When fashion photographer Udo Spreitzenbarth first arrived in New York City 20 years ago, he was instantly struck by the character of the city. "I felt the energy of the city. I could feel how alive the streets were. I instantly fell in love with New York.One hour after I landed I knew I wanted to live there. Everyone here is chasing a dream, and you can feel that."
Years before Spreitzenbarth ever stepped foot in New York, he was an architect student at Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany. Although he enjoyed the design aspect of his studies, he wasn't a fan of the math or planning it demanded. "It can be difficult to choose what to study in Germany. In the German school system you have to pick something to specialize in. I was torn between architecture and art. Architecture felt safe and my parents were pushing me towards it."
It was Spreitzenbarth's older brother who laid the groundwork for his creativity and future career."It was my brother who taught me about lens and shutter speed. He was always buying the latest photography equipment. Whenever he'd get a new camera or lens, he'd give me his old equipment."When Spreitzenbarth felt conflicted about continuing his university studies,he turned to his camera and fashion photography."Oddly enough, I started on the other side of the camera. I actually modeled for a bit in Germany and Paris. For me,it was just a side job, something to do. During shoots, I would watch the photographer behind the lens and study what he was doing."
Before Spreitzenbarth knew it, he was traveling the world after befriending a fashion photographer."I started helping him out on shoots. Eventually it was me behind the lens. I started getting work from modeling agencies in Germany. I would take photos of their new models to help build their portfolios. From there, my work started getting attention and I started photographing more elite models."
As a photographer you need to know your stuff. You need to know your lighting, your shutter speeds and your angles. The added challenge of being a fashion photographer is establishing the connection you have with your model. "A lot of people assume fashion photography is just about a pretty face. It's not that simple. A person can be aesthetically beautiful, but that doesn't mean it's going to translate to film. The photo has to come alive, otherwise the photograph will be 2D. It will be flat and boring. As a photographer, you have to be vulnerable behind the lens. You have to be sensitive to the model. It also helps when the model knows her stuff; how the lighting works and what it's like to work behind the camera so they know how to work with the lens when they're in front of it."
One person that Spreitzenbarth finds it easy to work with is Tyra Banks. In 2013 the two join forces to create "15: A Tribute to the Supermodel." In this photo series,"Banks pays homage to other iconic supermodels of the past and of today by becoming them. The project had been more than a year in the making. Tyra collaborated with creative director Ty-Ron Mayes as well as hairstylist Shar Rae Tucker, who is a protege of the legendary Oribe, and Emmy award-winning makeup artist Valente Frazier to recreate the looks of models as young as Cara Delevingne to the most classic of models, like Grace Jones."
"She knows her stuff", Spreitzenbarth shares. "She doesn't just pose in front of the camera. She talks to the make-up artists, she talks to the lighting, she talks to wardrobe. She knows what is going on at all times. It also helps that she has done photography herself. I'll explain to her what I'm going for, and bam, just like that, she delivers. Everything runs so smoothly"
Spreitzenbarth maintains his craft and its edge by remaining humble. As he shares his advice for aspiring photographers, you can sense that his pointers are ones that he lives by as well. "Keep momentum", he says. "Keep your curiosity. Curiosity is what will push you to try new things and move out of your comfort zone. Keep your passion. Passion is what will open new horizons for you. If you like a certain direction, pursue it."Stay tuned to Spreitzenbarth's 2015 projects as he continues to move into new directions with his own work. To check out more Spreitzenbarth's work, you can visit his website or instagram.