TPL: Thomas please tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
TH: I was born in 1963, in the German city of Braunschweig. Some of the readers might be familiar with this city as the home of the once famous German camera brands of Rollei and Voigtlander. I’m married, father to a daughter and a son, in the language business by profession and design, and in street photography with my heart. Originally, I wanted to make photography my profession after school, something that just didn’t materialise for different reasons. And maybe that's a good thing. This way my passion could stay my effortless passion and didn’t have to pay any bills. It was able to stay a matter of the heart rather than a business venture.
I got my first serious camera as a present from my parents for my 18th birthday and bought myself a photo compendium entitled “The Joy of Photography”, which was published by Kodak, if my memory serves me correctly. I poured over the pages and there it was – I can still feel my amazement when I first discovered this photograph; it is as if it were yesterday: the magical B&W masterpiece by Henri Cartier-Bresson, a photograph that many of you are sure to be familiar with. The B&W picture of a small boy, carrying home two huge bottles of wine with an indescribable expression of pride and joy on his face, entitled Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954. When I saw this picture, I was thunderstruck: How on earth could a photographer be there, see and catch such an intimate, candid moment? What he called The Decisive Moment. With the equipment available at that time! This was THE picture for me, my personal game changer, that's what I wanted to do, too! Take pictures of people in the street! If I had only known how hard this journey was going to be to make one single good picture, I might have stuck with a different genre, but there was no way out: This was going to be what I wanted to do!
And then there was Thomas Hoepker, my secret teacher of how to see the world. As a teenager, I had a subscription to the German GEO magazine, which featured, among other things, the pictures taken by the fabulous German photojournalist Thomas Hoepker at regular intervals. These pictures also had a major impact on me. Although they were published in a documentary and journalistic context, they showed life on the streets of the world – street photography in the truest sense of the word – whether in East Germany, the German Democratic Republic at that time, New York, or Beijing. I saw one of his exhibitions in Munich in the mid-1980s entitled Ansichten (a pun in German, meaning “views” and “opinions”), and these were pictures that burned themselves into my brain. I have never forgotten them since; they have provided me with a kind of internally memorised guardrail and a compass to give direction to my own photographic passion. Today, I own one of his prints and some photo books, all signed, they mean a great deal to me.
Street photography is the genre I like the most: I’d love to see it evolve more into an art form of its own and find its way into the galleries and museums of the world more and more.