Claudio Ahlers plays the piano, the drums, guitar and bass and is trained as a composer for film and TV. He works as a dubbing mixer and sound engineer in the studio he set up in Bristol. Photography came seven years ago when Claudio was given a camera. Over the past few years, he’s photographed Rolling Stage’s events and developed his own projects. He exhibited in Bristol’s Looking Glass in November and was pre-selected for the Royal West of England Academy’s annual exhibition.
HUNOW: How and when did you get into photography?
CA: It must be about seven years ago. As a musician and a sound person, I never really had a visual arts approach to things, but when I turned 40 I was given a little camera and I haven’t stopped since.. I started snapping and I thought “I love this.” The digital technology really made it possible for me, because with film I would never have got it. Saying that, I’m now shooting on medium format photography which I also love because it’s the opposite: every shot you take takes about 2 to 3 minutes and if you get it wrong, it’s another pound down the drain!
HUNOW: What’s your favourite style of photography?
The Original Spinners by Claudio Ahlers
CA: At first, it was anything I could get my hands on. I really like street photography and people, and the Peak-a-Booth was a great education because people came distinctly to be photographed, which is not necessarily how photography works most of these days. Everybody gets photographed all the time and everybody takes a picture all the time.
But that’s a distinct set up, with an interaction, and it’s really old school. You form these five minute relationships, and it’s quite investigative. People come on a night out and before you know it, they’re putting out a side of themselves they normally don’t show. I’ve had people say to me “I couldn’t take my clothes off now, could I?” or “Take a picture of me in the cage with my clothes off..” So it’s just bizarre you know. They open and tell things they wouldn’t tell a stranger. Another woman said to me “You don’t know what this means, being photographed like this at this moment in my life” and it’s nice because even though it’s in public, people really engage with you and lose their shyness. They probably chat more than in normal settings.
HUNOW: Do you feel like your style’s evolved, and do you have a type of photography you prefer?
CA: It’s hard to answer. Every situation you’re in, you look for something that you might at that moment find interesting.. Something that’s not immediately obvious, not just another shot.. You look at the person and you wonder if you can catch something special about them. I started creating my own scenarios where I have an idea and I do a lot of staged shoots, more theatrical, slightly erotic art photography.. That’s developed into a style, with ideas and projects, and the means to realise them. The other thing is probably more my street photography, a slightly detached, ironic, Martin Parr-esque, if you want to categorise it..
HUNOW: Have you found a way to marry your music career with photography?
CA: Yes and no. First I wanted to keep it separate because I work as a composer and I know what music does to pictures: it changes the scale of things, the intensity of what you’re trying to express.. So you have to become slightly weary of it because it can also become an easy trick to turn something that is vaguely interesting into something that’s really interesting – but that doesn’t have much to offer other than the soundtrack.
I stayed away for a while, but now I have a project which I will write music for because it’s a story: it’ll be a slideshow, very atmospheric, and it’ll be enriched by music, with a narrative and a temporal aspect.
HUNOW: What would you advise someone who wants to take their photography further?
CA: I think that’s what most people would say: if you have a passion, let that passion drive you. Don’t worry about whether what you do is wanted, needed or interesting to anyone. To anyone who does things with conviction, chance will come. Get inspiration from people who don’t do what you do: poets, actors, and find the unexpected. If you do too much on your own you might lose sight of what else you could be doing.
Claudio will also be displaying both his urban and street photography during February in an upcoming four week exhibition that is being held at The Grand Bradley Gallery, in Bedminster. Claudio’s work will be shown alongside the work Patrick Coughlan.
See more of Claudio’s work by visiting his website here.