Chris Marxen takes photos and plays the saxophone in the Berlin rain. We came across his photos from the Facebook page for Music Pool Berlin, a very cool organization to help musicians learn about the music industry in Berlin. It turns out that events aren’t even his specialty; his focus is in fact headshot photography, which prompted us to ask him, What’s Your Deal?
1. What kind of photography do you do?
I’m a headshot photographer. I specialize in photographing people’s faces and capturing how they look on their best days. The main uses for my pictures are profile pictures, corporate identity and personal branding—like websites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, email signatures, etc. Actors use my pictures as their calling cards and their first contact to agents, directors and producers.
I LOVE photographing emotions and expressions. To me, people’s faces are the most interesting thing about them.
2. Tell me about your background as a photographer.
I’ve been interested in photography since I was a kid, but music was my thing, so I suppressed my interest in photography for quite some time. When I started traveling in my teenage years, I bought my first camera (which I still carry every day so as not to miss an opportunity) and started to photograph landscapes and nature/animals.
In 2010 I had the great opportunity to live for one year on one of the most beautiful Mediterranean islands, Milos, and work there as a CEO of a small hostel. The owner photographed all his guests since the early ’90s. That year, he asked me to do it. It was the first time I had people in front of my camera on a daily basis, and where I discovered that I can make people look nice in front of a camera and let them have fun.
Upon returning to Berlin I went back to being a musician, combining it with my need to photograph. I started shooting musicians and concerts, and by accident, came across an amazing guy named Peter Hurley who made me realize that all I was doing was capturing the most interesting expressions in people’s faces.
After listening to one of his lectures about headshot photography, I went through my photos again and realized that every picture I loved was one with an interesting expression.
He taught me to see the unconscious conscious. Now it’s on me to create that with my customers.
3. What was the worst photography gig/client you ever had? Dish all the juicy bits.
Haha, that’s a good one. I left it out of the answer before, but now I guess I have to tell the story.
You know how at amusement parks, you are forced to be photographed when you enter, so that they can sell you the picture before you leave? Yeah, I did that gig.
Imagine a rainy day, a 400-foot line of kids, parents and grandparents in the rain, standing in front of a barrier to keep them out of the aquarium. Behind the barrier: a camera, a big-ass, plastic seahorse with a stupid smile and, guess what, me. Now make them look happy!
They waited for 45 minutes out in the rain and then, when they were finally first in line, they had to wait behind a fucking barrier to be photographed with a giant smiling seahorse. THEY JUST WANTED TO SHOW THEIR KIDS SOME FISH!
Yes, it was horrible at times, but it was also THE best training to be an entertainer behind the camera, to deal with people in any situation, and to loosen them up so that they can enjoy it.
4. Who are your favorite photographers at the moment?
Richard Avedon is kind of like the father of headshot photography. Not only was he a master of connecting with the person in front of his camera and capturing the perfect moment, but what’s most impressive was his ability to work in both commercial and art photography. He could easily travel between worlds. Whether or not you are into photography, you should study this guy. He is inspiring on every level.
5. What’s the most helpful tip you could share with aspiring photographers?
Find your special field, and stick with it! Nobody ever became great by doing everything.
Photos by Chris Marxen.