Brigit Krippner is an award winning photographer, born in Austria and has lived in New Zealand since 2003. Her specialty is capturing candid images using only available light. She has exhibited internationally and her works have been published in media like New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NZ Life & Leisure Magazine and many more.
In 2015, Birgit was the recipient of the Team Lee Award for photojournalism, at the Missouri photo Workshop in Perryville, with her project 'Unexpect the Expected', Small Town Cop. In 2011, Birgit won an award at Grand Prix Terroirs d'images in Paris, France.
Hello Birgit, thanks a lot for getting in touch with Women in Photography. Can you tell a bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hello Nicole. Since childhood, photography has been a big part of me. I am dyslexic, and expressing myself in visual ways seems to be natural to me, maybe the best way for me to communicate. As much as I have an extroverted side, I really see myself as an Introvert and as a loner. Being on road trips on my own, traveling to exotic places and putting myself outside my comfort szone are elements which my camera is able to capture. This helps my friends, family and audience to understand me better. It helps me to understand myself better.
After finishing a master degree in Graphic Design, I started working at a design studio in Vienna. Soon I realized that this is not where my passion is, and still, I continued working as a graphic designer some more years. In 1995 I moved to NYC where more and more I picked up my camera to photograph my surroundings. When I moved to New Zealand in 2003, that was when I started needing my camera, relying on it, and when I started developing my own voice by making pictures. About nine years ago it was, that I first used the words ‘I am a photographer’. This was a milestone. About at the same time I designed my own website for photography, and I manage having my first solo exhibition in Wellington at Photospace Gallery. One thing lead to another and over years I became a photographer.
What does photography mean to you?
This is a big question, since it is not one thing that photography means to me. There are many different photographers out there who approach their photography from all kinds of angles. A lot of their work does not speak to me. When photography starts crossing boundaries, maybe by breaking rules - then chances are, that I will start paying attention to it. Some people are amazing photo journalists, which I very much respect and appreciate. And some of those photo journalists become superb in showing different dimensions to their pictures. Removing oneself from being too literal, showing poetry in your images and becoming figuratively, that is what I am striving with my photos.
You submitted photos of your latest project called „Smitty“. Can you tell us something about the project and how did the idea came up?
In October 2017 I was accepted to Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey’s photo workshop in Brooklyn, NY. About six months before that, I was introduced to Smitty and thought that he would be a person who I would enjoy getting to know better, and to photograph. One thing led to another, and Smitty opened up his doors to me. He welcomed me into his world as a musician, as a man who is passionate about all he does. I put a lot of time, thoughts and emotions into this project and the feedback which I have receive really was mind-blowing. A lot of positive comments from people around the world.
What is your creative process when you work on a project, like „Smitty“?
It all starts with a conversation. At the beginning I don’t introduce my camera to my subject. I find it important, getting an understanding of who the person is, who I am about to photograph. Equally important it is, that my subject gets an understanding of who I am. Only then, my subject and I can start our calibration together. Smitty and I became friends during this process, which not only brings an assignment to a different level, it actually exceeded what I was hoping for, and the photos seem to reflect this curious and positive feeling.
When you plan a new project. What are you looking for?
More often then not, a new project is approaching me, not the other way around. How I live my life, being open minded, challenging my comfort zone, and stepping into the unknown and excotic only makes curious situations come to me. My projects get me excited. It can be almost anything that gets my attention, but photographing people definitely is what I enjoy most. I love capturing low light situation, especially twilight/low light. This means that my camera is constantly on its limit. Aperture fully open, ISO on as high as bearable, and shutter speed on as long as my hand allows without creating shakiness.
You shoot with Leica cameras using only available light, which gives your photos a fantastic cinematic look. Can you tell us something about your post processing ?
Thank you for your kind comment on the cinematic look of my photos. For post processing I have been using Adobe Lightroom for many years. I used to convert my pictures to B&W, which I found Silver Efex Pro 2 works really well. Over the last couple of years I have been confronting color photography. I vey much enjoy this change, but saying so, I find color photography more difficult to make it work, than if in B&W. My specialty is low light, twilight, photography. In Lightroom I make sure that the different light sources which I show in photos go well with each other, and that the white balance reflects in a way how I want it to be seen. I might bring out the contrast. On of the world’s best photo editors told me four years ago, that I should not crop my photos. I took his advice and hardly crop my pictures at all.
Besides your work as a photographer, you are the judge for the international „I-shot-it“ photo award. What are you looking for when you judge work from other artists?
Sometimes a photographer submits a photo to the I-Shot-It competition, which breaks the rules in a way that is difficult to put into words. I find it important that a good photographer is aware of rules, which need to be followed in photography. Only then, a good photographer can become a great (or even exceptional) photographer. This can happen in breaking rules of photography. Framing, seeing light, being sensitive of what you photograph, how you want to show it, and also post production. These are all elements which are which are extremely important to create a potential good photo. The bottom line is, there is no formula on how to become a good photographer. My thoughts on this are, follow your heart, keep all your senses open, and have your camera with you as much as possible.
The photography industry has changed a lot over the past years. What advice would you give female photographers who want to start a career into photojournalism?
I am not sure if I’d be a good person to give ‘advice’ on this, but I would like to share some of my insight. I find it important to be as much informed about other photographers in the industry as possible. To be aware of which photo projects have been done in the past, and who is the photographer who did that project best. If you decide on repeating a project which was done by someone else in the past anyway, make sure that you have your own way how to do this. Create your own voice and style as a photographer. Be authentic. Get strong in your vision and don’t give up easily. Believe in yourself, surround yourself by photographers who you look up to, and share your work with them for critique. Be honest to yourself and be honest to others. Honesty will reflect in your work.
Next year you will give a 2 day workshop on Smartphone Photography in NYC. What can your students expect from this workshop?
I am rather excited about running this Two-Day-Smartphone workshop in NYC! This workshop on Smartphone photography will be the first of its kind, which I will give. I am looking forward to it since there is so much to be forwarded. With today’s high end smartphone cameras, a photographer can shoot the cover of a magazine without a professional camera needed. And this is happening! It does not show anymore, if a good photographer shoots with a smartphone or a ‘real’ camera. This line is getting thinner, and smartphone photographer is only getting stronger in the future. I have been asked to consider running a workshop in smartphone photography, so I will give it a try. If people will sign up, I might use this model in different cities and countries.
Tell us a little bit about the photography scene in New Zealand. Are there any female photographers you could recommend?
New Zealand has a vibrant scene of art, photo journalism and all kinds of photographers. One of my favorites is John Crawford, whose work I find superb. John covers a lot of social issues and he has a poetic approach in how he shows his work. When it comes to female photographers, I very much enjoy Lottie Hedley’s work, especially her photo project on Curling in New Zealand. There is a playfulness to this assignment of Lottie, and how she uses color I find rather special. Lottie is based in Auckland. Fiona Pardington, Yvonne Todd, Marti Friedlander, and Ans Westra are wonderful and influential female photographers, who are living in New Zealand.