An interview with fashion photographer & director Daniel Sannwald

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a famous scientist. That I became a fashion photographer had a lot to do with my late father, who was an artist and in his short time gave me the direction of photography and design. In some ways, I am secretly still a mad scientist working with utterly fictional technology to forward my schemes. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a lab coat. I am not about being meticulous, you see. I am allergic to things that are too slick, too clean, and too plastic. True liberty for me lies in the right to make mistakes, as moving about and experimenting is always more interesting than being careful In a society which is focused on the perfect image, I am trying to regain the sense and quality of mistakes and I am not afraid of showing ‘errors’.

fashion photographer Daniel Sannwald

Briefly describe the creative process behind one of your submitted works.

All my works have a similar process based on playing and having fun. It’s difficult to put it down in words but my work is really more about playing then working. The path of playing will lead to experience, the biggest freedom in creating.

How would you describe your work style to people who first came across it?

Making choices between nature and technology is something I don’t do, blending really raw animal stuff with high tech or clashing something organic with something computer generated. I’m somewhat torn between love and disgust for the digital age. One one hand I hate these overworked perfect images which are one result of the digital time. However, I love badly done digital things: stuff with too many pixels, wrong colours and cheap Photoshop filters. If I overwork, I mostly make clear to the viewer exactly what I did and how it came about. Apart from fragments of digital culture, my work carries echoes of pop art, film noir and German expressionism. From the latter, I got my way of shifting chiaroscuro lighting and the convenient idea to paint light and shadow onto the scenery rather than to produce it.

Is there anything intrinsically Belgian that you think has been a strong influence or inspiration in what you do?

In Belgium, I started to develop my own personal style so I guess that many things influenced me on the wayfinding my place in photography.
I wouldn’t say a certain person has been a strong influence or inspiration for me – but of course, people like Peter Philips, Raf Simons, Luc Tuymans, Guy Mees, Danny Devos and Peter Verhelst helped me to rethink all my ideas and visions I had before I came to Belgium.

fashion photographer Daniel Sannwald

Do you see any particular tendencies emerging in Belgium design? What do you think the future will bring for design in Belgium?

I don’t like to talk about future developments, tendencies and trends.

What is the most frustrating thing you found working in the fashion scene?

My main work is based on fashion, so I don’t want to complain too much, I really enjoy doing what I do and I enjoy working with my clients, but sometimes its hard to deal with people from the fashion industry but that’s part of my job.
I see my work until now like a journey where I meet new clients and people all the time and I start slowly to select the people and clients I want to meet more often on my future journey. The annoying and frustrating ones I will leave behind.

Are there big differences between Belgian and international clients?

Not really.

How important is experimenting with design to you? Or do you just follow current trends?

We are all influenced by trends, its impossible to not be in our time but still my work is more about experimenting then following trends. But I try to keep a good balance between both, blending experiments together with “Zeitgeist” and Trends..

You work a lot with shadows in your pictures and also in black and white, is this typical for your work?

I love film noir and German expressionistic movies like the ones from Fritz Lang,  many of my works are influenced by those. Although I wouldn’t pick it as a trademark as I also love shocking neon colours reflecting the digital area we are living in. A journalist once described my work as “TECH-NOIR” so basically neon colours meet black and white shadows – in that term, I agree.

fashion photographer Daniel Sannwald

What is the big difference between commercial and non-commercial work to you?

I try to “Keep it real” in both and try to be as free as possible, but of course, the borders in commercial works are harder to break as in non-commercial works.

What is your favourite colour and why?

Purple – the colour of GOD and therefore the most powerful colour which exists.

Can you say that Belgium has a creative client base?

Honestly I hardly work with Belgium clients, most of my clients are based in London, Barcelona, Berlin, Stockholm and New York, so it’s hard for me to answer this question.
I recently collaborated with Base Design in Brussels and I really admire their approach in using graphics and as they are based, apart from New York and Barcelona, in Brussels must mean that there is a strong creative client base in Belgium.

What you will be doing around the same time next year?

Being out for lunch forever!

Discover Daniel’s work

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Published by

Timothy Helmer

Designer, curator of Let's Talk Design and founder of Creative Network.