conversations – Interview by Nora Partl – 05.01.2023
HOW TO TRANSLATE HUMOR INTO ART
Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek: Photographing Animals
Interview by Nora Partl
Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek knows when to pull the trigger. Flying cats, alpacas on the streets of New York, or guinea pigs in cocktail glasses—his photographs transport the element of surprise like no other. The Berlin-based photographer and aspiring NFT artist has developed a characteristic visual language featuring the right amount of humor, spontaneity, and ugliness. In conversation with Nora Partl, Online Editor, Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek speaks about defining his aesthetics, entering the NFT world, and capturing the perfect image.
Nora Partl: Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek, you just released your new animal calendar, "Alf, Mickey, and the other dogs." Which one is your favorite character?
Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek: I think it's the dog of May. His motto is "Just do it". That's also how I like to do it. Overthinking mostly destroys my creative process. So I need to act quickly.
NP: What fascinates you about photographing animals? Are animals better models than humans?
DGDK: Yes, I definitely feel more attached to animals than humans. I especially like their honesty and loyalty
NP: Over the past years, you became popular for your annual calendars revealing the secret lives of animals, including chaotic cats suspended in midair, chill alpacas edited into envious Instagrammable interiors, and fluffy pinup guinea pigs. How did you come up with the idea of shooting animals?
DGDK: I think I love animals more than humans and since I do this projects as personal projects, I’m free to chose with who I want to work with. In my case that’s animals. I just love the challenge and satisfaction while working with them.
NP: What role does humor play in your work?
DGDK: Humor is the backbone of my work. Even as a child I always enjoyed to be the class clown.
NP: When you were getting started in the industry, you were interning at the prestigious photo agency Magnum. What have you learned about the subject of photography during your internship? How has it influenced your practice until today?
DGDK: It was a very interesting and intense time. I learned from the biggest photographers back then. While looking at so many images over such a long time I learned how to compose a proper frame without even thinking about it.
NP: How have you changed as an artist over the years?
DGDK: When I started with art photography I was mostly interested in the small worlds and what people are passionate about. I used photography as an access key to these otherwise closed micro cosmos. I’m still very interested in this. But nowadays I don’t limit myself to these existing worlds anymore. I started to create my own worlds and opened up myself to use whatever technique is needed for this.
NP: What does aesthetics mean to you, and how would you define your own aesthetics?
DGDK: I’m like a chameleon and adopt my aesthetics to whatever project I’m working on. I rather define my aesthetics by the stories than the looks.
NP: What makes the perfect image for you?
DGDK: That's something I cannot describe with words. It’s a more like a feeling I get. This is when I know I captured the perfect image.
NP: Many of your series are outstanding because you caught the exact right moment. However, is there a shot you regret missing?
DGDK: I constantly have ideas and write them down to work on them as soon as I have time to do so. But mostly within a few weeks I see someone else doing it. I think since we all get influenced by similar things, we come up with similar ideas. So it’s really important to be quick and make a project happen right now.
NP: Your witty and unusual pictures have led to a big following on Instagram. You currently have over 50K followers. How does Instagram impact your work?
DGBK: I don’t think that Instagram has an impact on my work. I enjoy to exchange thoughts and quick chats with my followers and get to know new people. But I don’t think it influences my work. Maybe I would be more productive if I would not waste so much time on browsing through Instagram.
NP: Does a big following on social media lead to more jobs, just like in the fashion industry?
DGDK: I’m sure there are people that choose their artist by the number of their followers. But I don’t think its a good measurement tool. I found the sweetest people that are not even on Instagram.
NP: Your series is mostly shot on analog film. What are the advantages of analog over digital photography? Where are the challenges?
DGDK: I don’t think so. It’s 50/50 for my work being digital vs. analog. For some project it just feels more real to work on film. For other projects I choose a more artificial digital look. Whatever works
NP: In the beginning of the year, you turned your analog photo series into NFTs, with "Make Alpaca Great Again" as your very first NFT. How have your beginnings in the NFT space been like?
DGDK: This was a very exciting and overwhelming time. I started to sleep during the days and work at the night to be active in the US time zone. So I didn’t miss any important event and lived a virtual live for a few months. It was a unreal time. What I liked the most was the endless support of and for other artists. It’s such a strong community and everyone is welcome. I really loved that vibe.
NP: Where do you see the differences between the physical and the digital art worlds?
DGDK: I think it’s best to melt these two worlds together because they are both very important and can enhance each other. I guess and hope this will happen with expanded.art
Photographer Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek knows how to translate humour into authentic and unpolished pictures. Currently based between Berlin and Vienna, he toys with the absurdity of the every day life using his highly acclaimed talent for the good, the bad and the ugly.
He is best known for his viral art series "Doggystyle", "Jumping Cats" and "Better Living With Alpacas". Koekkoek was called "the art worlds Dr Doolitle" by It's Nice That.
With his roots in Tyrol/Austria, he moved to New York in 2008 to learn at Magnum Photos. Since then he has released award-winning art publications and exhibited throughout Europe, Asia and the US.