Our first sale is now live! Don't miss out on 70 photographs united around the theme "Always a Beginner," on sale until February 14. Meanwhile, we will continue our twice-weekly profiles of our 20 photographers...
Christian Bobst is a passionate and highly decorated photojournalist. After a successful career as an art/creative director, he decided to focus his energy onto documentary photography. Since then, he has been published around the world and last year won a major prize for World Press Photo.
Below, Bobst recounts his "decisive moment" in photography and much more—
BtF: How did you begin your work in photography? Was there a "decisive moment" when you knew it was a special medium for you, when you felt truly committed to it?
CB: After high school I went on road trip through England and Ireland for three months. I had very little money and hitchhiked everywhere. But that was not when I took my first pictures. Rather, at that time, I found people with cameras ridiculous. I saw them stopping their cars on the roadside, stepping out, snapping some shots and driving away without really looking...
Later, I took photography lessons in art scool. We learned how to take portraits in the studio, to put up lights and softboxes and to develop black and white film. I found it all extremely boring. I didn't appreciate it then, but at least I learned the basics about how to use a camera.
Finally, one day I was visiting my parents at home and drove by an abandoned industrial complex. I used to pass by this place every day when I went to school, but somehow I never asked myself what was inside those old factory halls. Suddenly, I was seized by the desire to find out. I borrowed my dad's camera and tripod, put in black and white film and went to the front gate. It was unlocked.
As I tip-toed around the abandoned buildings, I felt like I was entering another dimension. That was my decisive moment.
BtF: When you were beginning photography, were there any people, artists, books, films that served as essential inspirations? How about now—any sources of creativity you discovered recently that give you that jolt of "beginner's" passion?
CB: I discovered Sebastiao Salagodo's Workers book at the library in my art school when studying graphic design. I was blown away by the intensity and aesthetic perfection of his images. I had never taken pictures of people before but that book inspired me to get out there and do my own reportage photography.
A few weeks later, I went to the Swiss mountains to shoot my very first story about two girls who quit their jobs to produce cheese in a remote cottage at high altitude. Up there it seemed that time had stopped for a century: they had no toilet and no running water in the cottage, electricity was only available through a fuel-powered generator...I stayed there for two weeks, drinking coffee or tea, watching the landscape in front of me change minute by minute. That's when I felt, for the first time, that I would like to live the life of a photographer. It took me 15 more years until that dream came true, but without Salgado's book it might have never happened.
BtF: Cartier-Bresson famously said, "Your first 10,000 shots are your worst." Can you share a humbling moment that happened to you recently with regards to your photography? A moment when you realized, like all of us, that there's always much more to learn?
CB: These days, I study the work of other photographers regularly. This prevents me from thinking that my work is good—and motivates me to always try to do better! There's nothing more humbling for me than to see the world through the eyes of another photographer and to realize that the possibilities we have when we take a picture are infinite.
In addition, I have come to learn that compelling images are created by the photographers' personality—specifically the way how s/he looks at the world and how s/he interacts with it. The work of great photographers always reminds me that if I want to improve my pictures, I need to grow as a human being first.
—Christian Bobst, interviewed by behindthefra.me
Christian has five images for sale in "Always a Beginner"—take a look!