Ones to Watch: Edgar Berg
We first met Edgar Berg when he was visiting in New York last month, but that certainly wasn’t the first time we’ve seen his work. Over the summer (on July 11th to be exact) we featured an image from his personal book project, The Space Between Us, on Milk’s Instagram. Shot in South Africa, the image portrays five women wading in the water with obscured faces; speaking to Berg, he mentioned that this project was designed to reconnect with his imagination and “to use the simplest ingredients you can find: humans and nature.”
Since meeting the German photographer, he’s talked to us about the overnight interest he received, his personal projects, and why he loves Paris (his current home base.) He also shot some self-portraits for us!
So when we posted your Instagram photo, what happened?
From one day to the other, I received like hundreds of interactions in the form of messages, comments, and followings that wouldn’t stop coming. I was really curious about what happened and asked a few of these people how they got onto my Instagram profile. They told me that they found my photo on Milk’s page and then started following me.
I’m really happy about it since I never had this kind of exposure before. There are a bunch of clients and galleries, to whom I am talking to right now. I don’t want to jinx it, so I will keep my mouth shut for now. laughs
And what project was the photo from?
That was a photo from my personal book project, The Space Between Us, which I shot in South Africa, about a year ago. I just released a few of these pictures earlier this year as a teaser for the upcoming book.
It is a photo series that I put a lot of preparation and planning into over the past 2 years. Ever since you guys shared my work, a lot of the other big art and culture Instagram profiles also shared this particular image with the women in the water. It really blew up.
What was the concept behind the book?
Going back to the roots! When I started photography I had a really minimalistic and basic approach; there was my camera and a person right in front of me. No guidelines, no fashion, no “must shoot” looks, just raw photography.
Ever since I evolved and worked with magazines and commercial clients I felt that a part of me was missing. Don’t get me wrong, I love to work in all kinds of different areas of photography, but I had the urge to create something that had no boundaries but my imagination.
My idea was to use the simplest ingredients you can find: humans and nature. I wanted to have a strong but sensual group of people that connect back to nature and also to themselves.
What did you go to school for?
I went to school for Communication Design with a focus in graphic design, because after I finished high school I really didn’t know what else to do. I was always the graphics and gaming person besides skateboarding, so I figured that this is the smartest thing to do.
And so I started to study Communication Design. I remember always being in front of the computer rendering 3D stuff for school or working on commercial projects. It was great and cemented the foundation for the things I am doing now. But at the same time, I wanted to go outside and explore a different creative area, that involves less time at the screen. So I went on eBay and purchased my first camera – it was a Canon 40D.
So how old were you when you started shooting?
I’m 32 now, so I must have been like 23-24. Gosh, that’s so long ago.
Are there specific photographers that you look at for inspiration? What do you like to look at when you’re coming up with a project?
Honestly, I don’t look up other photographer’s work to get inspired. But as for photographers in general, I always liked Peter Lindbergh. I believe it’s because of his minimalistic approach with very few elements that create striking photos and stories to tell. I’m referring to his earlier 90’s.
But apart from that, I can get inspired by basically anything. It could be something that I find on the streets or just a person with smooth and beautiful hair sitting in the metro. Then I’m like, “Oh cool, maybe I can do something with waves.” Anything can inspire me in daily life. If I really want to search for inspiration that doesn’t come by surprise, I am looking into old documentary books or visit the french museums.
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And now you live in Paris, are you inspired by the city?
Paris is a city of constant inspiration. There has not been a single day since I moved to this beautiful city, without discovering something new and inspiring. Also, my love for cheese and wine got even stronger and makes sure I won’t move to another country any time soon.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on several projects at the moment. One of the bigger projects is something I started while I stayed in New York. Angel Macias, one of my friends and also a very talented stylist, had found these amazing original newspapers from back in 1962 at a flea market, that read, “Man lands on Moon.” Based on that, we developed a concept that will connect the dots to the story I shot in South Africa. I don’t want to give away too much, but I believe it will come out amazing!
What advice do you have for photographers that are trying to be in the commercial world, but then also work on their personal projects?
Good question. Follow your heart. laughs
Honestly, I think you just have to keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t focus too much on other people’s opinions. I also think these days, everyone’s about the likes and following. Don’t get me wrong, I was really happy when you reposted my photo which received over 15k likes. But that is just the icing on the cake.
For me the most important factor is stamina. How much time and money are you willing to invest in order to make a living out of photography? There are many many more that are going the same route but will lose their interest and patience over time. If you have enough stamina to last, you will eventually be rewarded!
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What is your creative process like for a commercial project v.s a personal project?
When I get hired on a commercial job, the creative process is not always the same. Most of the time I will be approached like, “Hey, this is the brief. This is the mood board. What are your thoughts on it?” They’re contacting me for my style of photography and they put together a mood board that kind of looks the same as my portfolio.
On the other hand, I also have some clients approach me who are more open to creative exploration and let me do whatever I want.
For example, I just had a meeting with a French Champagne client who is open to all kinds of directions. It’s nice, but also a bit scary at the same time, because you don’t have anything to hold on and work around it. You have to really think and spin your head around.
And if we’re talking personal or independent work that I solely do for my soul, the creative process looks a bit different. First, I get some inspiration. I work on the ideas and gather a lot of images, paintings, quotes. As explained earlier I like to check on documentary books, go to exhibitions. Paintings have a strong impact on my work for colors that I might implement in my photos.
Once I have established this baseline, I will then approach other creatives that I think are a nice addition in the process. Typically stylists and everyone who is interested in creating images with passion.
You mentioned that you’re approached for your specific style – how would you describe it?
I would describe my work as a blend of dynamic, poetic and abstract moments. It’s really weird to talk about your own work. It’s like my baby, you will eventually say weird stuff about your baby.
Images Courtesy of Edgar Berg.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Ones to Watch.