Lars Stephan
travel ideas 2014


Interview in PREF magazine Jan/Feb 2008

Pref: Can you give us some indications about your life and career story?

LS: I grew up in a small town in Germany and after finishing college in Hamburg I moved to New York to be with my boyfriend of that time. I was always drawn to the visual image and after working a couple of different jobs (modeling, assistant eye-wear designer, camera intern on a motion picture) I decided to explore photography. I started taking pictures of myself as a means of learning the art of photography. Through trial and error I began to find my way of expressing myself as an artist, as a photographer, and every time I pick up my camera I keep on learning.

PREF: You shoot self portraits essentially, do you think you are obsessed with your image? or for which other reasons ?

LS: I don't think I am obsessed with my image. The thing that people often don't understand is that I use myself as a tool. In front of the camera I am just another model. I don't 'see' myself in my self-portraits. That's the reason when I get complimented on my physique the compliment barely touches me emotionally; however, when someone praises the actual image, meaning my skill as a photographer, I am really happy.

PREF: You are almost always nude or semi nude in the photos, what are the physical details or aspects of your personality, you try to capture?

LS: I took the first self-portraits because I wanted to see if I could capture myself better than the photographers had done during my time as a model. As I grew as a photographer, taking self-portraits became a way for me to get over certain issues that date back to the days when I was a closeted gay teenager growing up in a homophobic environment in Germany. My first self-portraits were about getting over self esteem issues. Now, I am much more interested in the landscape of the human body. I find that the body is a timeless piece of art when it is stripped of its clothing. I am aiming for a timelessness in my images that makes them au courrant no matter whether we look at them now or in 10 years time.

PREF: Does self-censorship or issues of audience response ever enter your mind during the shooting phase?

LS: When I am shooting questions of censorship never enter my mind. Without concern of somebody else's opinion, to be able to play and see what happens is part of the fun of taking pictures. I am not taking these images primarily for an audience but rather for myself. The goal is always to take a photograph that I am happy with, other people's opinion is secondary.
However when I am shooting commissions, I bear my client's interest in mind, but with my self-portraits that's not the case.

PREF: Do you have a definition or measure for beauty?

LS: I don't have a clear definition of beauty. I am drawn to a healthy body, a classic physique as you would find in antiquity. But that's just one part. A lot of models have beautiful bodies and faces, but they don't interest me since oftentimes they are unable to show that they are vital and alive. There is nothing less beautiful than a bland unblemished surface. The important part of beauty for me comes from within, it is expressed through how a person carries themselves and through the life in a person's eyes.

PREF: What type of other guys did you enjoy shooting? How would be the perfect model for you?

LS: In a model, whether a guy or a girl, I always look for a story to be told. I want a model to be able to offer emotions and have an understanding of themselves as an object in a three dimensional space. That's why I enjoy shooting dancers a lot, since they have a good understanding of themselves in space. Prettyness, on the other hand, with nothing more to offer, bores me.
Whomever I am photographing must have confidence in me, they have to trust me and let their guards down. In that surrender to the camera, to my eye, that's when it becomes possible to find the right moment, the right image, the beauty of the subject. That's the only way to achieve a picture that will last.

PREF: Do you think homosexuals still view masculinity as a new normality and "obviously gay"

LS: I think to look all pumped up from the gym and have muslces on your body is an ideal shared mostly by the 30+ gay crowd. For the under 30 crowd there are other ideals as well. A 'new' form of the male body is rather skinny and doesn't seem to go the gym very often. I also find that gay people are becoming more and more 'normal' and 'mainstream' in their dress and style. This is partly due to straight men taking more and more care of their appearance and gay people trying to blend in. I think there is a mass confusion over who is and isn't gay when it comes to masculinity and appearance these days.

PREF: Did you ever imagine that you will become famous in the future?

LS: I don't think about becoming famous. In the end I just want to take a photograph that I am happy with. If this coincides with other people liking what I do and if this crowd turns out to be pretty large, that's great, but fame is not the primary intent behind my photography.

PREF: What photographers have been the biggest influence on you?

LS: I think that my Dad's early images of my Mom have been of major influence to me. Other than that, there are elements of certain photographers that I like and that undoubtly influence me: the sexyness of Helmut Newton, the play of lines and light of Horst P. Horst, the colors and composition of fashion photographers like Mert Alas & Marcus Pigott, the playfullness of McGinley andInez van
Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, the gritty realness of Slava Mogutin and the subject of the male in Robert Mapplethorpe's pictures and current photographers like François Rousseau.

PREF: What are you working on now?

LS: As always I am continuing my series of self-portraits, I am putting together a selection of the best of them and am looking for a publisher. I am also looking for gallery representation so that I may build my audience and offer those who like my work an opportunity to buy it.
Self-portraits are only part of what I do. The other part is capturing life in the cities that I spend time in. At the moment I am working on a series of portraits of ordinary New Yorkers in which I am trying to capture the beauty of their day to day lifes.