In collaboration with his soul mate Hendrik Schneider, the lens of Till Janz has caught everyone from filmmaker Spike Jonze to soprano Anna Netrebko. A striking use of light and shadows is what draws​ our attention at first, but in fact, the power of the images relies on the personal approach to every character they portray. The German artist​ ​who recently turned 32 seems to find inspiration everywhere: Roman statues? Checked. Golden color? Checked. ​The secret ​probably ​relies on knowing how to take photography to the next ​​ cutting-edge level; but one thing is for sure: having fun is also mandatory. Keep your eyes open!
Hello Till! The first years in the life of a human being are the most important to define its visual aesthetic. What was your favorite cartoon when you were a kid?
As a kid I always watched The Simpsons​, even though I think the biggest influence on my visual aesthetic was my dad and his work as a designer.
A German boy who moved to London to pursue his dream of becoming a photographer. I guess the story is not exactly like that. Can you tell us ​what really happened​?
That's about it. Except the fact I never wanted to become just a photographer and it took me years to fall in love with London. I have been living in a small town in Germany for almost all my life and, compared to my hometown, London felt so fast and exciting but ​so scary ​ at the same time​. The first day at Camberwell College of the Arts I met Hendrik and we became best friends. Instead of leaving London, we managed to stay for six years and work together as a team ever since. London became our home sweet home.
You have a quite defined aesthetic as a photographer. How did you manage to do it? Have you been through trial-and-error phases or it’s been like this since you start taking pictures?
Defining one’s aesthetic has never come to an end, it is a constant progress. We don't have a formula or a master pattern; it's different with every new day. But let’s be honest, how boring is ​consistency?
Fashion is one of the fields where you work the most. How did you end up ​in​ this path?
I don't ​have ​ a​ clue. I was ​never ​a very fashionable person, but that's ​probably ​why I can bring ​a new perspective into a completely different field. Fashion is a great environment to experiment ​in ​and a platform to meet very interesting people and collaborate with them. ​For the fashion people I am still the guy wearing a silly Jurassic Park cap.
Portraits are one of your specialties. How do you approach them? Is it different with every character?
Taking portraits is very natural if you are interested in someone instead of being afraid of them. I think if there’s any major strength I developed in my childhood, it’s to connect with people and make them feel relaxed. Being submissive or too respectful is awkward for everyone. It’s nice to talk, work and​ love on the same eye level with people.
In fact, do you think photography allows to present the world as it is? Do you try to portray the real person or i​s it more about offering your personal vision of them?
My pictures will always be a piece of myself and I don’t think there is just one reality.
They are the modern-day version of Roman busts or Baroque royal portraits. Does all this iconography have an influence on you?
Absolutely, our ancient predecessors where masters in terms of lightning, color and composition.
You work in collaboration with artist Hendrik Schneider. How do two people create together? What​ kind of relationship ​ should there be​ between ​the ​both​ of them​?
Because we’ve been working together for such a long time, it’s a mixture of trust and security, but also competition and pushing each other out of the comfort zone. We have different skills, but a very similar vision on how we want to live and what we want to create. It is very rare to find someone to work with throughout such a long period of time.
Where is your eye going next? And which character would you like to put under your lens in the future?
The next big thing is the release of Janz & Beetz sunglasses in autumn 2014, a small label of manufactured sunglasses we have been working on for almost two years now. It's a good addition to our work as photographers. It helps us to stay focused and bewildered at the same time.
​Everything is heading in a good direction. We want to continue to collaborate with people who love what they do and get better at what we do. Hendrik is a huge fan of Jack Nicholson and I​'ve​ always wanted to meet Woody Allen, but the one from 30 years ago. I really like his sad and ironic humor.