For models, fashion week is a time of dizzying turbulence. Between the intensity of castings, shows and travelling, any sniff of downtime is cherished. It’s this time spent betwixt-and-between, waiting, sitting, scrolling – away from the chaos of the catwalk – that photographer Joachim Mueller Ruchholtz captures in his latest photo book, Portraits.
Working with Eva Gödel and her Düsseldorf-based modelling agency, Tomorrow Is Another Day, Mueller Ruchholtz’ latest work captures intimate portraits with off-duty models across France, UK, Germany and Sweden as they relax in hotel rooms, friends’ houses and Airbnbs. Taken over a two year period, the images capture precious opportunities for contemplation and fleeting moments of relaxation in an otherwise hectic and disorientating period.
Amira Arasteh: How did you get started in photography?
Joachim Mueller Ruchholtz: I used to draw a lot but I always drew quite realistically and then one of my teachers said, “why don’t you take a picture of it? Why don’t you do it via photography?” And that was it, basically.
AA: How did you select who you shot for the book?
JMR: I think it’s more of an atmosphere of someone; you can sense there’s something interesting about this person. There’s a depth or something behind them. I mean, I photographed Zoë Isabella Kravitz and I thought she was quite amazing, in the sense of the confidence behind her. Without being overtly cocky or super conscious, I think she was just confident.
AA: What first inspired you to take photos of models off-duty?
JMR: I’m a friend of Eva [Gödel] and I’ve always taken photos for her casting images or her website, so we’d worked on this for a while. I saw so many boys in London, Paris and Helsinki and I thought it would be amazing to find a way of capturing this generation. She mentioned that during Paris Fashion Week they were all going to be in the same hotel so I could go take pictures of them over there. I went to the Hotel Brittanique in Paris and there were about 40 boys there which was mad but amazing to take pictures. So I started taking pictures there and then began to take pictures of them in their homes.
AA: It must be interesting to get to know these boys off-catwalk and outside of their natural comfort zone.
JMR: Yes, that’s why I did it. I wanted to open up that link between fashion. One day they’re walking for Balenciaga and the next day, you see them in their London flat, which is not so glamorous.
AA: What did you learn from the project?
JMR: I think I discovered something about an old sense of photography, the idea that you stop time for one second and really concentrate on that person, their hair, their clothes and how it all comes together. You can see how they want to identify themselves as a people and if you just stop for a second, that becomes visible. You don’t necessarily see that when they’re out for a drink or working. It’s a very old sense of photography that can deliver this, a certain moment in their lives which might be a bit vulnerable or that defines them for a while. It’s quite intimate and I like that.
AA: Is there another area of photography that you would like to explore?
JMR: That’s a good question… travel photography.
JMR: I like the idea of being put in the position where you don’t really know yourself. One of my first jobs was when I went to Zimbabwe for six weeks, that was kind of a rite of passage for me. I spent six weeks there and I could approach people to take a picture of them and they always obliged. It was an experience that remains engrained in my photography DNA.
AA: It must have felt very raw.
JMR: It was so raw, it was very intense for me.
AA: Do you feel that there’s a comparative link between fashion and travel photography?
AA: How so?
JMR: I think to be able to tell a story with clothes is very strong, it’s close to watching a movie. You’re getting transported into a world, which is escapism. You’re away from your usual thoughts and I associate this with fashion and travel too.
AA: Who has been a professional influence to you over the years?
JMR: For this particular project, Thomas Struth, a German photographer, and Michael Schmidt, also a very interesting German photographer, both of whom were known for their documentary-style photography of people.