The Model Mayhem interview: Markus Klinko
Markus Klinko is a very talented, extremely innovative celebrity photographer based in New York. He is creative partners with Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri. Together, they have created unique, iconic images that have great impact on the viewer.
In addition to providing photographic perfection, Markus Klinko and Indrani, along with fashion stylist GK Reid, are now the stars of Double Exposure. This syndicated TV docu-series follows their work with celebrities such as Lady Gaga; Lindsay Lohan; Kim Kardashian; Dita Von Teese; stars of 90210 and Gossip Girl; supermodels Naomi Campbell, Mark Vanderloo, and Esquire’s “2010 Sexiest Woman Alive”; Sports Illustrated cover model Brooklyn Decker, as well as well-known fashion designers, magazine editors, and other high-profile members of the fashion and show business industry. Although Double Exposure was initially produced by Bravo in the United States, it has been picked up all around the world.
The duo has been featured in New York Magazine, the New York Post, the Huffington Post, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Washington Post, In Style, People, Cosmopolitan, American Photo, OUT, Harper’s Bazaar, Slate, LA Times, USA Today, OK!, Life and Style, and In Touch and on E News!, Access Hollywood, Extra, Inside Edition, Larry King Live, MTV, JustJared, Perez Hilton, and many other forums.
Some of their celebrity subjects include Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Kate Winslet, Katie Holmes, Eva Mendes, Anne Hathaway, Will Smith, Elijah Wood, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Keanu Reeves, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Val Kilmer, Serena Williams, Jay-Z, and Kanye West. Their commercial clients include Hugo Boss, Shiseido, L’Oreal Paris, Elizabeth Arden, Pepsi, Nike, Puma, Pantene, Baume-et-Mercier, Anna Sui, and De Beers.
Markus was born in Switzerland and had a great career as one of the world’s top classical harp soloists. He traveled the world as a musician and released award-winning albums for EMI Classic. For his amazing musical talent, he received the Grand Prix du Disque, the European equivalent of a Grammy.
I have been a huge fan of Markus’s amazing work for a long time, and it is my honour to have been lucky enough to interview him for this feature. I am excited and delighted to share Markus’s insights with you.
AVIVA: What photographers inspired you, or what inspires you as a photographer?
MARKUS KLINKO: You know, there’s really only one big name that comes to mind in terms of who inspired me a lot. It was definitely Helmut Newton. I think that his work, which is mainly from the seventies and from the eighties, is really amazing. Every photo that is taken by Newton that I look at is absolutely amazing. With contemporary photographers, I like a lot of people’s work here and there, but it’s all hit and miss… You know, I look at somebody’s work, and then I like this, but then I don’t like something else. So, I would say that Helmut Newton is unbelievable inspiration.
In your question, you’re absolutely right to ask what else inspires us, and I have to say it’s mainly not photography. It’s mainly other things that inspire our photography, like movies, pop culture in general. For instance, we worked with Lady Gaga, and she’s on the show, and I think that she is great inspiration. It’s great to follow her career, and I love working with her.
It can also be paintings from the fifteenth century, so it’s pretty random, and we can get inspired by a lot of different things. I mean, I can meet a gorgeous girl and get very inspired. So, it’s not just one thing or the other.
You could almost say life itself is inspiration for our photography, and we certainly don’t want to shoot the same pictures someone else is shooting. That’s another reason why we don’t really follow trends. We create our own trends. Having our own TV show also helps because, of course, so many more people are able to watch it.
AVIVA: Do you pre-visualize your photos, or do you put all your components together as you go?
MK: Again, the answer is not one or the other. It’s really both. There is always a plan and a concept, but as we arrive on a shoot, or in a location, or a studio, we are very open to the idea to adapt to opportunities and get more inspired from the celebrities or the designers we work with. It’s really a mixture of the two.
AVIVA: What achievement are you most proud of?
MK: That I had a career as a classical musician at first. I was actually a classical concert harpist, and I recorded for EMI Classic and had a completely different life traveling the world, playing concerts, and making recordings. Seventeen years ago, due to a hand injury, I decided to become a photographer, to stop performing, and change careers completely. So, I think that one of the things that I am the most proud of is that I equally love music and photography, and I’m very excited that I’ve been able to have great careers at both, which is a blessing. So, now, to add the third dimension of a television aspect . . . I’m very proud that I’ve been able to go from music to photography and now have a worldwide television show built out of that. I look forward to the next projects to equally be versatile and not repeat myself, and the new challenges that come along. We are now starting to direct videos and commercials as well. Mainly Indrani is doing that, but it adds to our scope of what we are doing.
AVIVA: Could you tell me more about Double Exposure and what made you decide to star in the show with Indrani?
MK: Double Exposure really is a comedy. People look at it as a reality show, but it’s a television drama. It’s real, and all the shoots that you see are real, but then it’s still television, so there is a little bit of self-parody in it. When we filmed this show, we wanted people to laugh and be entertained. We were definitely highlighting the drama, and it is definitely not meant to be taken seriously as a documentary. It’s entertainment.
What happened over the years as we developed as photographers, we got asked a bunch of times to be on certain shows. Like when they started America’s Next Top Model, they asked us to be the main photographer on the show, and we didn’t feel it was right, so we turned it down. As reality television culture developed–because ten years ago there really was no good quality reality TV–but it developed and became so much better and more exciting. Over the years, as people saw us working together as a team, Indrani and myself, being an ex-couple and being quite passionate about what we do, a lot of people started saying to us, “You guys are like a walking reality show; you should have your own TV show.” Little by little, we started thinking that it was a good idea, and coincidentally, Bravo executives were thinking of having a photography show, and they tried out a few big name photographers, and they didn’t find anybody quite right for TV, and one day we met them, and it was kind of like a match made in heaven. So, after months of negotiations back and forth, it was decided that Double Exposure was a go-ahead.
AVIVA: What is the most common trait that you see in new and up-and-coming models?
MK: It’s a good question. I would actually add another element to this whole model issue is that we saw the era of the supermodels back in the eighties and nineties. We had Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and all those supermodels. Then, we saw a very long period of over ten years where celebrities took over fashion completely. We saw many covers of magazines and advertising campaigns, including cosmetics, all being done by celebrities, actresses, musicians, and for a long time, models have almost disappeared from the first level of fashion exposure. I personally believe we are going to see a change again. I think that we are coming back into a phase now where models will be much more at the forefront again. I think that right now, we have had several years where there were not many recognizable models. A girl would do one or two campaigns or a cover or something, and their careers didn’t last. I think that we are going to go back to the more iconic and more new stars popping out. Hopefully, they are not going to be as skinny and as bony as some of the girls in the past. Personally, I’m a big critic of skinny, anorexic models on the runway. I think that girls should be feminine and have bodies and have shape. I don’t think that girls should be six feet tall and weigh eighty pounds. To me, it’s really not that attractive.
AVIVA: What do you believe they should be like?
MK: I think that they should be curvy and comfortable in their skin. I mean, if somebody is skinny naturally that’s one thing, but what I’m very much against is women starving themselves and being unnaturally anorexic, when it’s not their body type. I’m looking at some of our favorite subjects that I’ve ever shot, like, say, Britney Spears, Eva Mendes, or even Lindsay Lohan, women with curves. I mean, especially Britney is a great example. She is not very tall, and her body type would never be accepted by a modeling agency. She could never be with a major fashion agency, but I find that body type so much more attractive. So, I hope that the models of the future will be sexier, rounder, and not so anorexic.
AVIVA: What do you feel is the biggest challenge when setting up and working on a shoot?
MK: It’s so specific to each shoot. There is not really a rule. There are some shoots where the challenge is the time. Another time, it’s to not go over budget, and yet another time, it might be a celebrity who has a schedule that’s very, very tight. They come in for only an hour, so we have to be ready exactly at the right time. I really think that there is not a single challenge that’s the same, but there is never a shoot where there is no challenge. I would say it varies.
AVIVA: Do you have any funny, crazy, weird photoshoot experience that stands out to you and you would like to share?
MK: I’d say that most of our photoshoots are fun and high-energy. I mean, there have been a lot of different fun moments. For instance, it was very fun when I shot Ciara. She’s a great dancer, and at one point, we were playing some Michael Jackson during the photoshoot, and she started to dance. I was behind the camera, and I was dancing behind the camera a little bit too. Then she came and grabbed me and said, “Let’s dance.” We started doing this dance, and it was so unexpected. Here I was dancing with Ciara, who is probably one of the world’s best dancers, and it was ninety seconds of total fun.
Sometimes the funniest people on television or in the movies, when they are in a photoshoot, they are not funny at all. We had a shoot with Chris Rock, which was one of the most difficult shoots, because he doesn’t really like to be photographed. I love him as a comedian and as an actor; he was really nice, but he just didn’t like to be photographed in general.
Other people–like Keanu Reeves, for instance–they are so easy. Keanu, to photograph him, is like effortless because he has such great angles. He’s a tall guy, almost as tall as I am, and I’m six four. Every frame looks great. We shot for a short time, and it was great. There is always something surprising for sure.
AVIVA: What are some of your upcoming projects or campaigns that we should be on the lookout for?
MK: The problem with being a photographer is that we are not really allowed to talk about new things until they come out. One thing I can mention, though, is that we have just shot Daphne Guinness. She is probably the world’s number one fashionista. She is a very famous London socialite. She was the muse of Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford, and she has personally developed an amazing collection of couture clothes. She is the heiress of the Guinness Beer fortune, and we shot her for the London Sunday Times, and that’s going to come out really soon. That will be on our website as soon as it comes out, and it is one of the best photos we have ever done.
AVIVA: Who is your favorite musician?
MK: Well, now, I don’t listen to classical music as much anymore. It’s not that I lost interest. Classical music for me was the most fun when I was playing it myself. Just listening to classical music doesn’t hold my interest as much these days. I am interested in pop and pop culture in general. I do love Lady Gaga very much, and I like a lot of the trends in new music, but I like rock as well, and some eighties bands, eighties metal bands. I like Whitesnake, for instance. I have quite a broad spectrum of musical tastes. I love Sharde, and I like Spanish music as well. There is a beautiful Spanish album by Jennifer Lopez. We actually shot the cover for it. Spanish music is very romantic.
AVIVA: Would you be OK with a Proust Questionnaire?
MK: I’ve never done one before, but, yes, we can try that.
[The Proust questionnaire is a form of interview devised by Marcel Proust. A version of the Proust questionnaire is used by James Lipton, the host of the TV program Inside the Actors Studio. I thought it would be very cool to try this interview style on Mr. Klinko.]
AVIVA: What is your favorite word?
AVIVA: What is your least favorite word?
AVIVA: What is your favorite food?
AVIVA: What is your least favorite food?
AVIVA: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
MK: I would be a manager or a publicist.
AVIVA: What profession would you not like to do?
MK: I wouldn’t want to be a soldier.
I look forward to continuing to follow Markus’s and Indrani’s careers and to seeing all the great images they will continue to produce.