when you work in photography. Creatively both, film and photography are essentially about storytelling, and using a visual medium to express emotions.

When did you develop an interest in photography?

Unfortunately I don't think I can pinpoint that to a specific date or event. Writing just has never been my thing. I always preferred the visual arts as a form to express myself. My whole career I either spent in front of the camera, or behind the scenes in the film business, or now behind the camera as a photographer. Studying in New York at the International Center of Photography was kind of a tipping point for me.

How do you describe your style as a photographer?

One of my teachers, Amy Arbus, once described my style as "controlled". I can't disagree with that assessment. It reflects pretty well how I handle the creative process. I like to reduce things down to the essence in my images. I don't like distractions.

What is your favorite subject to style and / or shoot?

My favorite subjects are people. I am also a big fan of design and architecture, and love to combine that with portraiture.

What experiences have inspired and shaped you the most as a photographer?

Living in New York is probably what inspires me most. New York is just such a visual place. You can experience the whole world in one city. It is almost overkill for the senses.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

My influences come from all kinds of arts. I love the simplicity of the German industrial designer Dieter Rams or the minimalism of the architect Walter Gropius who was the founder of modern architecture. If I have to name a photographer I would probably mention Irving Penn whose work in portraiture and still life has been iconic.

What are some of your favorite books / sites that you draw upon for inspiration?

I rarely use websites as an inspiration. Photography on the web still leaves a lot to be desired, although it does get better. It doesn't thrill me the way it is presented. I am old school. I prefer to look at magazines, preferably international ones, or go to gallery openings, museums, or just walk around the city.

Is there anyone you'd love to collaborate with?

I have a very long list of people who I would love to photograph. If I could choose only one person to photograph, I would pick the President, Barak Obama. It would be an interesting challenge to photograph a person who is in front of camera 24/7.

What are you currently working on? Anything fun and exciting you'd like to share?

I am working on a story on influential women, which is going to be a lot of fun to shoot. And then I am re-editing my portfolio . again for the umpteenth time.

Can you tell us about any projects you've been involved in that you're particularly proud of?

For the past 5 years I have worked with the Bob Woodruff Foundation, documenting their work to help US soldiers who have been injured during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffer from traumatic brain injury. It's a very humbling experience, and I am very proud to be able to help telling their stories.

How would you describe your creative process?

As mentioned before: controlled. Most of the creativity goes into the planning of my shoots. I usually have a plan A, B, and C, do some sketches and discuss them with the magazine, agency, or the subject. It gives me a good starting point, and then you have to be prepared to pick up on what the subject gives you and often throw away all preconceived ideas to execute plan D.

What's next in the world of Stefan Radtke? Any exciting upcoming projects?

You are getting me the gig to photograph the President, right?