“With my pictures I like to tell stories – individual stories, which are often universal stories. I’m always looking for the human element, the part we can all relate to.”
Kiki Streitberger is based in London and in Germany. Her work explores the line between art and documentary photography, telling stories of cultural and social relevance through the eyes of the individual.
She uses photography as a way to engage with the world around her and is particularly interested in the human element in a story – in the uniting factor.
One of her current pojects is called “Travelling Light”
Sixty million people in the world today are refugees. In 2015, more than 300,000 people undertook the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe. Syrians call this journey ‘the journey of death’.
Who are the people that risk their lives in the Mediterranean?
For a lot of money they put their lives and the lives of their families into the hands of smugglers, who promise to take them across the sea.
Crammed into small, unseaworthy boats – often for many hours, if not days, without any food and drinking water – they hold out in the hope that they will get rescued before the boat gives in.
So who are the people that risk their lives in the Mediterranean?
I wanted to know what people, who leave everything behind to embark on such a gruelling journey, manage to take over into a new life, and what these items mean to them.
Interview with Kiki Streitberger
Why did you become a photographer?
Mainly, because I wanted to tell stories. There are so many stories in the world that are worth being told, or indeed need to be told. Some are real, some are fiction, some are sad, others are beautiful … but ideally they will all make us think and put our own story into perspective. Oh and because I love taking photos, of course.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to transmit with your pictures? Has that changed over the years?
Photography is a wonderful way to come into contact with people. It is always a start to a conversation and it offers me glimpses into lives I would have never otherwise had the chance to see. I look at things differently when I have a camera with me and even in the strangest situation it gives me a reason for being there.
With my pictures I like to tell stories – individual stories, which are often universal stories. I’m always looking for the human element, the part we can all relate to.
Has it changed? I have probably changed.
Which photographer has inspired you most? Why?
Initially my dad. He always took a lot of photos wherever we went. And my uncle – he worked for Kodak at the time and got me my first camera.
On a professional level it’s a different one every day…
I love the work of William Eggleston and Saul Leiter. There is so much beauty in the everyday and I love their colours.
I also feel forever inspired by the work of Taryn Simon – it opens up so many questions and inspires so many thoughts.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
Elliott Erwitt supposedly once said:
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
How would you describe your photographic voice and creative process?
That’s a difficult question. I’m not sure I can. I’m not even sure I have found a distinctive voice yet. I suppose what connects all my work is the need to tell a story and the story is usually bound by a simple concept that holds the images together. It’s about people and the things that unite us, rather than the things that set us apart.
So it usually starts with a simple idea and from there it hopefully just flows.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Be true to yourself and allow your inner self to be reflected in your work.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
It’s something that happens between the subject and me. It’s difficult to break down into something technical – my approach is not very technical, it’s more emotional.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
That probably depends on the kind of photography, but I’d say good communication skills and a genuine interest in the people and stories you are photographing are pretty important. And quite often patience.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
It needs to tell a story. It needs to interest me. It needs to be so, that I want to look at it again and again.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Books, the news, stories I hear, anything can be an inspiration when it comes along at the right time.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
The less stuff the better. I really hate carrying lots of gear around with me, so I mostly use a Canon 5D Mark III or lately also a small Fuji X-T 10.
What’s been the most useful gadget you’ve purchased recently?
That small Fuji camera.
Are there any photo-apps you use? Which ones?
What was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
I really can’t say. There have been many, I’m sure, but always the latest one seems to be the most memorable – and not really for anything spectacular that may have happened, but for a particular connection with the subject or a moment of the most beautiful light or just for having been so lucky to have been at the right place at the right time.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
There are many. Some I regularly look at are Fire-Cracker, Kwerfeldein and Flakphoto.
What photography book would you recommend?
“Niagara” and “Sleeping by the Mississippi” by Alec Soth.
“An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” by Taryn Simon.
Which advice would you give someone who’s just starting as a photographer?
Always have a camera with you – the good things happen when you least expect them to.