Daniela Reskes pictures are like cinema – one-of-a-kind story worlds full of emotion and special moments. She documents weddings internationally. We meet in her studio in Reutlingen-Oferdingen/Germany – a former boathouse by a river with huge old windows and a cozy fireplace.
Daniela, when I look at your work, I feel like in a movie that I want to keep on watching. How did you get to your unique visual language?
I have always been intrigued by journalism, by pictures that are conveying the moment. When I started out as a photographer twelve years ago, the reportage approach in weddings wasn`t mainstream yet. It was offered by only a few photographers. In the US this approach of documenting the entire day had been common for some time though. Today, wedding documentaries are pretty much standard. I loved the idea of having a photo album that enables people to relive that special day. When are friends and family ever all together? To me it`s important to show what`s happening in a genuine way, to truly document.
How do you put that into practice?
I use a 35 mm prime lens. That makes my pictures look very cinematic. Instead of the typical portrait, I rather capture scenes. I have looked at photographs that I liked and analyzed them: How are things done technically? What do I need to master as a photographer? How do I need to act in order to enable these scenes and moments to unfold in front of me? I must not attract attention. Which challenges the use of a 35 mm lens. So, I have to be even more unobtrusive. This technique is a big part of my work. I don`t use zoom lenses, but I walk instead. And I know how I need to move.
Don`t you find that oftentimes people are immediately alarmed when they feel a camera pointed at them, either looking straight into the camera or turning away?
Often you can catch a funny moment when a person looks straight into the camera in just that moment when you want to press the shutter. When there`s a lot of interaction it`s easier for me. The more hustle and bustle the better. But I generally act very unobtrusive and am hardly noticed. However, at weddings, people are dressed up and want to be photographed. Because of its defined context, a wedding is an opportunity for many good photos – it certainly is different from going into town to take pictures.
What makes a good picture for you?
If it tells a story and if it`s touching – moving in any way and be it in a negative way. Of course, I`m pleased if the composition and light are right, too. But not the perfect picture is the good one. A trivial subject matter that`s captured with perfection often contains no emotion. A good picture is the one that conveys feeling and communicates the moment.
So you can overlook flaws, for example when something is out of focus what really should be in focus?
If a potentially good picture is so blurred that I can`t use it, that of course annoys me. As I work a lot with my aperture wide open, it happens often, that something isn`t quite perfectly in focus. I can handle that. I think of the movies, where the focus is moved to the ear for the skin to look smoother. You must not be a perfectionist when doing documentaries, otherwise, you`ll end up unhappy. A picture has to communicate a strong story and strike a chord with the viewer. Everything else is a minor matter. That`s what I like about reportage.
Do you sometimes have nightmares about missing important moments at a photo event?
The evidently important moments, like the kiss after the wedding ceremony, are certainly must-haves. When it comes to these moments, I take no risks, but I don`t expect any artistic masterpieces either. The truly brilliant pictures are captured in other situations. You cannot be everywhere at the same time, you can`t get everything, because so much is happening simultaneously. I am alert and focused and I pay close attention to what`s going on around me. At a wedding, I`m with the couple already in the morning, when they prepare for the day. I then notice which people are most important to them, who have a special relationship with them. Those, I want to capture often. I don`t search for moments, but I keep my eyes and my mind wide open.
During conventional photo shoots, narrative moments don`t necessarily happen just like that. Nevertheless, you manage to maintain your expressive imagery…
Generally, I try to keep photoshoots as natural as possible. I don`t have a plan of how the people are supposed to look in the photos. I always try to find out, what they are here for, and what attracted them to my images. In my photos, I try to reveal relationships. I don`t dictate poses. I set the context in order to allow the happenings to unfold freely. It`s very important that I show up easy-going, confident, and relaxed. So that the people in front of the camera can let go. If I`m insecure the shooting is not going to succeed. Confidence comes with practice though.
After twelve years working as a photographer you probably have a lot of that – say, how did you get into photography at all?
At school, we built a Camera Obscura, a pinhole camera. I was completely in awe. I have always been a visual person. When I had my daughter, I started to photograph her. A friend asked me to photograph her wedding. That`s how I got to my first portfolio images. Before I had been working in marketing and I was very media-savvy. That helped me to become visible and prominent as a self-employed creative.
What have your biggest challenges as a photographer been?
I find it difficult when people have a fixed image of how they want to come across. This is especially common in the business sector. I then feel like I have to put them in a costume, which I can`t. A challenge for every photographer is peoples` harsh self-criticism. Sometimes, while I`m photographing someone, that person points out that certain flaws can be retouched later. That`s when I start to communicate that I`m not here to make them slimmer. Of course, I picture everyone in an appealing, aesthetically pleasing way. If people aren`t at peace with themselves, I can`t do anything about that as a photographer though. I see the opposite, too: Last year, I had beautiful shootings with women, who told me that they wanted to be photographed because they feel they`re now at peace with themselves.
You were the co-author of a book and you initiated workshops – are there any new projects on the horizon?
When the situation allows it, I will certainly offer workshops again. Together with a friend and colleague, I have opened an online shop where we sell prints. And I`m sure we`ll do some exhibitions again.