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Marcel Egger's phantasmagoric realism

Interview led by Yvette Depaepe
Published the 24th of June 2022


Marcel Egger is a photographer and photo artist from Austria. He likes to take pictures of every category but he especially loves to compose new stories and works of art with his images. He can turn a simple snapshot into a great art photo. So why only be a photographer when you can also be a photo artist? A photographer is an observer and captures the moment he experiences or the scene he creates. A photo artist uses them to create his own new stories.
Let's follow Marcel Egger on a little journey through his world of phantasmagoric realism.




Dear Marcel, first I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer this questionnaire! To begin, please introduce yourself shortly and tell us more about you, your hobbies or other projects you are involved in!

A great hello to all the talented 1x photographers around the world and to the hard-working Editorial Team. Thank you for inviting me to this 1x interviewing. I am of course very happy and honoured.
Let me introduce myself, my name’s Marcel Egger. I come from Austria from the heart of Europe. If I had to introduce myself in one sentence it would be like this: „As a photographer I am always looking for the perfect photo. The hunter in me wants to capture it for eternity, the graphic designer wants to work out the perfection of the moment, and the artist wants to turn it into a work of art.”




I started with analogue photography as a boy and later on developed films with colleagues in the darkroom. However, over time this technique became too complex for me. Many years later we created the annual new hairstyle collections in our hair salon. Up until 5 years ago I hired an external photographer for this. In order to save these costs, I decided to buy a professional camera and learn to take pictures myself. My choice fell on the Sony A7R. I joined the photo club in my home-town and the first thing I learned there was how to switch off the automatic mode and how to use the flash system in a photo studio. From then on, I photographed our models myself and learned something new with every new project.




A few years ago, the magic of composites was exciting me and still captivates me till today. I wanted to do more than just taking pictures. My goal was to amaze, to make think, smile and surprise the viewer. In my world everything is possible. The only limits are those of my imagination.

So, I started to learn the techniques of image processing. Over the years my skills have gotten better and better. Many photographers have the opinion that composites don't have anything to do with photography. But nowadays every photographer uses programs to develop and push up their RAW files in the drafting process. The photo manipulation begins with the punching of unwanted lines to the removal of disturbing parts of the image. But I agree. Composites have nearly nothing to do with photography, it is an artistic processing of photos and is therefore called art photography. I therefore feel like an artist and not a craftsman.






Another passion of mine is travelling.  Wherever I was, I always took my camera with me. Whether America, Africa, Asia or just here in the mountains, one can find great motifs to capture. It is always a great adventure to drive through the savannah's in a jeep, to experience the animals in their natural environment and to meet interesting people and their unusual ways of life. But even in big cities, one can discover great opportunities to photograph.





For many of us photography is either a hobby or a way of life. How would you define your relationship with photography?

I love to be creative, be it with comb and scissors as a hairdresser, brush and paint as a picture painter or camera and computer as a photographer. In the beginning, of course, there is always the need to learn the craftsmanship from scratch. Creativity then begins to unfold from this basis. There‘s that magical moment in painting when you stand in front of the pristine white canvas and you can glimpse a vision of the finished painting in your mind. It‘s the same with photography. The basis is a photo that was taken spontaneously or was specifically planned. But just pressing the shutter button at the perfect moment, with the perfect setting is not enough of a challenge for me. I love composing new stories with my photos and making the seemingly impossible possible. So, the starting point can be a simple snapshot of a fishing boat, which inspires me to turn this into a rough sea with a lot of drama, light and shadow to create a spectacle picture.






What would be the most important experience so far that has influenced your steps in photography?

Since I came from painting, in which only individual unique pieces are created, I was fascinated by the variety of possibilities in photography and in its processing. As an example, I was commissioned by a social enterprise to portray their work with elderly people in a nursing home. I chose the form of photography and took pictures of working hands. By choosing the perspective over their shoulders, I tried to capture the perspective and emotional world of the employees and the seniors they looked after. I then presented the result with a selection of 100 photos I had taken within 2 hours. They liked the result so much that they organized a travelling photo exhibition entitled “100 Hands”, which was on the road for half a year.




You have your own style, but your work is very diversified.  I see landscape photography, wildlife photography, composites and creatively edited images. Can you explain why this is?

Actually, I like to photograph in every category. Whether it‘s long exposures on vacation at the beach, commissioned work with customers in the photo studio, or insect micro-photography, I find my challenges everywhere. As a perfectionist, I try to achieve the best possible technical result in every task I am given. The artist in me then wants to create a unique work of art from it.






What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?

Of course, the first step is always the technically perfect execution of the photos. It happens rarely, to manage to stage my story  with just one shot. Only after processing the images and/or later on, with composites, I achieve the goal  I had in mind. It happens often that while working on the computer, a spontaneous idea comes to me, and the story suddenly takes a completely different direction. I like to create mood in my pictures by playing with shadows to increase the drama. So, both are equally important, the perfection of the original images and the story in the finished image.






What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?

Just being an observer of a scene is not enough for me. I want to invent a story, implement it dramatically, captivate the viewer, amaze and enchant him. This is not always easy, sometimes I succeed very well, sometimes I get lost in an idea.







Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?

Yes, especially in the studio it is mandatory that everything is meticulously prepared to work with the customer. Their time is money. With holiday photos, however, the perfect moment often must be recognized and captured at lightning speed. Before I go on vacation, I google the best photo spots, the position of the sun and the time of sunrise and sunset as good as I can. When I arrive at the perfect place, at the perfect time, with the perfect equipment to take the perfect picture, I'm often disappointed if I didn‘t calculate the low tide or when the windows of the viewing platform are smeared with sand and water drops. 




Describe your overall photographic vision.

Nowadays, everyone has a smartphone in the pocket. This creates the huge production of snapshots that can be spiced up with filter applications. It takes more than just owning an expensive camera and pulling the trigger to make your work stand out of this overproduction of images. Creative ideas, perfectly staged and professionally photographed, is the cornerstone for creating photographic works of art. So if you can‘t take photos, you won‘t be able to do anything in Photoshop either. A stable foundation in the knowledge of the techniques in photography and the skills in the development options will always be the perfect tools. My vision: Be different from the others and create your own art artworks with WOW effects!







Can you please tell us something more about your workflow from the idea to the final product?

One of my favourite branches of photography is photo manipulation or composing. I use picture elements from my travel and studio shootings and assemble them into new images. I only use my own photos or parts of them, which I took myself with my camera or with my iPhone. So e.g., from a photographed wall tile in a hotel, I use it for a textured floor. I work with great attention for details and use the experience I have gained in image processing.



A planned picture
: The first and most important thing is the creative idea and the profound statement of the picture. Once this has been found, the focus is on the perfect photographic implementation of the individual picture elements. When taking photos, pay attention to shadows, focal length and depth of field. The next step is to cut out the required parts on the computer. Soft edges should be selected here so that the elements naturally fit together. These levels are now rearranged, colour, saturation and contrasts are harmonized and fused together. A depth of field gradient is built in and natural shadows and highlights are brushed in. At the end, a colour look combines the elements into one unit and the final sharpening of the photo completes the composing.




Spontaneous idea with existing photos: I often come up with an idea or story that I would like to implement. Then I must collect the individual parts from my photo collection. Here, too, I have to be sure that all the pieces fit together harmoniously, like in a puzzle. The shadows, perspective, colour temperature, sharpness and interaction of the elements must fit perfectly well. It‘s not always easy, but it‘s a great challenge for me.


Can you explain the individual processing steps for a specific picture?

I would like to explain the different steps and workflow for the “ThaiFisherman” picture.
For this composite I used 2 photos.


Comparison photo 'Before' and 'After' to explain my workflow


The first photo was taken during an evening walk on the beach in Koh Samui, Thailand. It was an impromptu snapshot taken just before the sunset the light is coming from the right side.

The second one was taken as background through the window from a Mediterranean cruise while having dinner. Sun and light were similar in both pictures.


1. RAW development in Photoshop. Opening shadows and lights. Setting a uniform colour look.

2. Selecting the fishing boat with the lasso tool, feather 2 pixels and releasing it from the background with a mask.

3. Placing the boat in the waves, drawing and masking out the waterline.

4. Darkening the shadows on the boat and in the water with a new layer, brushing in the highlights.

5. Duplicating and blurring this background.

6. Drawing in water splashes with a brush tip.

7. Merging into one level, enhancing contrasts.

8. Designing selective sharpening and colour look.

9. Processing time about 2 hours.

I was happy with the result so far, but with my current acquired skills, I can still see many mistakes.




Where do you look to find inspiration and what inspires you the most?

The play with light and shadows as in the old masters' paintings has always fascinated me. These gigantic images and techniques are my reverential goal. But on the internet and e.g. you can find lots of great ideas.







Many are of the opinion that the gear is not very important when the passion for photography is strong. However, can you please share with us what gear you use (camera, lenses, lighting, tripod, etc.)?

My cameras: Sony A1 and A7R M3,

Sony lenses: FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM, FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM, FE 55mm F1.8, FE 85mm F1.8, Tameron 15-30mm F2.8

Other: Nisi Filter Set S6, Sirui tripods,

Lighting studio: 4 x Profoto B10, 1x Profoto A10, various light shapers and screens



What would be your favourite photo? Please tell us the story behind it.



'Desertstorm' is a shot from a free elephant, taken in the Etosha Natrional Park In Namibia. It was a group of 3 elephants. One of them was running straight towards our jeep at high speed, kicking up the sand. Shortly before reaching our car, he trotted and turned away. That moment was both frightening and highly fascinating at the same time. In post-production, I increased the effect of the sand to add drama. „Desertstorm“ has travelled to many exhibitions, has been published in several magazines and has been awarded with eight gold medals in competitions. The elephant is the symbol of strength, freedom and power. It is considered a lucky charm for wealth and health, which is why a huge enlargement is hanging in our home.







Who are your favourite photographers or mentors whose works have influenced you and your photography?

In addition of helping in our photo club, I was intensely dealing with photography and image processing via YouTube. I enthusiastically devoured every Lightroom tutorial. The ingenious composites by Pavel Kaplun and Matthias Schwaighofer encouraged me to get to know better Photoshop. PiXimperfect also taught me what I was able to achieve. However, I still have a lot to learn and want to keep improving my skills.







Now, since we have almost reached the end of this interview, I would kindly ask you to share with us your plans or photographic projects you would like to be involved in.

I‘m looking forward to experiencing many adventures in the wild, meeting extraordinary people and being able to experience lots of unforgettable moments with breathtaking animals. I also have a big list of great cities that I want to explore.






Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?

I find 1x a great tool to learn, to classify your own works, to collect new ideas and to make new contacts.
Thank you for this great interview opportunity and for accompanying me till the last sentence. Perhaps, I can encourage some of the readers to dive into the magic world of composing.

Greetings to the whole 1x family with a last personal quote:
'God gave me the gift of creativity and punished me with the urge to perfection' ;-)







Ein hervorragender Beitrag, Marcel. Als Präsident der Vorarlberger Fotografen bin ich sehr Stolz einen so tollen Fotografen und Künstler in unseren Reihen zu haben. Ich wünsche dir weiterhin viel Erfolg und freue mich schon auf die kommenden Werke von dir.
Great work! I love your thoughts on photography. Thank you!
A stunning set of work and thank you for sharing your passions with us totally inspirational article thank you to Marcel and Yvette.
Thank you Colin!!
Excellent collections. Congrats Marcel +++
Thank you Larry!!
awesome perfect job
Thank you!!
Estupenda entrevista Ivette y magnificas creaciones Marcel. Un placer poder contemplarlas, admirarlas y aprender de ellas. Gracias por compartir. Un cordial saludo, Jois
many warm thanks to you, Jois !!!
Thank you Jois!!
I am always pleased to get an insight into the thoughts of other photographers. The portrait is particularly successful because it also shows the work of the photo artist in an informative way. Thank you very much!
Thank you Stephan!! 👋
Awesome artpieces and a great interview. Thank you for sharing your amazing and creative art.
Thank you Tessa!!👋
Speechless, no words for beautiful work, absolutely awesome and inspiring, congratulations Marcel….
Thank you Anita!! 👋
Dear Marcel! I just finished to read your interview and to watch your amazing photos, and I am still in awe and feel the goosebumps from all these wonderful artpieces of yours! I myself started to dive into photo composites lately ( still learning...) and I can identify myself completely with everything you say about it! You are a real artist and I thank Yvette for letting me discover your art! Thank you so much for sharing and please receive my great admiration!
Thank you Gabrielle!! 👋
Such a treat to me to present great artists as Marcel in the magazine, Gaby ... Thank you so much for your fine reaction.
Amazingly awesome collection of spectacular pieces of art. Thanks for sharing...
Thank you!! 👋
A stand out photographer, and a stand out interview. Wow.
Thank you!!
Thanks for the great report from you, Marcel! Your compositions are cloying down to the smallest detail, I really admire your work. You have a lot of imagination, congratulations to the artist. Thanks to Yvette for your inspiring introductions to members
Thank you, dear Francesca !!! It is a treat to me to present 1x members to the readers.
Thank you Francesca!!
I really enjoyed reading more about you and your pictures, which I love by the way. Thank you for sharing - and thank you Yvette for another wonderful article.
Love the magazine, Susanne !!! It's a bit like my 'baby' ;-) Thanks for your compliment!
Thank you Susanne!!
A really great report from you, dear Marcel! Your composings are perfect down to the smallest detail and I am grateful to know you personally and admire your work for a long time. Thanks to Yvette for your inspiring reports and introductions to the members of
Thank you so much for your appreciation, dear Ruth!
Vielen Dank Ruth!!