Who is Birgit Kleber?
A photographer who loves photography, shoes, traveling and meeting with people.
Berlin! You are so wonderful!?
Berlin is like sparkling wine, bubbly, thrilling and an ever-changing place. My favorite city in Germany where I have been living for forty years.
Do you still have a suitcase in New York?
YES!!!!!!!!! My absolute favorite city of all where I have been a lot of times and always going to go again. If Berlin is sparkling wine, New York is CHAMPAGNE! Its vibrancy makes me truly feel that I can do ANYTHING. If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. Good old Frankie Boy.
When life gives you big apples, make…?
…the most out of it, but don’t take it for granted. Think of others, too.
Fame What‘s your name? (John Lennon/David Bowie/Carlos Alomar)
Fame is boring.
What makes people famous tends to be what they are rather than what they do?
Is that so? In showbiz maybe, in photography it’s not. Cindy Sherman or Salgado are famous for their work, for what they are doing. Often you may not even know how the photographer looks like whose images you just admired in the exhibition. In fact, one of the reasons for my PHOTOGRAPHERS project.
With whom would you like to spend a whole day?
With Diane Arbus – unfortunately not possible, before my time (1923 -1971) or Richard Avedon, equally no longer possible (1923 – 2004).
“Goldener Bär” or the “Palme d’Or”?
Goldener Bär! Five minutes with Charlotte Rampling or Willem Dafoe alone in a hotel room for a portrait – you won’t get that at Cannes. I have been making photographic portraits in individual sessions at the Berlin film festival for over twenty years. My 2020 exhibition “augen I blicke” at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin presented almost one hundred of them. To be continued for sure!
That red carpet has to be felt to be believed? (William H. Macy)
I have never taken red carpet pictures, but I walked on one once – it felt strange.
Helmut Newton or Wolfgang Tillmans?
Despite there being some parallels to Helmut Newton in my work: it is Wolfgang Tillmans! The associative element in his work fascinates me. Being present at an interview with Wolfgang that Deutsche Welle held at his studio and taking pictures of him for my PHOTOGRAPHERS series afterwards was my greatest pleasure. Amazing!
How to photograph a photographer?
The hardest challenge indeed! A project very close to my heart that I have been working on for thirty years. To date, I have taken portraits of far more than a hundred internationally known photographers. A who’s who in photography – Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Peter Lindbergh, Saul Leiter, Paolo Roversi and Thomas Hoepker – to name but a few. I work with static poses I demonstrate beforehand which increase concentration and, ideally, for a fraction of one second, make visible something. And that’s the whole point. Sometimes, I fear the meetings, but all are very nice and seem to like the project. Peter Lindberg, for example, immediately treated me like a photographer on a level playing field, shoulder to shoulder (!) when I took pictures of him. When I saw Cindy Sherman at her studio in NYC, she said: “Super, finally someone telling ME what to do!”
Actors tend to act in photos?
No, actually. I have taken pictures of almost six hundred actors up to now – at the Berlin festival, for the TAGESSPIEGEL, the Deutsche Filmmuseum and other newspapers and magazines. Only very, very few acted their parts. I remember when I photographed the grand German stage actor Bernhard Minetti for Stern magazine, he acted his roles one after the other. But I never once clicked the shutter button. Suddenly he screamed at me – the young photographer at her first assignment for STERN – “what are you waiting for, I will never find that expression again!” Still, I kept waiting – trembling – and finally, a lovely portrait came out of it after all.
How do celebrities always look perfect?
There is lighting, makeup and photoshop – you can use and do a lot with of course. But I don’t care actually. I am working with daylight and I want the photographed to look at the viewer from out of their portrait, not the other way round. It is these pictures you preserve in your mind.
Five-minute egg or three-minute egg?
No eggs. I am a Vegetarian.
Your most must-binge TV show?
I loved “Sex and the City”!!! And the Manolos!!!
Money is important so you can do your living, travel and work. Beyond that a large bank account doesn’t interest me.
Rarotonga!! The principal island of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, east of New Zealand. We had been traveling for forty-four hours to arrive at this island in the South Pacific in 2014, while crossing the international date line several times. Of course, there are palm trees, dreamlike lagoons and warm temperature in other parts of the world, too. Yet, I was instantly fascinated by the special SPIRIT in the air. Immensely friendly people! We stayed at the place of the Rarotonga Queen’s son.
The best animal toy for toddlers?
A meerkat!! In my photographic portraits of animal toys for the „animals“ series I made them look like real animals. The meerkat was the hit!!
One or two things you wish you had known sooner in life?
I should have started the PHOTOGRAPHERS series earlier because I might have met with Lillian Bassman, Richard Avedon or Helmut Newton and taken their pictures.
_Uwe Buschmann (copy editing Silvia Strauch)