December Member of the Month
Fritz LiedtkeNovember 3, 2015
All Images © Fritz Liedtke
This month, we sit down and chat with Portland, Oregon-based portrait and lifestyle photographer Fritz Liedtke.
WPPI: What made you first decide you were going to be a photographer?
Fritz Liedtke: I started really thinking about taking pictures in 1985, when my dad and I took a road trip around the United States. I kept a journal and took photos with my little Instamatic 126 camera. The first photo I remember taking, where I really thought about composition was at the Washington Memorial in Washington, D.C. I framed the monument in the branches of plum trees, and was quite pleased with the resulting image. After that, I took classes in junior high and high school. I had a great teacher in high school who made me think seriously about a life in the arts. However, even while working on my fine arts degree, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. But people kept hiring me, so I hung out my shingle. I also kept pursuing my own projects as an artist, which continued to gain traction with galleries and collectors. I just kept moving forward.
WPPI: What do you primarily photograph?
FL: I love to photograph people—young people, freckled people, skinny people, sick people, smart people, rich people, poor people, dull people, interesting people…. I’m in love with faces, and with telling peoples’ stories through intriguing images.
WPPI: What is your motivation to continue taking photographs?
FL: Honestly, I just love creating beautiful images. I love surprising others, and surprising myself. I get excited about a strong image. While there’s a lot of (often dull) work behind the scenes, there’s a deep satisfaction in creating something powerful, and putting it out into the world.
Sometimes I make work with the intention of helping people (such as when I volunteer for orphanages and NGOs); other projects I make simply to satisfy my desire to make something beautiful. What often surprises me is how my work touches other lives, whether I intend for it to or not. I’ve received dozens of comments on my projects (such as Astra Velum and Skeleton in the Closet) from people who say their lives have been changed. They say they feel less alone after seeing the work, or that it affirms their beauty. Making the work and putting it out in the world is reward in itself; hearing that it makes a difference in others’ lives is gravy.
WPPI: Who are some of your greatest influences in the art world?
FL: Many people have influenced my work. Some that come to mind include Paolo Roversi, Mary Ellen Mark, Sally Mann, Milton Rogovin, Arnold Newman, John Singer Sargent and Richard Learoyd.
WPPI: Do you do anything before a shoot to prepare yourself?
FL: There are a number of things I do to prepare. Of course, I check to make sure that all my equipment is ready to roll. I’ll go over any style sheets my client may have provided me with. Or I’ll look at my own inspiration board assembled on Pinterest. I’ll also do some research on the person I might be photographing, so I know something about them: their work, their environment, how they might have been photographed before, etc.