Wolf Silveri: Thespian Talents

Wolf Silveri is a highly talented and open-minded Austrian photographer. His work ranges from portraiture to concept and fashion photography, seemingly with the aim to create a window to the souls of his subjects. We’ve interviewed him for the Re|view.

The Re|view: Wolf, we found you because you took a wonderful picture of Guillermo Gómez-Peña, which we published in a recent article on the artist. How did the opportunity for this shoot come about?

I met him in Austria when I was working for a theatre festival. We did not have much time, the shooting was right before the show, so it was take it or leave it. But I like it this way. The actors were extremely focused and professional.

The Re|view: It is a very revealing picture. Are you comfortable working with nakedness like that?

This isn’t nakedness for me. They have roles to play. I sometimes do nude shootings. But on a professional level this is nothing to be uncomfortable about. Some faces are more revealing than any naked body.

The Re|view: You photograph many artistic, especially thespian, individuals – actors, singers, directors – what draws you to them?

It is very interesting to work with actors and singers. They are used to stage emotions and looks. But when they are in front of a lens, they are either shy or still playing. So part of my job –  to get what I want – is to break the ice. And then you might get something real. That is the aim.

The Re|view: Do you think you succeeded at that?

Well, let’s say I have developed a couple of tricks over the years.

The Re|view: Can you sum up your CV for us? What did you study/ learn, and what moved you to become a photographer?

I am a self taught photographer. I started at the age of 14. When it came to the decision which way to go after school, I did not think photopgraphy was the right thing. So I ended up doing art history, architecture and finally stage design. I worked at an Opera house for a while, but when that contract ran out, I suddenly thought: this is my chance – it’s now or never. So i went back to my roots. I now know that that is my biggest advantage, that I never learned photography as a job. I have never been told how to do and see things. Everything I do and see is me.

The Re|view: There is a good deal of Opera in your history – are you a singer?

No, that wouldn’t work with my stage fright. Or my voice. I took my first shots when I worked for an opera festival. That’s where I started out, and where I got my first connections in the business.

The Re|view: Do you think, then, that there is a specific link between music and photography?

Of course there is. Photography is about movement and rhythm, and taking out of it one single moment. So music is in any way essential to the picture. When I do a fashion shoot, there is always music on in the background. That makes it easier for the model to move and stage positions.

The Re|view: You create pictures with a stylised, modern fairlytale theme which has become quite popular in recent years. What do you think interests photographers in children’s stories?

Yes, they are still interesting because we have all been children once and some of us still are, inside.
Fairytales always show the fight between good and bad, light and darkness. But in the end everything will be fine.
And this is what we humans long for.

The Re|view: When working with models, how strict a ‘director’ are you – do you tell them exactly what to do or are they free to find their own expressions and poses?

This really depends on how much talent the model has. Good looks obiously aren’t enough. It is about knowing your body language and being able to use it. Some models have this ability – they connect to the camera. Others just stand there like a tree. If I see that they can’t work it by themselves, I have to show them what I want. But i don’t blame anyone, is it a tough business.

The copyright for these images is held by Wolfgang Silveri. You can find more of his photography and contact details on his website.

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