Svenja Trierscheid started shooting fashion editorials and film projects during her studies in multimedia design. These days, when she’s not photographing models, dancers, landscapes or anything else that inspires her, the Berlin-based photographer and filmmaker runs a food blog. She has published three cookbooks that focus on simple Paleo recipes. We joined her on a shoot to get up close and personal with her process, and uncovered her insights on making a living from what you love, on shooting with film, and on seeking sensuality from her subjects.
What’s your background? Did you study art? What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I studied multimedia design and started producing gluten-free cookbooks during my BA, which eventually led to a job in a Berlin Paleo restaurant. At that point, I was working in the video department of a creative studio in Luxembourg. I was craving a bigger city experience, so I moved here as quickly as I could. I was the head chef there for a couple of months, but the stress that comes with working in a restaurant were definitely not for me. I still like doing catering, private dinners and workshops though.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be and why?
City-wise, I could see myself in London, although I think the weather would put me off before long. I love the hustle there, though, it's so loud, honest and raw. There are still so many places I’d like to see! South Africa is at the top of my list, as are New York and California. I haven't been around too much yet, so I'd love to be able to travel whilst working more. I’m planning on visiting Morocco with a friend this winter though, which I’m really looking forward to.
What work do you most enjoy doing away from work? Does photography feel like work to you?
Most of the time, it doesn't. Of course it always depends on the job: If you have a producer constantly telling you what to keep in mind while you're shooting, it can be kind of irritating, but 99% of the time I really like being a photographer. The real work comes everything before and after each shoot: trying to get jobs in the first place, then dealing with all the freelance paper work and tax situation. To actually live off what you love is not easy at all, especially in Berlin, but I’m not someone who sugar coats things for themselves, so I was ready to take it on!
I love having the freedom to choose between my creative outlets: I can decide to go out and take photos to ease my mind, or start a film or photo project that inspires me, but I can also cook a great dinner for friends. Creativity always allows you to do something good for yourself or others.
Do you have a muse or key person that inspires you? Where does your inspiration come from?
I think nature, especially the sky and its changing forms, inspires me way more than individual artists or people, but of course there are some exhibitions, films, documentaries or books that move me. The last exhibition I really liked was of Vivian Maier, a street photographer in New York. I found her story so unique and some of the photos are just stunning, way more interesting than all of the glossy fashion photography done today. I also loved the book “Grace: A Memoir”.
I adore photography legends like Avedon, Newton or Lindbergh, directors like Larry Clark, Gus van Sant, Almodóvar, and Xavier Dolan. The last two films I really loved watching in the cinema were “Birdman” and “Inherent Vice”. Just awesome! Another huge part of my life is music. Without it, I wouldn't be able to be inspired or motivated at all. But I think it's hard to say where inspiration comes from, because it’s always begins within.
What role does the sensuality play for you when you conceptualise your work?
It matters a lot. Sensuality is what I’m looking for when I shoot people. I want them to open up to me, to my camera, to be as vulnerable as the film that is exposed to the light for a fraction of time. I want my subjects to just be, without really trying.
You also run a food blog. Describe your idea behind it. Does cooking inspire your artwork and vice versa?
The blog started some years ago, when I was producing my first cookbook, “I love real food”. While studying, I started taking photos of my food around the time when I started to eat a sort-of paleo-based diet. I created all these gluten-free desserts, and posted the recipes into a Facebook group. After a while, some people told me to think about making a cookbook, so I did, and now I have three of them. The latest one is all about grain-free treats like brioche, eclairs or cinnamon-rolls. Munchies deluxe!
What's your dream project?
To work for brands that I really like and to go around the world, film, take photos, and be able to live a decent life doing that. I'd love to make a documentary about the food and natural remedies of indigenous people around the world, to learn about the essence of humanity through the lens of ancient cultures.
You also shoot videos. In your creative process, what are the main similarities and/or differences between taking photos and creating videos?
The process of filming and taking a photo itself is similiar: You are in the moment and not thinking about anything else than the image you see on the screen or through the viewfinder. What comes after and before that, is of course a totally different story.
When I take a photo, I treat it as more or less finished in that moment. When I work with analogue, which is most of the time, I try to avoid retouching as it destroys the perfect flaws that exist in people and nature. When I’m working on a video project, I do everything from concept and filming to cutting and post. There’s so much work involved in these things that most people don't appreciate. I love both, though. Cutting to good music is a pleasure, because music is one of my other great big loves. I also make mixtapes for fun.
There are so many great short films, motion pictures and music videos out there. The last music video I completely fell in love with was Lorn – Acid Rain. But the average attention span is so low these days that no-one want to ‘waste’ a minute of their lives watching a film, even a short one, or a music video. They’d rather scroll through endless food posts on Instagram or through pictures of naked girls in sneakers on Tumblr. To me, that’s crazy!