1. Where were you born and what sparked your interest in photography?
I grew up in a small town in west germany, close to the dutch border. I moved to Berlin about 12 years ago to start my first job. I began to take pictures more or less by accident when a friend gave a camera to me. Right from the beginning the darkroom was a kind of magical place for me – the moment you see the first contours of a picture on what was a piece of white paper seconds before – fantastic.
2. What kinds of photos did you start shooting initially?
When i moved to Berlin i started to take pictures of abandoned military bases. A vast amount of facilities like this can be found in the area around Berlin that have been given up by the Red Army a long time ago. After 2 or 3 years of doing this, i got bored by photographing dead stuff. Instead i focussed on street photography which is all about life in its various forms.
3. Did you study photography – and if so, where?
I didn’t study photography, i studied business management. I am head of a consulting department at a Berlin based software company.
4. What got you into street photography?
That’s quite easy to explain. I like walking in the streets and I like to watch people. The most exciting aspect of street photograpy is that there is only little that you have to prepare and almost nothing you can plan. All you have to do is to step out on the street and have your camera for the small details of daily lives. I would rather call this „voyeuristic documentation“ than street photography. For me the basic idea of this kind of photography is to document life in its candid moments.
5. What makes Berlin a good place for this kind of photography?
Well, Berlin is where i live and therefore I take most of my pictures here. I wouldn’t say Berlin is the best place in the world for tstreet photography (that would be NYC), but it’s relatively easy in Berlin. The two things that are obviously required for street photography are people and an interesting environments. Berlin has got a large number of (very different) districts. What i really like about the city, is the fact that i can always decide what type of street photography i want to do, simply by leaving the subway at a different station.
6. You mentioned in your blog you don’t like going “East” – why is that?
When i am on the streets, i am always in search of interesting subjects. I most likely find this type of subjects in west-berlin districts. When i wrote that i don’t like going “East”, i was referring to districts like Prenzlauer Berg or Friedrichshain. I am well aware of the popularity of this areas by young people, but this is also what makes them boring in a certain way. If you spend some time there, you will notice that people all look alike; they wear the same type of clothes and they are mostly between 20-40 years old, elder people are virtually not existent. Personally, i therefore prefer to shoot in classical west-berlin districts like Charlottenburg, Kreuzberg or Neukölln as i believe they are far more balanced in terms of their population.
7. What equipment do you use (camera make / digital or film etc.)? If film, do you have your own darkroom / developing suite etc.?
Most of the time i use a small camera, a 25 years old Leica that no one takes serious. I do the bw development by myself, followed by scanning and some post processing using Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop. I started to use a digital camera recently, now that with the Leica M9 a decent digital camera is finally available. I still have to work on my digital workflow though in order to get the same level of quality from digital that i get from film based cameras.
8. What local equipment or developing shops would you recommend?
The best developing service i found in Berlin is Phototechnik Fehling in Berlin Schöneberg. It’s a rather small shop but the people working there really know their stuff. For new equipment the Leica Store in Fasanenstrasse (close to Kudamm) is my first point of call. Their products and customer service are outstanding but a little on the pricey side.
9. Which Berlin (or German) photographers do you most admire and why?
There are three german photographers i’d like to name:
Harald Hauswald – For documenting the daily life in the former GRD and for founding Berlins famous Ostkreuz photo agency.
Thomas Höpker – Well known MAGNUM photographer who has been documenting history for more than five decades.
Andy Spyra – A young photographer i only discovered recently when i saw his work at the C/O gallery in Berlin. The exhibition is running for another 3 weeks. If you are in Berlin make sure to go there.
10. Name five of your favourite “slow” places or activities in Berlin (cafes, markets, places to stroll, parks, anything…)
Buchhandlung Walther König at the Museumsinsel – When it comes to books about photography or art in general, Walther König is the best arranged bookstore in town.
Camera Work gallery in Kantstrasse – There are always interesting photo exhibitions at Camera Work, either by well known photo icons or by young and up-coming artists. Admission is free!
KaDeWe in Tauentzien Strasse – You will for sure find Berlin’s premium department store in every Travel Guide. Nevertheless, the KaDeWe is always worth a visit, not only for tourists but also for people living in Berlin.
Turkish market on Maybachufer – Twice a week you can buy everything there from fuits and vegetables over meat and dairy products to clothing.
Familienrestaurant KiiWii in Güntzelstrasse – A great place for having a relaxed Latte Machiatto or a fine dinner while watching the Kids playing in the indoor play room.
Guido Steenkamp’s photographs are created spontaneously, in fleeting, unique moments. They neither uncover causal connections, nor are they intended to explain anything. Rather, Guido Steenkamp looks for the extraordinary in everyday situations – a gesture, a mere shadow perhaps, or a peculiar example of how people react in their surroundings.
The photographs make their effect through their aesthetic form, their symbolic significance and the sometimes cynical, sometimes ironic observations in public spaces. The result is a series of unstaged photographs documenting little surrealistic moments in the ordinary everyday life in the streets of Berlin, caught on film over the past few years.