German photography duo We Have Seen — consisting of André Hemstedt and Tine Reimer — creates precisely-orchestrated visuals of motion frozen in standstill. Besides working on free projects, they work for a selected client list including fashion houses and magazines such as Iris von Arnim, SPEX and brand eins. Stefan Ostermeier, photo editor at brand eins, sat down with the photographers and asked about their mode of operation, visual language and the work for less®.
Stefan Ostermeier: What is your usual working process?
We Have Seen: The first thing we do before each project is to agree on what we want to achieve visually. We have a large collection of all sorts of visual impressions, whether it’s painting, video or photography. During research we filter images and develop ideas for visuals and lighting moods. We then simulate our idea by taking test photos of ourselves. If we need to work outdoors, we explore the location.
So the real work is done before the shooting.
Basically, yes. We are quite fast during the actual shooting, we don’t have to discuss a lot.
Is it like this every time?
In case of editorial assignments—like for brand eins, where we don’t have so much time to prepare—we first look at the premises on-site before we meet with the person to-be-portrayed. Most of the time by then we have a good idea of what we want to do, but with editorial work it always needs a bit of spontaneity.
How do you decide which one of you is taking the photographs?
We just know at a certain moment. Sometimes it’s both of us photographing and it happens quite often that the one not having the attention of the portrayed is the one making the final photo. It’s a benefit to work from different perspectives and to have someone to discuss the final selection with. It is not very economical as we are most often paid like a single photographer, but we value this kind of cooperation very much.
On your website there is a recognizable visual language despite different projects and clients.
In most cases we are booked based on our photographic approach which is why there is no stylistic difference between our free work and our jobs. There is no creative agency involved—we develop the idea on our own or in close collaboration with the client and take care of the process until the final image.
Do you often reject clients?
It happens if we feel that we are not the right choice for a particular assignment. We then recommend befriended photographers, who we consider to be more suitable.
You mostly work in black-white.
It’s a result of our aim at reduction. Even if we work in color, it’s mostly with a high proportion of non-colors. We would only work differently if there was a real need for colors.
Do you still work analog?
How important is the post-processing? When is the image created?
We are working very precisely during the shooting and take care that the retouching is only subtle and doesn’t dominate the results.
Do you have a favorite subject?
We are very interested in the forces of nature. It started in college and you can find it in many of our projects.
What are you currently working on?
We are working on a free project that deals with the subject „time“. We are also preparing a small group exhibition.
Did you have full creative creative freedom when working on the campaign for less?
David Scherf, the founder of less®, had a basic concept, which we refined with him. The visual language was to be reduced and analytical.
Where did you shoot? Some photos look as if they were made abroad.
We photographed in the Boberger dunes, which are just on the outskirts of Hamburg. There is no defined place that the photos depict, they could have been taken at the sea as well.
Where do you prefer to work, in the studio or outdoors?
We like both and it shows equally in our work. Working outdoors is more open, you have to deal with the circumstances, the weather. In the studio everything is created and in control. For less we wanted to merge both spheres.
You also made a video for less. Will others follow?
We recently made a free video work, but it is not edited yet. For us, creating a video is a challenge, because we were trained to question each image — and videos consist of a lot of images.