We spoke with photographer Marco Sommer about how he has used quarantine to expand his vision of portraiture
These days, we’ve become more and more accustomed to seeing the gestures, expressions and faces of our loved ones through a screen. With six feet of distance between us and the people we encounter, sometimes the closest we can be to someone is holding up your phone or scooching nearer to your laptop to enjoy the powers of WiFi.
“Distant Portrait” artist Marco Sommer is a Vienna-based photographer who decided to take the current reality of seeing people through screens and apply it to his portrait work. Sommer challenges the idea that portraiture can only be done in person by photographing subjects in their homes, framing them in FaceTime and then within his own camera lens.
“It turned out to be a fairly interesting and new approach to photography,” Sommer said about the project, which was borne from the quarantine fatigue he felt over not being able to create. While his goal remains to photograph theater and opera, he’s finding a new way to look at the world during quarantine.
We spoke to Sommer earlier this year about his craft and how his “Distant Portrait” project began.
How did you get started in photography?
I have always been enthusiastic about photography, but I only started taking photographs when I was about 14-years-old. My first subjects, like any photographer, were of course classic shots of flowers and landscapes. However, that changed through the collaboration of a good friend who works as a blogger. She also pushed me to apply at “die Graphsiche“ in Vienna, where my passion for portrait photography also originated.
Where do you find inspiration?
I get my inspiration mainly from films, music and conversations. I love browsing through photo books, sitting in the park and watching the scenery, or just get inspired on Pinterest or Instagram.
How would you describe your style?
I don’t actually have a particular style, I would say. However, I try to convey emotions, capture movements and play with the stories of the person photographed in my pictures.
What does photography mean to you?
For me, photography means showing what is behind the person. It’s about emotions, fun and aesthetics. With photography I want to express how I think, what I feel and what I am concerned with. Photography is the medium in which I find myself again. You have endless possibilities to express yourself again and again.
Before quarantine, what are some of the things you liked to photograph?
Before the quarantine, I mainly made portraits for actresses, actors and artists, in general.
How has transitioning into quarantine affected you?
At the beginning I was a bit helpless, but I had a lot of new ideas in my head that I really wanted to implement. By chance I came up with the idea of taking photoshoots via FaceTime. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a fairly interesting and new approach to photography.
Tell me about your “Distant Portraits” project.
The project was created by chance, and I would not have believed that it would work so well and that I would have so much fun. Having fun was important to me in this project, and I simply wanted to do something about boredom. A good side effect of this is that you come into contact with a wide variety of people you would never have come to otherwise.
What have you learned from this project?
That you have to let your creativity run free, even in times like these.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Top Image: Dancer Lukas Rose and artist Samuel Petherbridge by Marco Sommer.