This In Focus interview is with John Wilhelm and was conducted by Sarah Fitzgerald-Jones.  Sarah says :-

Let me introduce you to John Wilhelm from Switzerland and his incredible story telling images. Personally when I see one of his images on the screen I have to stop and look at it, you are guaranteed an emotion will be stirred in you somewhere even bringing up your own memories of your own childhood. The success of his art has gained him a massive following from all over the world, which I’m sure you will see is well deserved. Go and get your favourite drink ready, enjoy the read, make sure you have another favourite drink on standby as once you start looking through these images you won’t stop. Many thanks to John for taking the time to do the interview with us.


1: Hi John, firstly many thanks for doing an interview with The National Photographic Society

How long have you been into photography and your art? What was attraction of photography and photoshop that got you so involved and indeed now a Photoshopaholic? 

It’s an honour for me to do this interview.

Photography was always important in my life. My father was already a very passionate hobby-photographer with his own founded club(s) and lab. Actually photography was an important part in our whole family. I can remember the little hikes on Sunday when everybody had a camera strapped around their neck.

I really got inspired when the first digital camera’s became affordable. The analog process was such a fiddling in my eyes. And also very expensive (especially if you have an inner urge to experiment).

Photography turned to a real passion when my girlfriend (and mother of our three girls) got pregnant the first time. We hiked a lot and I was taking shots with my iPhone and the app “Polarize” (not available anymore). You can find this work on www.polarize.ch. I even tried to start a little art-product with package and everything.

Then I switched back to a real camera this was a Canon 5D Mark II. But after a few months I needed some kind of perspective. It was boring just to shoot and process the images gently in Lightroom. And exactly at this moment I stumbled over the tutorials of the German Photoshop-Gurus Uli Staiger, Ralf Mack and Calvin Hollywood. I was absolutely fascinated and I declared it as my primary goal to master the art of retouching and compositing. So I started February 2011 with a Wacom Bamboo and Photoshop CS 6 to learn all those fancy things and techniques. Meanwhile several hundreds hours of photoshopping have passed and lately I’ve begun to enrich my work with 3D elements. So I had to learn (and learning is still in progress) ZBrush, Cinema4D and other 3D tools.

And during this whole process my passion became an obsession 😉

2: Your work is full of imagination and incredible memories you have created for your own children to have for their future. As a mum myself I know getting my young ones to pose isn’t always that simple, what tips would you share in getting children to pose so willingly?

Well to be honest I often bribe them with sweets or little surprises. But more important is a healthy relationship with your kids. My kids can feel how important this whole photography-stuff is for me and so they cooperate most of the time. Of course once in my little studio the concentration doesn’t last a long time. Everything has to go quick and a good preparation is absolutely necessary. I know exactly what I want before we start with a shooting. I also try to involve them in the “story” or idea I want to tell. I explain to them every new project and ask them about their own ideas. So I try to let them be a real part of a project and not only models.

3: Often you share the images which make up your final image, one image “Dinner is served” clearly a lot of thought has gone into this and I can only imagine a lot of time went into creating it, can you tell us how this image came to be? 

Well I guess the idea is just a consequence of several thousands of eaten pancakes :). I often cook them for my girls and they love it. The idea popped up when Lou wanted to help me (what ended with a little mess). I took several images and put them together. One of myself with a real pancake on my head (it was a little hot and greasy but since then the skin on my head feels very soft ;)), a few with different exposure settings of the kitchen, one of Lou with the pan and finally one of the glowing stove area. Of course the camera was firmly attached on a tripod in the same position during the shooting. Shooting and edit took approx. 10 hours all together. It turned out to become one of my favourite images. I love it because it’s some sort of one-frame-movie.

4: Your work is admired by people all over the world with a huge following of your work. When you began creating the style of images that you do could you ever of imagined having such a following? Do you ever feel pressure to keep getting better and better at what you do?

No I have never ever intended or it was never my primary objective to gain this much followers and fans. Sometimes I think it’s absolutely crazy. I still see myself as a little photofreak from Switzerland. And yes the pressure is there, but to have lots of followers is also a great motivation. It’s cool if people write “great” and “awesome” below your images but it’s really great to inspire others.

5: Whats your most important essential piece of kit despite your camera for photography? and your most essential for editing?

For photography it’s for sure a good lens screwed on the body and for editing I don’t have to think a second: It’s a Wacom Cintiq (in my case a 27 QHD). The Cintiq series makes editing soooo flawless and comfortable. Without Cintiq I would probably stop retouching right now.

6: You have recently shared an incredible tutorial on how you achieve your work, is this something we could see more of in the future?

Well I’m more an artist than a teacher. But it was fun to create it and I’ve planned to do one in English very soon. And if the fun persists I will certainly create more tutorials in the future. The main problem is time. Photography is my hobby and most of my time is reserved for my regular job and my family.

7: If you had the opportunity to capture a famous family,, who would they be and using your incredible imagination how would you show us?

Well a day with your complete gathered Royals would be cool. I’m sure that would result in thousands of cool shots. Could you perhaps arrange that for me? I would pay the flight myself.

8: What is your most memorable image to date and why,,, if you could change it now what would you do?

That’s definitely “Into the poppies”. For three main reasons: First of all the image touches my own heart. I almost had to cry when I’d finished it. Second: It was (and is) my most successful image (concerning views, likes, reposts etc…). And finally it was my first compositing I was really happy with. Of course I would change certain things today. The horizon-line of the poppies could be better, the hairs of the girl and a few other minor changes.

9: Your best tips or advice to anybody who wants to achieve the emotions and story telling which you have brought alive in your own images?

Don’t mess around too much with tech stuff and your equipment. Spend more time developing ideas, examining your surroundings. You don’t even have to leave your house to create something amazing.

And get a pro with the basics of photography and imagery. It’s not all about Photoshop-skills!

More information and images can be found on the following websites :-

www.facebook.com/johnwilhelmisaphotoholic

www.johnwilhelm.ch

500px.com/horazio