STORIES IN GARBAGE
IN CONVERSATION WITH JENS F. KRUSE
Born in Germany in 1961, Michelin star chef and award winning photographer Jens F. Kruse has lived in Mallorca, Spain since 1999. First picking up an analogue camera and photographing since the eighties, Jens then in the nineties studied music and art focusing on photography and landscapes. Since 2005, he went digital, firstly in landscape then, due to his job as a chef, in food photography. During this time he developed a Mallorca blog with photography from the island, focusing on street photography and storytelling. Jens has led a full creative life and it is with pleasure we hear more about this and his photographic series "Stories in Garbage" as we interview him for The Pictorial List.
The world is never boring, it is ever exciting, strange things can happen around the next corner, there is always something to capture...Everywhere, every time...I forget what I do...but I am fully aware of what is happening Past and Future exist in the here and now. there is nothing quite like this...Life is candid!
Hello Jens, tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Germany in the 60s. In 1999 I immigrated with my family to Spain, where I have been living and working until now. My young heart has been beating for art and music and already at the age of 12, I had the dream of becoming a professional musician. But this was a bit naive and I started an apprenticeship as a cook. After a short time it turned out that I was very talented and made a fast career (1 Michelin star). I still had not given up on my dream and went back to school to get my A-levels (1991)...Then I studied musicology (but that was too dry for me) and finally art/music! In art, my focus was on photography and land art (1992-1998). In all this time I gave many live concerts and released 4 cd albums, did a lot of art and conceptual photography.
When we went to Spain (with two kids), I started cooking professionally again (the bills had to be paid). Since 2009 self-employed as a private chef! During this time I started to photograph my views out of the kitchen windows of my clients with a little Sony cyber shot camera (I loved it), so it was a conceptual work... and it turned into snapshots, moods and detail photographs. It turned into stories on social media and on my website. The final result was the publication of a combined cookbook and lifestyle book, together with my wife! Thinking about taking other food photos and also making the layout extraordinary, I borrowed a Nikon D5600 with a 35mm fixed focal length and started to take really focused photos again...I was already doing street photography without knowing it!
Due to professional ban in 2020 with Covid-19, I sold my business and have been a professional street photographer since 2021. I give workshops and I am on the road as a storytelling photographer in a company called Corporate Street!
You say that you studied music and art. How did you become interested in photography?
I took photos before, but more as a location photographer on holiday or with the family. During my studies, I learned the analogue approach and development work completely, what you can do with negatives...(almost) everything we can do digitally today is also possible in analogue. These were rather conceptual, abstract and poetic photo works of mine. Furthermore, I have always been interested in the symbiosis between art and music...which is immeasurable.
How have the streets and culture you capture influence your photography?
Life as such, in all its facets, has always interested me. Through my music I have travelled many countries ( Africa, Brazil, Canada, USA, Europe), learning music there and taking photographs...I had no idea about street photography but I was always interested in the stories behind the motifs, but I was always careful not to have people in my pictures...more mood shots, landscape, lifestyle or poetic views .
In 2018 in Stockholm (Sweden) this should change...!!!
Talk to us about your series "Stories in Garbage". Where did the inspiration come from to start the project? What do you want the viewer to experience and take away with them?
I can still remember it very well: about 2 years ago I noticed that a magazine had been carelessly left on the street or thrown away several times. One copy was lying on top, with the cover page on the dustbin: the portrait of a man with closed eyes, looking calm and content. That motivated me...there was a story and that was the beginning of paying attention to stories in the rubbish. I like to put things in a different context, when pictures have a friction...raising questions.
Normally we would hardly pay attention to many of the objects depicted in my photographs, as they seem insignificant and banal to us. But torn out of their purely functional context, visually condensed in fragmentary view, they acquire such a strong sensual presence that they can develop a great power of association for the viewer. We do not look at the things, the things look at us.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
Not really! In art as well as in photography there are so many fantastic artists I like very much, whose works influence or inspire me. Not only in street photography, but also for example in documentary, reportage, art or fashion photography...I think of Annie Leibovitz, who I admire very much. By the way, the same applies to film and theatre for me!
If you could just choose one photographer to shoot alongside for a day...who would you choose? And why?
Since I became addicted to street photography, I naturally study all the great masters from the past and present...There are so many fantastic photographers on the road today. Since I am rarely the fisherman and feel more like a hunter on the street (that's where my adrenaline is), I will mention Matt Stuart as an example! I like his views and his photographic realisations and since I read his book "Think like a Street Photographer", I know that he thinks and sees like I do...I could have written that book...but I didn't (hahahaha...).
When you are out shooting - how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
I'm on the street every day! The camera is ALWAYS with me, even when I'm taking out the rubbish...No matter if I go out at home in my small town or travel to big cities...Most of the time I go off unplanned, so I tend to walk and let my interactions with the street take me to where I hope I'll take a successful photograph. When I'm in the streets I try to be open and relaxed and to allow my eyes to take me to unique new experiences. I love to let myself drift, do I go left or right? Where do I feel the energy I need? But when I'm working on a series, for example, I go off quite purposefully with an image in mind and look for the places where I might find the right motifs.
With my corporate streets, the storytelling for companies, I have a rough concept according to which I proceed. I know that in the end a book should come out.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)
When I started street photography seriously, I had of course read from great photographers that most of them use a fixed focal length (use your feet for zoom!). Nevertheless, or maybe because of that, I went out with a Lumix GM5, 12-32mm. That's a bit wide-angle but by the end of the day, I was pretty far away and cropping! It helped me get over my fear in the beginning and it was a great dry run. I then extended it a bit with a 7-14mm Vario lens on the camera. That was pretty fun and I got a lot of pleasure out of it. That was a lot of fun and I get great crops with it, but since I got the Leica Summilux 1:1.4/25mm lens on my camera I know the photographers are right! It's a whole different thing to shoot with a fixed focal length. You approach your subjects very differently, the compositions become different, and you don't crop! I recently started using the fujifilm X100v with a 23mm fixed focal length, sometimes with a wcl converter...that's the equivalent of a 28mm fixed focal length.
What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I am very satisfied with my photographic career in street photography so far. In addition to individual and group exhibitions, some of my pictures have been awarded prizes internationally or have been published in books. However, I would like to step on the gas a bit more, there is still room to get even more attention. I love to pass on my knowledge! I am a very good teacher, I know that from my experience in music and cooking! Maybe my pictures will be so interesting that photographers will want to know how I take them! Technique, focal lengths, depth of field, etc.. You can learn all these theoretical things and with experience, you learn how to deal with them...that can be learned. What you can't learn in books or on YouTube is the seeing, the perception, the mindfulness, the courage or the humility with which you should be on the road...someone has to show you that and explain...why that is so important. I like to pass that on in workshops. Of course, I would like to have more exhibitions with picture sales, that's for sure. Sales are starting but it could be more. With my corporate street thing, I would like to have more stability in the orders. But that will all come, I'm sure. All this is to say that I can make a living from the photography I want to do.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
Every month I travel to a big European city and spend a week there to photograph on the street, to improve myself, to consolidate my photographic handwriting, you never stop learning. I also work on different series, which means I go out specifically to photograph a theme. It's one thing to select pictures from your archive that have a common theme, and then put them together in a series, or if you're working specifically towards a new theme. A very new collaboration with a pianist: we did an online session where she improvised on the grand piano to a picture of mine (which she had chosen)...it was an incredible experience. My picture started to move, and the music gave me the feeling of being in the middle of the picture. Then, we turned it around: she sent me a music recording and I went off and made a picture to go with it. An approach that is very unusual for me, very exciting ... out of my comfort zone.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)...
...seeing films, spending time with my wife and my family...and I still love cooking!"