As a child I always wanted to have an alternative existence next to my daily life. A personal backdoor. By that I mean, I want to do something where I can study and reflect on my own life experience and can try to reflect this without depending on other authorities. A kind of autonomy. And I found a means that suited me best in making photos and film, in particular by collecting moments of time. For instance my work on observing and portraying other artists, to look at how they think, live, create and work. Not to purposely borrow anything from their work, but it’s more like a permanent study process. For certain, I'm not a documentarist. I'm more like a recording interpreter. And when I say I want to photograph someone, what it really mean is that I'd like to know them. In my portraits hopefully you can catch a glimpse of that I was never afraid to fall in love with some of these people.
Is this something that was always on your mind?
In the words of German explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859), “The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have never viewed the world.” This became my motto since I was a child. I mean, living self-consciously in this world in observing, focusing, reflecting and dealing with my own life as a permanent creative process of exploration. Then I thought later privately, socially or politically, through which discoveries were of real interest to me and if it was clear enough about what it was or still is to me then I start to draft creative concepts and start making images to translate all these thoughts into a kind of frame.
Does the subject of the portrait or observed accept this?
Always. Theatre-Festival Director and Curator Dieter Jaenicke (Germany / Brasil) described this ambivalent relationship - working with other artists - very well in his preface "Far Beyond the Moment" for my "Please don't move" project in 2000: "Consequently the relationship between photographers and other artists like directors or choreographers is often tense, complicated, fused with jealousy or mistrust. The one makes use of the other’s art for his own form of artistic expression. Photographer Thomas Fuesser found a completely individual way to resolve this complicated relationship creatively."
Thank you, Dieter again for your kind words. My leading thought to avoid any possible conflicts in this work is always determined by communication, cooperation and respect. And what necessarily always should remain is the curiosity to explore and to learn something new.
How is your working relationship with other artistic professionals?
Always try to choose good collaborators. Some of the best collaborators are the ones who disagree with me sometimes. It shows they’re passionate, they have opinions, and they’ll only ever say “yes” if they mean it.
How is creativity working for you and where do your Ideas come from?
Chuck Close’ (an American painter and photographer) words are still a kind of mantra for me, as he mentioned that inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. Indeed I agree on this notion that creativity and fruitful ideas come not from the passive resignation to a muse but from the active application of a work ethic - or discipline - as the engine of creative work. But the nature of creativity is fragmentary. An idea comes - and you see it, and you hear it, and you know it… more often than not, in small fragments only, and then you have to start to work it out, to build the Complete House.
But how does it work out in commercial projects, which usually have time pressure?
It’s amazing that decades after its publication, James Webb Young’s 5-step technique for producing ideas is still relevant and helpful today. Young in the 1930s, a successful ad man inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame, documented his thought process to spark creativity in advertising or any other creative process. He stated that, as with any art, you need to start by understanding the relevant principles and methods. “In learning any art the important things to learn are, first, Principles, and second, Method. This is true of the art of producing ideas. What it is most valuable to know is not where to look for a particular idea, but how to train the mind in the method by which all ideas are produced and how to grasp the principles which are at the source of all ideas.” In other words, an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements. There is nothing new under the Sun. The secret is to make links or connections that no one else has. A search for relationships between seemingly unrelated facts is of the highest importance in producing ideas. A very helpful guidance I believe.
You also work on full commercial projects. How do you pick and choose these projects and when considering a new commercial project, what criteria must be met?
For commercial projects, I always try to consider that the final product and my service to assist in realisation should be worthwhile. Every project should come with a clear determined but reasonable timeline and budget. I want to work with different kinds of people in a good and respectful atmosphere of trust. For all sides.
What kind of commercial and art services do you offer?
• Art Direction
• Art Tours (Shanghai, Beijing & Hong Kong)
• Branding & Identity
• Concept Development
• Content Development
• Creative Direction
• Design Systems
• Exhibition Design
• Photography (digital and analog)
• Print (editions, books and catalogues)
Can you provide an overview on your client list you've worked for since starting in 1986?
Here is an little overview on 4 sections of Corporate, Art, Publishing & Editorial and Educational Clients.
PUPDI Shanghai Pudong Urban Planning & Design Institute, McCann Erickson ad agency, ZENDAI GROUP Shanghai, Porsche Shanghai, The Buettenpaper Factory GMUND, TBWA ad agency, PX-Group Germany, EXPO 2010 Shanghai (Pavillion projects), DEKRA China, T-Mobile International AG, Steinberg Media Technologies (Cubase), Bertelsmann AG Germany, BMG Music Publishing (now Universal Music Group), Visa Inc., USA, Springer & Jacoby ad agency, GMG Color Asia, MSB&K ad agency, EXPO 2000 Hannover, Dr. Oetker GmbH Germany,Heye & Partner ad agency, Douglas Holding AG Germany, Jung von Matt ad agency, Pelikan Germany, Wilkens Ayer ad agency, Ritter Sport Brand, Windi Winderlich Design Cooperation, BBDO ad agency.
MoCA Museum Shanghai, ART Basel Hong Kong 2013 , ShanghART Gallery Shanghai / Beijing / Singapore, HELLERAU - European Center for the Arts, Dresden Germany, Long March Space Beijing, Academy of Arts Berlin , EFA European Academy of Film Berlin , House of the Cultures of the World Berlin, ARTHOUSE Hamburg, ISTF - International Summer Theatre Festival Hamburg, Ministry for Cultural Affairs of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Photokina Cologne,The States Opera Hamburg, Theatre Essen Germany, Pingyao International Photo Festival China, Lianzhou International Photo Festival China, Design Center NRW Essen Germany, The Jerusalem Foundation Israel
Publishing & Editorial:
Skira Editore S.p.A. Milan, Rizzoli International Publications New York, The Corriere della Sera Magazine Milan, VOGUE Conde Nast, Forbes Magazine, The Observer Magazine London, The Independent Magazine London, Axel Springer Publishing House, ZEIT Magazine Hamburg, TEMPO Magazine Hamburg, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Newspaper, STERN - Magazine Hamburg
Goethe Institute Inter Nationes Singapore, NAFA Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Singapore, Lasalle - SIA College of Art Singapore, The Design College of Temasek Polytechnic Singapore, The International School of Communication Design (ISCD) and Design Factory International (DFI), Dept. of Beijing Normal University (BNU), Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province, The New York University (NYU) Shanghai
Who or what has inspired you in your earlier years?
It was the Italian cinematographer (DoP) and "magician" Carlo di Palma (1925-2004), renowned for his work on both color and black-and-white films, whose most famous collaborations were with Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-Up 1966) and Woody Allen (Radio Days 1987). Also Michael Ballhaus especially for his DoP collaboration with Martin Scorcese (Color of Money 1986 and Good Felllas 1990) and film director Wim Wenders with his ‘Notebook on Clothes and Cities’ (1989) an essayist documentary reflecting on the creative process, cities, identity and the digital age through conversations with Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. Wenders' search for a contemporary definition of identity as following his prediction of the uprising digital revolution inspired me a lot.
Who are your favourite photographic artists?
Difficult to say or to reduce myself on a few names as there is actually not this favourite one. But a bunch of giants pop-up immediately like August Sander, Hans Namuth, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank,Vivian Dorothea Maier, Berenice Abbott, Richard Avedon, William Eggleston, Annie Leibovitz, Hans Hansen, Reinhart Wolf, Nick Knight or Wolfgang Tillmans.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Yes, sure. My personal long-term project SCOPE. Its about “Observation and Memory - Mirrows and Screens”. Also the second project of ‘SHORT CUTS’ which starts from Summer 2014 onwards. I will organize the direction for “SHORT CUTS 2" as artist meetings between Shanghai and New York City in 2014-2016, where I'd like to meet with several young artists based in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and US to visit them in their studio or work space to share information and exchange ideas on any possible participation in my new photo-book project "SHORT CUTS 2". To find out further details and upcoming dates, please contact me by Email with the title 'SHORT CUTS 2 and your name'.
Do you offer studio visits?
Although I’d love to meet all kinds of people, I have a small studio and cannot do visits. Interviews on email and appointment only. You are most welcome to go to the "CONTACT" section of this website. Thank you.
But you offer Art-Tours in China?
Yes. A varied selection of private Art-Tours can be organised and booked directly through my CONTACT link. Art tours are related to temporary occasions and exhibitions of Galleries and Museums which are changing frequently. Please put “Art Tours: Your Name Here” as the title into your contact request. For group requests in case of more then 4 people you should contact me through the service of SHANGHAI FLANEUR
You've lectured several years in China and also in Singapore, but in China mainly. What advice should your students remember to go into their artistic or commercial start-up?
Do your work with love and passion. Be motivated, alert and communicate. Share your ideas between brain and heart equally. Always work with respect towards people. And open your eyes and ears. Look and listen first and talk later. If you don't understand something, ask questions. But don't forget to ask. Look outside of your world of photography, film or design. Be interested in our beautiful planet and in all the varieties of life concepts. Life in general is too colourful as to ignore lot's of other aspects which might help you to find great creative ideas for solutions in your work requirements.
How can I apply for any job working with you?
Do you have any final personal statement to share with us:
Still dance company director Alain Platel's quote as part of his open letter to Pina Bausch (1940 –2009) published in my book "Please don't move" in 2000: "Whatever we decide to do next, we’d better do it well!"