Mr Grothus, you have been working as a freelance photographer with a focus on interior design since 1995. Why did you choose this focus?
After completing a classical photographer’s training, I studied photo design at the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts. In the mid-1980s, the university offered specialisations in journalism and artistic photography. Prof. Dr. Dieter Leistner taught architectural photography at the time, and since I was particularly interested in this field, I chose this specialisation in my main course of study. However, via an assistantship in an interior and furniture studio, I switched to interior design photography in 1990. The studio’s standard there was so high that I photographed premium design right from the start. At that time, it was common for interior designers to plan and implement the layout of rooms together with the photographer. In 1995, I then started my own business. Interior design has been my passion and the focus of my photographic work ever since. From time to time, however, I also photograph building construction projects.
Who are your customers today?
I work for various interior design firms, for whom I photograph projects in very different areas. I also work on commissioned projects for lighting designers and kitchen manufacturers. My clients include both established offices and newcomers.
How long have you been working with Susanne Brandherm and Sabine Krumrey and what do you particularly appreciate about your collaboration?
I have been working for them since 2005, after we got to know each other at a trade fair. What I appreciate about our collaboration is the mutual trust. When I take photographs, there are no guidelines. We briefly talk about the project, but in the end I photograph the rooms as I perceive them. I choose the motifs myself and select images that are rarely added to. One focus is on the details of the materials used. Susanne and Sabine place a lot of emphasis on conveying the spatial atmosphere.
How do you accomplish this in photography?
If necessary, the interiors are furnished before photography. It is great fun to then photographically stage these furnished rooms. We also think it is important that some of the photos are “animated” with people in order to show the proportions on the one hand and the spatial function on the other. Especially in times of image worlds on social media, I think it is important that the photos not only show empty rooms but also the way they are used. Also, I never work with artificial light, as the lighting atmosphere on location is a significant part of interior design.
Is there a female hallmark or a different approach to collaboration in offices run by female interior designers?
I believe so. There is perhaps still something very feminine about interior design. That suits me. Basically, however, I get along well with everyone if there is mutual sympathy.
For most readers of magazines or blogs, interior design only exists in photography, since very few people see it for themselves on site. Therefore, you have an influence on the impact of these projects. How do you assess your share in their reception?
If you present a great project to trade journals with bad photos, it usually won’t be published. So photography also comes with a certain responsibility. On location, I have to understand the interior concept and translate it into appropriate photos. It’s not about putting myself in a good light with great photos but about making the design understandable.
So for you it’s more about a 1:1 mapping of reality and less about an optimisation of reality?
It is rarely the case that my images are more spectacular than the interior design itself. I don’t like photographic interpretations of spaces that viewers cannot perceive on site. Consequently, the exaggeration of interior design with extreme wide-angle shots or the like does not correspond to my way of working. I let rooms work on me and usually intentionally hold my camera at eye level. There are exceptions, for example, when a gallery allows a view down from above. For me, the main thing is to bring calm into the pictures through the choice of the camera’s position.
Has your photographic view changed with the growing digital possibilities of photography in recent years?
With analogue photography, preparation took longer and it was necessary to determine very precisely in advance what was to be photographed. Today, I can easily make 30 shots a day with variations and details. That was technically impossible with analogue photography. For some time now, I have been using classic architectural lenses for the 35mm camera. This has changed my photography because I no longer have to consider the functions of the wide-angle lens and can choose my camera position flexibly.
When you look at subsequent generations of photographers, do you feel that something has changed in interior design photography?
Sometimes, younger photographers lack diligence. In post-processing, I do more than I actually have to. I retouch elements like the sprinkler system or fire alarms because they are not necessary for the viewer and are not noticed in the room. But they disturb the overall image impression. I also consider it self-evident to put the rubbish bin or fire extinguisher to one side when taking pictures. A window handle that is not straight also annoys me.
Where do you generally see the biggest challenges for photography in the future?
Many people now expect moving images to be produced in addition to photographs. With today’s camera technology, this is indeed easily possible during a photo shoot. I think this will increase in the future. However, “pointing a camera” at an object is not yet design. Filming rooms requires much more planning on how and in what chronology to proceed. There are many professional videos, but there is also the danger of producing films along the way. Photography and filming should be considered separately.