INTERVIEW: Kirsten Becken & Veronika Faustmann on Poison Berlin
How did you get to photography?
Veronika: Early in my childhood. My father always photographed a lot and developed most of his pictures himself. So I started developing my pictures early in our home lab. Everything that surrounded me was photographed. Developing and enlarging my world has fascinated me tremendously. During high school I had a focus on photography at art class and I wanted to make photography my profession.
Kirsten: My mother gave me a yellow miniature camera for school enrollment. Rather a toy, but that was my start – symbolically. You could insert a roll and trigger it, but do not make any adjustments. I well remember the smell of the rolls, and the fact that at the age of six I photographed mutual Polaroid portraits with my mother. I persuaded my parents at regular intervals to a common Polaroid. Later, I staged my girlfriends at my room door and experimented with different backgrounds and light. Consciously, it only started during the studies, at the Folkwang Essen. My first term work was a quote – back then I already worshiped Cindy Sherman and did self portraits with a slide projector.
Did you personally have personal experiences in your career in which you felt disadvantaged because of your gender?
Kirsten: There are a few experiences that make me feel patronized or ridiculed. But this rather takes place in private customer contact, often at weddings, which I still take pictures at from time to time. There are these classic questions if I professionally and the common chit chat on amateur photography. I would like to get rid of that in a blink of an eye. Mostly it takes but one, two sentences – and being too aggressive would not work. I would assign these useless chats in parts to the gender, but also the job profile. That’s why it makes so much sense to start FemalePhotographers.
Veronika: This question always pops up in conversations with colleagues. I myself have never experienced that I did not get a job because of my gender. Or that a male colleague was preferred or better paid. However, it is often difficult to find out why this or that job passed by. I think there are a lot of different factors that go beyond gender. Often it is so simple things, such as in my portfolio not enough work in a certain direction, which the customer would like to implement for each project. The market especially in terms of advertising photography is highly competitive. The range of photographers for client side huge.
Are there gender differences in working with clients in terms of work climate, pay and respectful eye contact?
Veronika: I have to bail on this one. I think it’s more about interpersonal chemistry, the mood on the set and working together. I myself always try to meet others as I would like to be treated. And of course, not everything is easy with customers and you get excited about unpaid bills, but behind them are completely different dynamics and company structures that we have little influence on, man or woman.
Kirsten: So far, I’ve found little difference in pay when talking to male colleagues, but I think the boundaries are fluid nowadays. The trend is to exploitation – for example, you pitches for jobs and writes a comprehensive estimate, may give tips on production or should even remember the casting. There is extreme caution. The business is tough, agencies tend to make demands that are not quoted in the offer and test how much they can beat out. Because you may even be squatting after the end of the shoot on an incompatible follow-up, retouching – any form of extra work and annoys black, because you have not set up a contract. That’s how I felt at first. I think there are still many female photographers who do not pay their fair enough and that has always to do with uncertainty.
Together with the photographer Kirsten Becken you have created the Plattfor ‘Female photographers.org’. How did you meet?
Veronika: When I finally came to the idea of a kind of organization of female photographers, Kirsten immediately came to mind. She is a maker and superwoman who loves networking and really puts ideas into action! Colleagues recommended Kirsten when I needed a relaunch of my website decades years ago and Kirsten was still working mainly in art direction. We exchanged views on photography and motherhood over the years and then met live at the launch of FP.org.
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