Last year, photographer Sophie Köchert graced us with her refreshing and insightful analogue takes on women skaters in Vienna. Sophie remains true to herself with her unapologetic, honest compositions. The portraits are free from any pretension as her subjects' body language show comfort and candidness whilst being aware of the camera. In this interview, we talk to Sophie about the determination and passion behind her work and how a recent, spontaneous road trip gave a new life to her unique and subtle approach to documenting everyday life.
Hi Sophie! Welcome back to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, how's your creative life so far in the times of the pandemic?
Hey guys, thank you for thinking of me once more. A year ago at the time of the first lockdown I've moved back to Vienna. As bad as the situation is in many ways, I need to admit it was for me a onefairticket to my own journey of photography. I've put so much time and focus into my work than ever and somehow finally won my own respect for it. Digging through archives and taking time on realizing what it is and why I love this field so much was a win-win. Mid of December I’ve pretty much spontaneously decided to jump into my Cabrio and drove 6 huge analogue prints down south to Ibiza, where I'm at the moment still busy with my first big photo project and am grateful for this opportunity and experience. It's been a journey and I'm learning a lot through some mistakes and just now know how much effort it is to print/frame really big. The pictures I want to share with you in this article are all made here on the island since I've arrived.
May you share with us why you chose film as your medium over digital? How does the medium help your style?
I've started with analogue, then switched to digital as I thought it necessary and easier (and cheaper), did a few jobs digitally, and soon enough, I realized that the kick I get from the analogue way of work is missing out. I took tons of photos then, whereas with analogue gear all it needs are a few thoughtful shots. It's a different process, a different "packing up" your gear, which film and camera, a slower and more focused mindset to it. There are many reasons why I feel at home in the analogue world and it definitely underlines my straight forward style - it's a magical feeling to not know/see what you just did, I'm just now experiencing that there is a tiny button hidden to switch of your mind and dive into the moment. It's cheeky, honest, and unforgiving.
The last time, we talked about your story with film on skate culture. You mentioned having met the skating group "Brettl Bande" which is meant for womxn, queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming people. What's it like to also be the photographer to document the work and memories of this safe space, especially as a female photographer that's documenting a male-dominated subculture?
I'm lucky to have met the lovely Brettl Bande and from the first minute on it was very inspiring to see their support for each other - but still, it's all about having a good time together outside. Definitely, in skateboarding, as in skateboarding photography it’s still males who are dominating these fields but my intention wasn't to show that “girls rule too”, it happened how I mostly lead myself into certain projects, due to interest, curiosity and trusting my guts. It's great to give some attention to their community, their worths and mostly, respect. But what a powerful time - there is such a beautiful and strong wave of feminism taking over, don't you think?
You cover a lot of subject matters too outside skateboarding and your work -- a lot seemingly from your own personal experiences. May you share with us more what propels you to keep taking pictures?
The everyday life and the joy of simply finding beauty in it. I haven't been taking as many pictures of people the last few years, mostly being scared to ask strangers on the street or fear of not captioning my visávis on point how I really see them. I guess holding myself back comes from assisting fashion/advertising photographers, where only perfection wins. Right now I feel like challenging myself and opened a new drawer which was at the bottom left. I would say I'm a very social person and also into fashion and I feel now is the time to try out new things, getting in touch with new people, taking photos of them, and slowly learning to put my fear aside. It's funny how your perspective shifts once you stop questioning yourself all the time and how you get more motivated, the more you shoot.
We really dig the candid, laidback, clear-and-crisp quality of your photos that give the straightforward-ness of the documentary genre some more excitement and liveliness! What element in the photographic process matters to you the most?
I just love to plan the unplanned. It kind of always turns out for me differently as expected - as I’m mostly shooting outside, you can plan your whole shoot through but there are always surprises (good & bad) around the corner, so depending on the weather or people/animals you meet on the way… It's a unique vibe at a new place or during a portrait shoot - it can be so humble or intimate, really creating your own reality.
The subject matters you cover are very heartfelt and honest -- very true to your own self which makes your visual stories more unique, original. It's without a question that for women (whether photographer or not), prejudice is quicker, faster, and harsher.... but can you give a piece of advice to aspiring women photographers and artists on finding their 'voice' and being more in touch with themselves?
Take it easy on you and be prepared that people might ask you to focus on only one certain subject in photography. But hey, I never did and why should you? I've heard this phrase “you should focus on one thing and you can't do it all” from many different sides, I really struggled for some years in not knowing what to choose or which way to go as I’m interested in so many different things, I couldn't decide and through that I really put myself down in a matter of stop taking pictures for a while, as I haven't “decided” yet where my journey should start. Maybe people now will do me wrong, but who cares - stay open & free, and please listen to others' opinions but listen closer to what your heart says, for your heart’s sake.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
There are so many things that come to my mind… overall as cheesy as it may sound, I get the most inspired walking through unknown streets, meeting strangers, shapes and light, I’m in love with buildings — wondering whos the architect and the people living inside with which stories to tell, and definitely our powerful nature which we need to learn to take more care of.
Lastly, what's up for the future of Sophie Köchert?
The only thing I know right now is that I'll be living in Ibiza in my van for a bit longer - making myself really busy with new projects and enjoying every day as it comes. Missing many things like we all do but also gaining a lot. I definitely want to shoot more portraits, so hit me up if you're on the island or want to shoot/collab! Thank you Lomo <3