JAN OTTO SCHREIBER
Equivalent I-III (2011)
The Desert Project (2010)
Somewhere between the Shores (2009)
Jia Zi Zha Press
The Photo Coterie
behind the scenes
Did you have the idea for "Somewhere Between the Shores" before you boarded the ship? Or did the series naturally form?
It was always supposed to be an ‘art’ project, but I wasn’t sure in what kind of direction it would lead me. On a cargo ship, there is pretty much nothing to do all day, and you can’t disturb the crew, those guys are there to work. So I spend a lot of time sitting outside and looking at the sea and waiting for little occurrences on the horizon which I documented when they felt right. When I reached the Australian shore, I thought to myself : 'all those image will look the same' and I almost threw away my 30 rolls of film. The inspiration hit me when I looked at the contact sheets and every frame was different!
What was it like being aboard a ship of strangers for 2 months?
A cargo ship is a world of it’s own, its like a self contained economy there- things happen all the time. The isolation from the rest of the world was surreal - no emails, no phone calls, and pretty much no news on what’s going on in the world. And unlike a normal passenger boat trip, there are no bingo nights, no group tours of the boat, no one to flirt with.
And that’s what I loved about the cargo ship and that’s why I chose to travel by it. I knew being on a cargo ship would put me in a unique atmosphere and I was hoping it would inspire me. At that time I urgently needed to get away and this was what I needed.
As a passenger on a cargo ship there are no strangers, you instantly become friends. I had a ball with the Filipino and Russian crew. Nothing like playing Ping Pong at rough sea and trying to beat the Russian Captain in chess after one too many vodka rounds.
When you first began photographing were you more inclined to the artistic side or commercial?
Good question. I ask myself the same one often. Memory changes all the time and people are good at re writing the history. I am not different. So it’s hard for me to say precisely which form of photography drove me when I started.
I am fanatical about art in general. Painting and art photography in particular. There is always a thought and a vision inside me of what I would love to say and to create. And when I think about art photography, I can only think of art and nothing else but when I eventually I think about commercial photography, I can only think about commercial photography and nothing else. I am as excited about it but it’s a different type of emotion, it’s a different type of excitement.
I worked for Michael Schnabel for 4 intense years. We were shooting world wide campaigns for car manufactures, insurance companies and so on. We traveled the word shooting these campaigns and I really loved this time a lot. Being on a job with a massive team working intensely 15 hour days – it’s just such an amazing feeling.
Now I am trying to keep it at a 50-50 balance between the two forms.
How much creative liberty do you have while shooting an ad for a client?
I get booked for my style and my creativity but of course there are always restrictions, a budget to adhere to and a client to keep happy. I do love working with art direction and with an agency as a team and together create interesting work for interesting clients.
Is there anything going on in your life right now that you want to talk about?
Well, there are probably way too may things I would love to talk about.
I am chasing the next Beirut concert (I love these guys ), off to a little road trip next week to catch some inspiration for my next project, planning my trip back home to Sydney in December and re –writing my To Do list.
Interview by The Photo Coterie