1839, this was the year that photography officially gained momentum and while we can agree that the images from that time may be rudimentary, there’s no denying the impact it had on our society. Documentation became easier, what took artists hours was done in a few seconds.
Photography not only helps us capture fleeting moments but also helps catalogue and document. A lot can be learnt about an era by just observing a photograph.
Berlin-based photographer Stephanie Schmid Rincon certainly has a knack for capturing these moments. We instantly fell in love with her reportage work and colours. We interviewed Stephanie where she talked about the impact of gentrification in her hometown, her first steps in photography and the contemporaries who she admires.
When and where did your journey into photography start?
I would probably sound cliche, but my journey into photography started as a very young girl, around when I was 6 or 7. When we went to Disneyworld, my parents had to buy me my Kodak disposable cameras, since I was always taking theirs to take pictures of random stuff. And then for a Christmas when I was 11 they gave me my first pocket camera so that I could always take my holiday pictures. I wish I knew where those films are.
And at the age of 14, my brother introduced me into developing black and white films in school. And so I took a few workshops in high school.
Your images have a timeless feel about them; it's hard to pinpoint which decade they were shot in. What would your favourite decade be if you had to pick one to photograph?
Good question! I probably would have loved to me part of the mid- late 70's. My favourite music comes from that decade, and so does my lifestyle influences.
Are there any other contemporary photographers that you look up to?
Peter Lindbergh is my favourite one. I love his black and white fashion portraits and how he mixes them with street photography, making it look like its not staged.
Anton Corbjin and Danny Clinch, have been two of my favourite ones for a while also and big visual influencers when it comes to my music photography and video.
Have you always lived in Berlin?
No, I have been living in Berlin for the past nine years already. Its the longest I have stayed in a place in my life. I was born in Hannover ( Germany), and already at the age of 1 we moved to the south of Germany, and by the time I was 4, we moved to Colombia. And this happened quite a few times until I was 20 and then decides to move to Berlin for an internship, and so here I stayed. Even though in the past years I tend to skip a winter and head back to Colombia for a few months or spent a summer in New York, or travel for photo projects; so basically Berlin is my base, and the world is my home.
Do you always shoot with film?
For my personal projects, I prefer to shoot on film. Also my travels and daily life. For Fashion and Portrait I like to mix it up with Film and Digital, but commercial shoots I prefer to work with only Digital.
Of all the places in the world that you have photographed, which three have been your favourite?
New York, Mexico and the Amazon
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is trusting your instinct and go with the moment.
It means freedom to me. I love the fact that photography can capture a moment forever. Either by showing a vision abstractly or exact on point.
Photography is an open art form of expression and a unique way to experiment things visually, where there shouldn't be any rules. Its more about having a good sense of a moment and a good knowledge of light, either natural or artificial.
Could you tell us a bit about documenting your neighbourhood in Germany? Do you feel cities are losing that ethnic identity and charm to gentrification at an accelerated rate?
I started photographing my street photography series 'home sweet home' when I moved to the Berlin neighbourhood of Neukölln around 2010. It all started just by walking around with my 35mm film camera and noticing how slowly my surroundings where changing. Local business like shoemakers, hairdressers or hardware stores became cafes, bars or galleries, caught my attention. My neighbours that had lived in my building had to move out after many years because the rent went up, that's when I said I need to capture the neighbourhood before everything fades away. So I started focusing on the front shops, the daily life, people and moments as of how I remembered the place when I first came here, and that still are present. So, I dedicated myself to make this a longtime project of almost five years.
Don't get me wrong, I do also realise, that I have been part of this change. I moved to the neighbourhood because the rent was cheaper for the space they offered and it was still kind of an 'underground' Berlin. In the past seven years, it has changed drastically. My rent is higher as well, there are fashion/sneaker shops, hostels and too many new bars to count, that even I feel its become too much. But then I do understand the hype, its a neighbourhood full of character because of all its international Arabic and German mix, plus the 'artistic ' vibe and still cheap for people coming from other countries. Also that it has its very beautiful spots. Its a place with character and unique, and as long as I live in Berlin, I wouldn't change Neukölln for any other place.
When I was in New York exhibiting this series last summer, I stayed in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for example, I felt like in Neukölln in a way. I love the place because its like a small village in front of the big City. Many local shops, business with affordable food, Polish families and the best bars I visited in New York. Also beautiful streets and parks. So the whole gentrification is good and bad. I feel we are at a time that young people want to be part of something authentic and unique and maybe not mainstream. And by that, they make it mainstream. That is what Gentrification is to me.
When is Stephanie the happiest?
Stefanie is always happy. I am known for always having a smile on my face. But I guess the happiest, is when I am with the people I love and surroundings I feel peaceful in.