Photographer duo Oliver Kröning & Dennis Orel work perfectly together; the two Stuttgart natives seem to be two of a kind. Their early enthusiasm for photography and their similar backgrounds brought them together over the course of various professional projects. Today they work as a team and are jointly successful, best exemplified by their recent participation in the Canon Profifoto Award 2009/2010. The result: an exhibition at Photokina this year.
Kröning & Orel's series El Arenal, which is included in the LUMAS portfolio, is a body of works whose originality catches the eye and makes an impression. The idea for the series came to them during a shoot in Mallorca; the unusual realization followed soon after. The works show the infamous beach strip El Arenal from a bird's-eye view from which the colorful deckchairs, umbrellas, and towels look as though carefully arranged in a pattern on the flawless spread of sand. This project was the continuation of their collaborative work as well as the series that won them the Canon Profifoto Award.
The running competition, supported by WhiteWall, among others, was established for the up-and-coming generation of young, professional photographers, who may enter individual projects. Kröning & Orel not only won the competition including prize money but also showed the winning works at Photokina in Cologne, Germany, in September 2010. The Stuttgart artists are looking forward to visitors' feedback, indeed even critique, which they agree they can use more than a friendly "nice job."
Seeing the results of their months of hard work on the white wall is still exciting for the two, even after their first major success. Though Kröning & Orel work conceptually and prepare each shoot down to the last detail in order to close in precisely on their idea, they also leave room for chance to have its effect on the pictures. Being able to see the result, a large panorama, on the wall and to see if the idea worked – this excites and surprises the pair every time anew.
The LUMAS portfolio boasts images from your series El Arenal, panoramas taken from a bird's-eye view of the famous beach of the same name. How did you come up with the idea for the series?
Orel: The idea came to us rather spontaneously during a photo shoot in Mallorca. The legendary strip of beach with all of its "protagonists" was really quite bizarre. The question was simply how we could grasp the whole thing more unusually.
You also entered your series El Arenal in the Canon Profifoto Award last year and won. What was required to participate?
Kröning: The competition's theme was open, which was of course a good basis for giving free reign to all sorts of idea.
What motivated you to take part in the competition?
Kröning: We really needed a new inkjet printer (laughs)!
Now you can show your winning works at Photokina in Cologne, Germany this September. Is it still exciting to see your own works hanging in exhibitions?
Orel: I think every artist thinks it's great when you have the opportunity to present your works to a larger audience, especially since Photokina visitors are people interested specifically in photography.
Are you afraid of criticism? Does criticism of your work get to you?
Kröning: Generally you are also delighted to get negative critiques because it means that the person dealt deeply with your work. Often, it isn't much use to me if someone just says, "That's nice."
What camera and equipment do you use?
Orel: The systems and providers vary depending on the case. But we mainly use Nikon and Leaf Digital Black.
Do you also still do analog photography or now solely digital?
Kröning: The Polaroid is actually our last connection to the analog world; otherwise we have concentrated completely on digital.
Orel: The majority of the time, the real work only begins after the shoot itself, which, as far as the process is concerned, simply wouldn't be possible with analog photography.
Then the professional lab must also play a big part in the final result of your photography. What quality standards should a professional lab offer?
Orel: For us it is a consistent quality standard that one can depend on, very important. "Open 24 hours" is also advantageous.
The collaboration between the photographer and the photo lab has to work. Art meets handcraft. Can this lead to conflicts?
Kröning: The collaboration between a photographer and a lab is comparable to marriage. Only working together well can lead to an optimal result: in this case not a screaming baby but a perfectly healthy print.
Orel: Although we see the artistic part being more the photographers' duty and the handcrafted finishing in the lab's hands. The lab can't make a bad photo much better.
What convinced you to work together with WhiteWall?
Kröning: Very simple: the results are there.
In your opinion, what makes WhiteWall different from other professional photo labs?
Orel: The complete package at WhiteWall has, through its years of experience, matured to near perfection. Not everyone who photographs is necessarily an artist, but the results make nearly every photo look like a work of art.
You both work together as a team. How might we imagine your photo shoots? Do you have a clear division of labor? Who does what?
Orel: We generate ideas and conceive of a photo shoot together, a collaboration that continues through the process of photographing. Who pushes the shutter release in the end matters little to the idea behind the image and the result.
How long does it take to transform an idea in your head into an image?
Kröning: Some photo projects have developed over a period of two years, during which we have collected motifs. In other projects it's important to complete them quickly in order to maintain momentum and dynamics.
Have you ever had the experience of liking a motif while looking through the camera lens only later to find that it has lost its appeal in the print?
Kröning: In the moment you are looking through the lens, you perceive the motif not only visually but also with all your other senses. Later, in the print, everything is focused on this sole moment – so it has surely happened that the motif in the print has a different effect from in reality.
Do you remember when you took your first photo and what it was of?
Kröning: It was with my father's Polaroid camera on my first day of school. A bit blurry but nonetheless recognizable: my neighbor sunbathing nude on the terrace. Unfortunately all the images were confiscated.
Orel: We were in Mallorca on the beach; the lens of the Ricoh was focused completely on the nut-brown, big-bellied "beach beauties."
Why did you decide to use the medium of photography as your mode of expression? When did you discover your passion?
Orel: I was practically born in the studio, and I liked the place from the beginning.
Kröning: Capturing my neighbor on film was a formative experience for me, and when I heard that you could earn money with it I no longer wanted to be an Indian but a photographer.
Do you have personal photography role models?
Kröning: There are many great artists who have inspired me. Picking out individual ones is difficult. One of them was definitely my grandfather, who built tile ovens and took a photo of each one he finished.
Orel: All of those who always manage to find new perspectives and come up with new image ideas.
Which of your talents do you use most when photographing?
Orel: I think that we always already have a pretty exact image in our minds. The rest is left to handcraft and chance.
What must a photographer be able to do?
Kröning: Knowing where the release is is a good start…!
Is it primarily about talent, or is photography a handcraft that one can learn?
Kröning: To a certain degree you can learn everything. To ultimately be able to distinguish yourself requires a bit of talent.
Is an especially good image more frequently a product of chance, or must every image be carefully conceived?
Orel: Every shoot requires its own special preparations in order to get as close to the idea as possible, but it is really important to leave room for coincidence as well.
Kröning: The best images always happen only in connection to the particular moment's happenstance, even if it's just the right timing of a model's expression or gesture.
Are "lucky shots" – those that are made by complete chance and yet look perfect – a photographic myth, or do they really exist?
Orel: You could compare the "lucky shot" to a "lucky punch" – it also only comes of hard work and the right timing.
What images do not interest you in the least?
Kröning: There is nothing that would be too uninteresting to be photographed. It's all just a question of how you interpret the individual image.
Orel: Botanical flower photography isn't among my passions – but everything else.
Is there a central theme that unites all your photographic works?
Orel: For us, there is always an idea in the foreground that ultimately carries the image and makes it good. We try to avoid a purely aesthetic level that gets stuck in the decorative.
Where would you love to exhibit your photographs?
Orel: Everywhere where new ideas are given primacy on the white walls – in the National Portrait Gallery of London or C/O Berlin, for example.
Is there an image you dream about someday photographing? A certain person, a scene, a landscape?
Kröning: Our upcoming photo projects actually already have these desires at their core.
And what project are you working on now?
Orel: We are currently working on truly illuminating the German erotic scene.
Do you collect photographs yourself?
Orel: My walls are all completely white. I only collect images in my head..
If you could have anything you want, what photograph or artwork would you hang on your wall?
Orel: I would put Damien Hirst's diamond skull on the nightstand.
Kröning: It's hard to find an image that you want to look at for a long time. But I might like the Mona Lisa. I think always being smiled at when you come home could be a good criterion for picking an image to live with for a long time. "Keep on smiling!"