Interview / Maielin van Eilum

UTIYA Magazine

Dear Frank Zauritz, you photograph the most famous people in the world, as a war photographer you've been shot at, in North Korea your hotel room was under video surveillance. Doesn't your occupation make you afraid?

 

FRANK ZAURITZ

I have various fears, stage fright before every job, and no matter how successful I am I always feel existential angst. If no jobs come in, I think I'm the worst photographer in the world, nobody likes my work and nobody calls me.

Rihanna

Benicio de Torro

Tom Hanks

Jeff Goldblum

Owen Wilson

Nadja Auermann

Clip Owen

Natalie Portman

Joseph Jackson

 

But when I'm working, I'm not aware of any fear.  My father was an artist, when we painted together and I got stuck in front of that huge, blank, white sheet, he always said: "Just get started, everything is right, you can't make mistakes here."

Are celebrities sometimes complicated?

We came into a large conference room once and an extremely angry Jack Nicholson ran towards us “No, no, no pictures!" He pushed us out of the room and stood in the corridor in front of us, drained. He lit a cigarette and flicked the ash into an umbrella stand. He clamped it under his arm and kept using it as an ashtray. 


 

He looked me in the eye, "How was I?" 


 

All of a sudden, he was very affectionate and cordial, and politely opened the door for us. But we had an adrenaline shock.

After we finished the interview, he behaved like a little child. Everything was nice and easy, or? Or? Or?" We would have loved to sit with him at the bar.

 

One time I was flying six hours to Dallas. 4:00 p.m. landing, 6:00 p.m. interview with KISS, 10:00 p.m. return flight.

 

Gene Simmons asked how we liked yesterday's concert. "We were still in Europe." "Then come with us." 

 

We called our editor-in-chief, canceled the return flight and accompanied KISS in their private jet on their US tour.


Angela Merkel always looks tenderly into your camera, you could almost say in love.

I have photographed her many times and noticed what kind of person she is. She is extremely shy. When it comes to business, she is of course persistent and straightforward, a powerful person. But reserved with her personality.

 

The way I behave, operate as a person, that's how the photos become. I can only photograph what I am, what I have inside me. In the end, you photograph into a giant mirror.

 

There was Cher seventy already, but she moved like a twenty-five-year-old. She is an incredibly attractive woman, it has nothing to do with her operations. Unfortunately, it was a pretty tight double appointment with Christina Aguilera.

I still would have liked to take more photos of Cher.

 

How much time do you get for a photo?

 

With US stars? Often just one minute.

What I do is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute and still landing alive. I stand in front of a hotel door, the journalist has 14 minutes for his interview and I have 60 seconds for my photo.

With Tom Cruise, his management wanted to physically prevent me from taking an additional photo of him. But I was standing right next to him and saw the window light. He said yes, I shouldn't have asked him that. I called to my assistant Wolfgang: "Turn off the light!", which is not that easy in a conference room like that.

 

His management tried to intervene, but Wolfgang is two meters tall, weighs about 135 kilos, and he cut them off. I had 25 seconds, the first picture was out of focus and then I tell him he should look completely vacantly in this direction. The picture was sharp.

The third picture was slightly out of focus again and then his people were standing right in front of me: "This is not what we agreed on!" But I had my picture, a serious, very open, available light portrait of Tom Cruise.

 

For me, a good photo is something archaic. I act like a starved pack of lions jumping on a wildebeest when I see a good picture.

 

Motivation is even more important than talent. I waited four hours on a peak in Baden Baden. They gave me one minute for a Merkel / Obama picture. I took a risk, spending 40 seconds for it and then 20 seconds to take my photo of Barack Obama.

 

I didn't know if I would ever get this chance again, and I only ended up with three shots.

I like this photo, I looks like the people on currency notes, he would deserve that.

 

I once looked for a spot in the forest for two days with Nora, the smartest, smallest and most inconspicuous assistant. We built a 45 square meter studio out of cloth there on a lake shore. A huge police force came to the shoot, and Angela Merkel with her entire entourage.

 

I opened the curtain to our room: "Hello Dr. Merkel, please come in." She went under my arm, the others wanted to follow her, but I said, "Just a moment, please" and pulled the curtain shut.

 

There we stood, Merkel, the gentle Nora and I. Right at the spot where Merkel learned to swim as a little girl. And no man but me gawked at Merkel, she was so grateful.

 

"Mr. Zauritz, what did you come up with for me this time?" "I want you to sit on this wooden box." "And why should I sit?" "Because I want to break the axis." I wanted a photo in the German Romantic style. A portrait with landscape. "And if you just stand there, you just don't fit my picture." "Okay, I understand that. "

 

I breathed with her a couple of times, she closed her eyes. CLICK!

"We won't use that," she said. Today, that's my favorite photo of her.

 

Has it ever happened to you that people complained afterwards?

 

Yeah (laughs). I once had a truckload of stuffed animals brought into the Berlin zoo, wind machine, leaves ... to photograph Heino in a completely overloaded German set.

Later in the hotel I took a hard black and white photo in the sideways window light. I showed it to him on my camera, he agreed, I handed it over.

 

The editor-in-chief, Walter Mayer, had pulled it across the double-page layout and on Sunday morning I'm thinking "Oh cool!", when my phone rang, Heino’s wife Hannelore: "What were you thinking! We took so many beautiful pictures and now this picture!” And she cries and cries and cries. And I'm like "Oh God, oh God."

 

And then she called seven times: "You're a nasty person! Such a nasty thing! We're never working with you again! Never again!"

 

In the evening during the last call: "Well, my husband thinks it's good too, but I ... I ... I think it's horrible!"

 

We had an appointment again last year. She didn't remember it at all, Heino, on the other hand: "I liked it, I felt like Johnny Cash.“

 

I think the picture is great too. I got hated on for practically an entire Sunday for that. I don't think she wanted to see her aging man like that.

 

And how was Leni Riefenstahl?

Crazy! She told me that she was negotiating a loan with her bank. To make new photo art, and for her archive. The interview was for her hundredth birthday.

Sie died at the age of 101, one year to go.

A person can't think more positively than that. Of course, it was great to meet a figure of contemporary history. A double-edged sword in this case. She is beaming in my photo, but I didn't forget the skeletons she has in her closet.

 

Was she nice?

That's the bad thing about these people, that they're nice! When I photographed Helmut Kohl the first time, I thought, "Oh God, I can't believe it, how can that be, what a funny guy." He made one joke after the other, was authentic and classy (Frank Zauritz sinks down).

 

That's how he did politics, you need allies, he had the ability to involve people, to be urbane. That was also his problem, because as Chancellor of Germany he wasn't allowed to be that amusing on television. That's why he had no media impact, they only have people who are themselves, one to one, in front of cameras.

In many religions people believe that a photographer steals a person's soul, do you also feel that way?

That's right, the question is, do you take the soul and put it in heaven or in hell? That's exactly where the problems start. Are you on the good side and have a clear motivation, or are you indifferent about evil? Are you manipulating, or do you handle it cleanly?

 

If I don't treat people and their photos with respect, I definitely steal a soul: my own.

 

You bought your first camera at the age of eighteen with a 1,555 German Mark lottery prize and kept yourself afloat as a kindergarten photographer. When did you realize that you have talent?

Talent is when you torment yourself and don't notice it.

 

Thank you for the interview. Shortly, we'd like to know how to avoid bullets as a war photographer and where to eat in the evening in the capital of North Korea.

Photographer Frank Zauritz

Interview / Maielin van Eilum

Credits

Proofreading Ada Delsolco und Marie Nürnberg

Frank Zauritz

Portrait and reportage photographer

www.frankzauritz.de

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