Josef Hoflehner’s images never fail to mesmerize. We chatted with the Austrian photographer about his work and influences.
My photography is about…Just photographs, they are not supposed to deliver a message.
I knew I wanted to be a photographer when…At the age of 20, while I was working as a food and beverage manager in a hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, I quickly realized that the job wasn't something I wanted to do. So I purchased my first camera (a Nikon) and traveled the country with a couple of friends. I never had a traditional day job again.
The subjects I’m most drawn to (and why)…I especially love to photograph wide-open spaces where one can see the horizon unimpaired, such as coastlines or deserts (this perhaps has something to do with growing up in a small, landlocked Alpine country in Europe). However, I also love to capture major urban areas, especially in Asia and the U.S.
My camera of choice…Over the years, I have used basically everything that became available: Large format 4x5" and 8x10", and medium format 6x7, 6x6, 6x12 and 6x17 cm. For my recent color series I'm using a pair of high-end digital backs (~80 megapixel) and some German lenses on a custom-made body.
My influences are…Single photographs by numerous photographers have influenced me in one way or another, rather than a photographer's entire work. Although if I have to name some, my favorite photographers probably include Andreas Feininger, Nobuyoshi Araki, Joel Sternfeld, Harry Callahan...in no particular order.
My most memorable shoot…Oh, there are many! In the end, every shoot that brings a great photograph is memorable. But, usually, lone shoots on a tall building in a city like New York are quite memorable. There is something about capturing Central Park or the Chrysler Building from, like, 60 floors above ground — with all the busy city noise below — from a vantage point that probably only a handful of people have managed to see/photograph.
My advice for the would-be photographer…Honestly, I'm not good at all at giving advice. But one has to be very patient and deliver one striking photograph after another, and should never sell oneself short.
My favorite photography books are…There are not many photography books that get my attention. But over the past decades, I have still managed to build quite a nice collection. I especially love American Prospects by Joel Sternfeld — his Exhausted Renegade Elephant or McLean, Virginia photographs, among others, are legendary.
Playa Azul (Cuba, 2012)