personal branding photography

Pregnancy portraiture: coming full circle

There are endless facets of wonder to pregnancy and yet, physically and visually, it’s a constant challenge. Carrying your child inside you, cohabitating in the most intimate way, feeling its character while still invisible to everyone else… 

There is a whole market for pregnancy portraits, belly casts, and so on, but I have never been drawn to it myself.

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Honestly, I have never really photographed my own – or any other – pregnancy before. But, recently I encountered a moment in my life where it was conceptually impossible not to do so. To go back to the beginning: Claudia de la Torre is a dear friend and I have always loved working with her. We met when she was a student at the Karlsruhe Art Academy and connected instantly through our shared passion for artist books, and she founded her own publishing house, backbonebooks, in 2011. A Mexican artist based between Berlin and New Mexico, Claudia has made an impressive career as an artist, publisher, and creator of artist book workshops worldwide.

And through 2015 and 2016, I was lucky enough to have her by my side as my collaborator, model, friend, publisher – and babysitter!

plaster-cast-women-art-black-and-white-photography-female-photographer-female-friendshipTogether, we would make a body cast in the living room, then she would go read a book to my son and daughter. We would shoot slides on the balcony, then cook a meal together. Claudia has been part of my family ever since. To bring this story full circle, in 2016, we collaborated on the artist edition book of ‘Das Rheinrauschen’, which we launched during my solo show in Basel, including a sample of the river perfume I had created as a roll-on scent. Then in 2019, Claudia showed my work in Tokyo and published my artist book, Zitronen-Wal-Seife. And, now, in 2023, this amazing woman – whose belly I had cast in my living room years ago – is carrying her own child and becoming a mother.

art photography, black and white photography, female photography, still life, lemon, food photography When Claudia told me she was expecting, I instinctively knew that to witness her pregnancy via portraiture was absolutely essential, and wonderful. What is special for me about these portraits, on an aesthetic level, is that the shape of the belly is being created by her own hands. It’s the hands that actively define the space of her pregnant belly, rather than the belly just showing itself.

pregnancy-portrait-pregnant-woman-friendship-celebration-black-and-white-photography-beautiful-womanAnd so, obviously, I want my pregnancy portraits to serve as beautiful memories of this very particular time for Claudia and her dearest ones.

But I also see these portraits as an invitation to others to shape their own image during important moments of their lives – moments that so often slip away from us in our everyday lives.

And I am happy to listen, support, and assist in this very process.


Empowering portraiture: a magical Berlin retreat

empowering portraits, female photographer, Berlin portraits, Berlin retreat, creative exchange, empowered womenAmong many other wonderful accolades, Lisa Witter is a magical networker – a network creator and nurturer who brings brilliant people together for good. In her day job, Lisa is the co-founder of the Apolitical Foundation, a community devoted to making our governments work better for 21st century citizens. ‘Off duty’, she loves to host one-of-a-kind gatherings. So, when she asked me on board as an empowering portrait photographer for a retreat, at her beautiful country house near Berlin, it was an automatic yes!

We gathered, walked, cooked, shared, and listened – and, of course, we had a lot of fun together. Some of us already knew each other very well, some didn’t.

And we all shared, openly and candidly, exactly where we are at professionally, in order to best support one another and to share our individual expertise with the group.

empowering portraits, female photographer, Berlin portraits, Berlin retreat, creative exchange, empowered womenEach and every one of the women gathered at Lisa’s retreat were very special and we developed immediate bonds. We discovered and unravelled so many crossovers between us and stories to tell. It felt like pure magic. And it felt like the beginning of new, shared stories and adventures – which is, so far, precisely what has been happening to me ever since! But more on that when it’s time…

Over the course of our two days together, I took empowering portraits of seven of the women on Lisa’s retreat. Using our beautiful, rural location as our studio just happened naturally.

I wanted to try and capture some of the changes in the air and to contribute to the participants’ upcoming personal developments, such as starting work in new positions.

And the whole process was one of fluid exchange. With one of the women, we had been sharing our insecurities about our singing voices with each other, then, once I put my camera down, we began a healing voice session. Together, we were able to free something, to break down a blockage. I really do believe that one thing always leads to another.

The empowering portraits I captured over these wonderful days at Lisa’s retreat show something really special. In them I see beautiful, vulnerable, super strong women who do amazing work for us – as a society and on this planet.

Each one excels in her own field of expertise and power. Our retreat is over but, already, I look forward to taking their portraits in the future in my Berlin studio.


Personal Branding Photography: Twins and Colleagues

When someone sits for me, it’s an encounter based on trust. They share their vulnerabilities and insecurities with me and trust me to look at them afresh – giving them space to truly show themselves in spite of it all. 

In my personal branding photography practice now, I have started to ask everyone who sits for me to give me three aspects or elements that they would like their portrait to convey.

These become my guidelines – then, from there, we dive into the exchange. 

art photography, empowering photography, portraits of women, personal branding photographyIn one of my favourite empowering photography commissions, I was working around the themes of collaboration and pairs. My task was to photograph two curators and writers who have a long history of collaborating over many years. It was super interesting to work with them, both individually and as a team. 

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One of the women actually used to be my gallerist, then she became a friend. The other woman is a twin – and it so happened that her sister was in town at the same time as her portrait photography booking with me and also needed a professional headshot for her new business in Ireland. This led to a very intense day of three individual and two duo sessions… we had a lot of fun!

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However, the most fun thing about this commission for me was seeing a completely different face to each person. They all needed a totally different approach and way of being handled. With Hannah (who I have known the longest) I had to be very tough, in order to get her to focus on the task at hand! And her portrait is a jewel for me. She shines.

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With Lena, she had a fixed photo pose that called for a very soft and slow approach from me, guiding her to alter her self-presentation and find alternative ways of showing herself. From there, the team sessions were easy! It was wonderful – and fun! – to share this new space and method of working with people who I had, at that point, only interacted with through my art practice or as a friend. 

In truth, this new crossover made me a little nervous as I had to play a completely different role than the ones I was used to.

art photography, empowering photography, portraits of women, personal branding photographyPlus, knowing that they expected not only a portrait but a work of art from me definitely sent the stakes higher! But, ultimately, I love how each one of the women shines in her own image.

And I love how a totally new presence and power appears once they appear alongside the other half of their partnership, whether work or family. What emerges from my lens makes me glad to facilitate personal branding photography – finding new and fun ways to help people communicate their inner selves to the outside world.


New paths, new practices: winter reflections

So much of life is in the timing. Often it can be less about the what and more about the when (and the where and the why). This is what I’ve been reflecting on lately as an artist and practitionerSo when people ask me ‘How’s it going with your art?’, my truest answer seems to be ‘I don’t know!’ 

The big question I’m asking myself is: art or photography?
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Where should I focus? How should I position myself? What should the function of my work be? My heart has decided that I want to be more in the world of applied photography for now – this is clear. 

But in some ways this being in between is a struggle. My head isn’t always sure. ‘How can I do this now?’ and ‘Can I really carve out the time?’, I ask myself. I can struggle to sleep, and I don’t have enough space and self care as my foundation.

empowering photography, monochrome photography, art photography, Berlin photographer, nature photography And when this happens, I can feel a lack of balance – where I’m not centred – and it’s a physical sensation. So, there’s some imbalance, and I’m not sure what it is, but I am sure that I have to give myself some space to find it. What I do know is that I am being called.

I love to create usable, personal branding photography: of course, I love art photography, but not all the portraits I capture need to be artistic. This utility isn’t a judgement and it doesn’t mean that the subject isn’t magic. It just means that not everything has to be complicated!

As a photographer, my special gift is that I can do – and feel genuinely excited about – a wide range of things… from still lifes of fruit, to documenting weddings, and portraits of women.

I specialise in feeling and capturing. I love creating coherency of vision across an event or project or organisation: I am that one set of eyes capturing everything. And it’s fun! 

In fact, for me, my cooking practice centres on the same joy as making art, which is in turn the same joy as portraiture. At the end of the day, I believe it’s all about caring and nurturing and positioning.

empowering photography, monochrome photography, art photography, Berlin photographer, nature photography So, for now, I feel this internal shift unspooling: perhaps I am, at this moment, becoming more of a photographer than an artist. But how do I embrace this without feeling like I’ve given up on something? This is my ongoing question to myself.

However, what I do know is that nothing is ever closed. It’s all about timing.


Personal Branding Photography: The Woman Who Visited Twice

‘Chopped my hair… I need new headshots!’ This was what Lisa – Apolitical’s CEO and co-founder, and a dear friend of mine – messaged to say last month. The very next day we had our personal branding photography session in my studio and our old magic sparked again. In fact, Lisa had already been to see me for portraits earlier this year, back in April.

But that’s not where our photography story started.

Back in 2017, she had been one of the very first people to tell me she absolutely needed me to take a portrait of her. So, five years on, it was wonderful to share the space and capture images that really represented her. Her personality, her identity, her power…

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And those first set of images worked brilliantly! Lisa turned up with an armful of dresses, the most amazing energy, and we had a lot of fun. One hour and five outfits later, she left. Happy with the portraits, Lisa started using them right away. 

But so much in life is temporary: things change and changing perceptions mean we need to adjust and adapt. In fact, I like these transitions that we go through and I believe that portraits are the witness of that.

So, just a few months down the line, it was already time for Lisa to come back to me for a new set of images – ones that represented her in the here and the now.

personal branding photography, portraits of women, empowering photographyThat second personal branding photography session, somehow, felt even more natural and relaxed than the first. Plus, it took even less time as we both knew what she was looking for and what she needed. And the follow-up work was different too: Lisa asked for some light retouching. ‘I don’t mind ageing, but…’ she told me. 

As a personal branding photographer, I do my retouching in such a way that softens the light in the portrait, but doesn’t take away the natural signs of ageing.

Instead I treat the process like painting watercolour under a magnifying glass.

A gentle touch, like make-up or a good night’s sleep, but nothing more. After all, empowering photography lets the real person shine. 


The Magic of Portrait Photography (Part Two)

My portraits of women are a cornerstone of what I do. In that work, I am often hired to do a single portrait, which then expands into a pair or group portrait – this is down to the natural, evolving need to subsequently show that same person in connection with their products or within their team.

While in a single portrait session there is an intimate space between the person I am photographing and my camera, especially in terms of what she wants to represent professionally, as soon as there are two or more subjects, their shared relationship comes into play.

portraits of women, empowering photography, Berlin

Channeling my empowering photography ethos, my aim was to show Caroline Schneider, founder of Sternberg Press, as the true art and discourse-related thinker, as well as leader that she is.

When I took this solo portrait for Sternberg – a publishing house for artistic and cultural criticism, creative non-fiction, and literary and experimental fiction founded by Caroline in New York in 1999 – it gave way to a team shoot where I captured an even fuller picture of their work environment and the dynamics exist between them. It is in their creative home on Karl-Marx-Allee, amidst their books, that I took this series.

group portrait, empowering photography, Berlin

I wanted to illustrate how Caroline has a very strong relationship to each and every single title published by the press, plus with the vital, dynamic team she has carefully built over the years in this truly unique place. Her beauty shines.

Indeed, once you start representing a person in a professional context, there is always that wider spectrum or bigger picture which wants to be shown to the world. And, ideally, all of these photographs should be taken by the same person, so that they can create a cohesive vision – one which aesthetically becomes one body. That’s where I come in!

art curator, women portrait, women monochromeIn this vein, I’ve also photographed Eva Meyer-Hermann: a curator and art historian who decided to become a curator for artists, as her way of responding to the political developments in the art world which have led to its general lack of real exchange and mediation.

And it was precisely at this special moment of building her new identity – and website – that I came into the picture, with my personal branding photography, with the aim of communicating both Eva herself and her practice to a wider audience.

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We spent a couple of hours together in her office – first alone, then with her associate curator, Johannes Schmidt. Every photograph I took for Eva had a different role to play. In the headshot, the aim was to show her as open and smiling, offering an invitation for dialogue.

The other two images show moments of contemplation and creative thinking, as well as her explaining a work of art that is dear to her.

Similarly, I have enjoyed the privilege of capturing Laura Galatti’s portrait. Laura is a Swiss pianist, composer, and politician. After having encountered her and her partner, Christina Thürmer-Rohr, performing Die Kontroverse in the Viennese Liszt-Saal, I had the honour of joining them during rehearsal in their performance space, Akazie 3, here in Berlin Schöneberg.

empowering photography, portraits of women, female pianist, female artistsMy role in facilitating empowering photography here was centred on conveying Laura’s artistry and skill. This type of work presents me with the wonderful challenge of somehow finding a meaningful way to convert aural beauty into a visual medium.

So in my single portraits of Laura, the viewer is able to experience Laura listening to the sound she is producing with a metal sheet. And in her partnered shots, I have sought to communicate her close relationships and dialogues with her instrument, her partner, and the very process of writing music.personal branding photography, portraits of women, empowering photography

Ultimately, it’s all an organic process. During the portrait session, the women I’m photographing talk with me and show me what they are selling or creating or offering. Then, I capture these aspects too.

In fact, in so much of my art photography work to date, I have searched for ways to capture invisible processes within a photographic image, something of an essence that would otherwise be hidden: from plants and fruits, to animals, and nonverbal communication between people.

In this way, I am very versatile in what and how I can photograph, so website photography – as this broad, rich spectrum – just comes naturally to me. 



The Magic of Portrait Photography (Part One)

food waste reduction, quinces 2021I adore quincesI love their velvet skins, the hard bodies, their rich perfume, their androgyne character, their rich yellow colour that turns red in the cooking process. I love how they challenge me as a cook and I love their role in ancient cooking practices – both here, in Europe, and in the SWANA* region – and find it interesting to think about what traditions they have been part of throughout history. In fact, I am currently experimenting with some Jewish SWANA recipes, both savoury and sweet: I have a wonderfully large quince harvest waiting for me on my balcony at home and, true to type, will be documenting my processes in working with them this season.

Outwith my own kitchen, I am devoting time and energy to a brand new space that, like my own kitchen, will be home to exciting experiments and adventures in all things food – including food waste reduction – and the senses.

creativity workshops, art workshops, Lobe Berlin 2021Lobe is a house project in Wedding: a newly built, brutalist concrete building defined by its terraces, its garden – where, among other things, quinces grow – and its many cohabiting animals. Soon, its ground floor units will become one space, a fresh, joint space for events, workshops, food experiments, and a lab for creating a more sustainable future.

Ana Zatezalo and Olivia Reynolds are the founders of this new space and project. With quinces fresh in from the harvest of the Lobe garden and the quince being chosen as the symbol of their new venture (name to be revealed!), I knew that I just had to channel my empowering photography approach to capture them with these brilliant fruits as a symbolic starting point of their collaboration journey.

So, what happens when you bring artistic, innovative women and versatile, delicious fruits together?

personal branding photography, portraits of women, empowering photographyNot least a dream commission for me as a portrait photographer in the world of personal branding photography… weaving together my roles as a member of the founding team, cook, and photographer – one who specialises in portraits of women and fruits! – and capturing the very essence of Lobe’s future here in Berlin.

Over the next couple of months, I will be the one to create all of Ana and Olivia’s website photography: ultimately creating online portraits that communicate the playful potential in business collaboration. This is part of my work that I really love – distilling and celebrating the character and mission of fascinating people who are creating important work. So, watch this space…

*SWANA is an acronym referring to the wide geographical area which encompasses South West Asia and North Africa.


Powerful Women: making the invisible visible

Happy Summer Solstice!

I hope you’re enjoying time with friends and feeling ready to explore the world as it continues to reopen. I’m busy putting together the final preparations for my upcoming exhibition, Fluss Frauen Farben. Bilder einer Ausstellung, in Drosendorf, Austria. Please come join me for the opening on July 17th starting at 6pm at the Strandbad Drosendorf .

The exhibition runs until August 8th with several other installations throughout the town square. I’m also excited to share that I’ve created a new artist book for this occasion entitled Fluss Frauen Farben (River Women Colors). For this publication three central women – Anna Soucek, Mella Waldstein and Vesna – have written and contributed texts that accompany and enliven my photographs. They live in or always return to this beautiful region in Austria and I had the special honor of making portraits of them last summer.

As part of Fluss Frauen Farben. Bilder einer Ausstellung, I will be sharing portraiture of some of the fascinating women living in or visiting the area of Drosendorf and so I felt inspired to share more about my process working with women to create empowering photography.

My journey started after I kept meeting incredible women and then would look them up on the web to learn more abut their work and professional life. Over and over, I found images that I felt didn’t really represent them as the complex women I knew them to be. I realized I could support women to take their images back into their own hands.

As our online presence becomes the standard, it’s a space we have to claim.

I believe the older we become as women, the more we have to share. And honestly, I find the invisibility of women in the professional sphere frustrating. I want to create a safe atmosphere that respects which aspects of you that you want to be seen. We can then co-create together a series of portraits that celebrate you both as a professional and powerful authentic woman.

And believe me, I know this is a delicate space. Often, we’re told as women to use images that show us as young, cute and part of a beauty standard. What I’ve found is there is something so much more. Portraiture is a space where we can reflect back to the world what we’ve lived through both personally and professionally.

It’s the journey of taking the invisible and making it visible.

One of my first clients had a lot of images online, but I felt that her existing pictures didn’t truly represent her. We worked together to create a series of portraits for her website and personal branding photography. We discussed her fears, her vision and her specific needs and decided on using several locations to play with. After developing the negatives and sharing the portraits with her, she told me she felt seen for the first time in her life!

We had created images of her that reflected her personal inner strength and related to her professional identity. What a joy to share in this moment with her!

If you’d like to learn more about how we can work together, please contact me. I would also love to hear from you if you plan to meet me in Drosendorf or are interested in ordering a copy of Fluss Frauen Farben.

Wishing you an inspiring summer!