John Wilhelm is one of those rare photographers who are equally brilliant creatively as technically. When browsing through his portfolio it's impossible to know what to expect, except for one thing: You will not be bored. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview. You will find more photos in the end.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
For a living I work as an IT-Director at the Higher School of Education in Zurich Switzerland. My passion and hobby (my girlfriend and mother of our 3 girls would say obsession) is photography and especially the post process (retouching) in Photoshop and other tools.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
My father was already a very passionate hobby-photographer with his own founded club(s) and lab. Photography was always very important in our family. I can remember the little hikes on Sunday when everybody had a cam strapped on his neck or the time during school or military where I was often the inofficial group-photographer.
What first attracted you to photography?
Honestly: I guess it were the studies of the photo-magazines of my dad with all those great almost nude models in it ;). I discovered my own passion for photography years later when the first digital cameras where available for a reasonable price. I can't remember my first digicam but lately I've found a 1 MPix shot on my harddrive and put it over a 36 MPix shot from today. Incredible how quality and resolution changed in 25 years.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I don't have an exact vision but the urgent need to let out my creativity somehow. And photography in combination with composing and retouching techniques and lately with the help of certain crazy good 3D programs fit that need just perfectly.
Why are you so drawn by conceptual photography?
In most cases I would call it accidental conceptual photography. Okay sometimes I'v got a pretty clear concept to follow, but most of the time I just shoot and while importing the images into Lightroom the ideas pop up.
What is more important to you, the story behind an image or the technical perfection?
I try to accomplish three things: Esthetics, Story, Humor. Does not always work. But it always shows after having uploaded an image to 1x.com and other platforms: If those three things come together an image is especially successful. If the subjects are animals or children that's an additional boost.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
In most of my images you see my daughters. Guess that explains the feelings beyond ;)
What are your most important advice to a beginner in conceptual photography and how do you get started?
I always tell them the same. If you're new into photography and you want to work with your own images (so no stock photos, which is my strict own dogma) you'd better start with learning basics in photography itself rather than with photoshopping. If the base material does not work, the final photoshop-work will also not work for sure. Perhaps a little theory in image composition and the tricks from the old painters will also help. It's important to guide the eyes of the viewer. Especially in times when most people are extremely flooded with images and movies.
Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
I like the german tutors and photographers Uli Staiger and Calvin Hollywood a lot. Concerning pure artists I like Erik Johannson very much and the animal shooter Tim Flach is just incredible good. But I was never a person with idols and heroes. I always try to find out what's going on in my own mind and if an idea is eclectically a little to close to something already existing I drop it in a very early stage.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a big
deal and why?
I guess thousands of photos have inspired my work but I can not think on a specific one right now. - minutes later - I'm thinking very hard... I'm sure there is one :)
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
My specific goal is to have a good balance between family, hobby and fulltime job and of course to stay healthy as long as possible. On this solid base I will for sure try to create nice images, try to adopt and learn every new available technique (I'm also a little tech-geek ;)), try to get better and better and try to master this crazy 3D-stuff.
Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I'd like to mention 2 images. One of them is "Into the poppies". It's on many online-platforms one of the most successful images. This image gave me the confidence: You're on the right track! Keep on working! This success was very important for me.
The second image is "The horde". This was my first image which got selected by the 1x.com curators. I was so proud. Today I have already over 100 images on 1x and sometimes I just can't believe it.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
No I'm fine thanks :). I'm also fine with 1X. It's a wonderful platform and the only platform you get really useful and honest feedbacks and hints. I love to see my images in the curation-state and I appreciate all those people who sacrifice their own time to give their opinions, hints, and remarks. 1X rocks!