Heiko Kalweit is a photographer from Dortmund and specializes in vintage photography. I got to know him a few years ago and I am impressed by the determination with which he pursues his heart theme, “vintage photography”.
So I was very pleased that he immediately accepted my request for an interview.
Heiko, how did you get into vintage photography?
To be honest, I owe that to a lucky coincidence. Before I started my own business as a freelance photographer three years ago, I was employed as a text and photo editor at a Berlin agency.
Following editorial meetings – I was working from Dortmund at the time – I often added a day for private activities. So also on May 24th, 2008. For this Saturday I arranged a portrait shoot with a Berlin model at the Oberbaumbrücke. This is an old, well-known bridge on the East Side Gallery.
I was amazed when the young woman appeared in a beautiful, sky-blue linen dress.
At that time I had little or no idea about vintage fashion, but it struck me straight away that the dress couldn’t come from any contemporary collection. So I asked her what it was all about. She told me it belonged to her grandma who bought it in the 1940s.
I was so enthusiastic about the dress, the way she had done her hair, the way she was made up – in short: from her entire elegant appearance – that it sparked my passion for vintage photography.
It’s amazing that a summer dress, make-up and some hairstyling have had such a big and lasting impact on your photography.
You’re right. Now that we talk about it, I wonder myself. The desire to take vintage photos has probably been dormant in me for a long time without my being aware of it.
I have always enjoyed watching old “ham” with James Stewart, Katharine Hepburn and Heinz Rühmann as well as dance films with Fred Astair, Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. I like and have always liked this mostly simple elegance that the actors exuded. I’ve also found the swing music of the 1940s and the songs by Dean Martin great for a long time.
I think the experience at the Oberbaum Bridge was something like the stone that got everything rolling.
For example, you show photos of many different women in vintage clothing on your homepage or on Instagram. How do you get to know her
In order to build up my portfolio in vintage photography, I made contacts in the first few years through the model file. Now I mainly do it on Facebook.
Do you only take photos of the models for your private pleasure?
No, my passion for vintage photography came from my private pleasure. In the meantime, however, it has become my third professional pillar as a freelance photographer, alongside wedding and business photography. I only photograph models to implement my own private projects and to keep my portfolio alive.
Who will book a vintage shoot with you?
It is mainly women who have great fun in the 20s to 60s and dress accordingly.
I go to Hamburg once a year. The swing music event “Golden Renaissance” takes place there regularly. I set up a mobile photo studio there and take photos of the guests.
Last year I photographed a vintage collection for a southern German manufacturer of glasses. And every now and then I take photos of multi-page editorial series for the lifestyle magazine “Vintage Flaneur”.
On your homepage I read the claim “photographic time travel”. Do you own a time machine?
That would be great. 😉
No, seriously, that’s how I describe my vintage photography. With my shoots and pictures, I create illusions and fantasies of traveling to another decade.
That’s why I don’t take photos in the studio, but outdoors and in special indoor locations. Over the years I have discovered many beautiful places that exude the authentic atmosphere of past decades. Among them even the former Berlin apartment of the silent film star Asta Nielsen. It is now a vintage hotel.
I use the old location as a backdrop. Experienced visas, who understand vintage make-up and hairstyling, prepare my customers. A stylist, with whom I work closely, lends me original old clothes if necessary.
In the meantime I also have a small network of classic car owners who make their cars available to me for photo shoots.
Old issues of Life magazine, suitcases and many other props complete the illusion of time travel.
In this way, not only images of people are created in the shoots, but stories in the form of photos.
You’re on social media. Which one do you prefer to use?
Clearly Instagram. Even if I only have just under 400 followers, this is where I make the most interesting contacts. At the beginning of the year, for example, the American magazine “Pinup Industry” (www.pinupindustry.com) presented me and my photography in a three-page interview.
I had a special highlight in the middle of this year: The American vintage magazine Stalletto also found out about me via Instagram and commissioned me with a multi-page editorial shoot for the autumn issue.
What are your plans for the coming year?
Lots of vintage shoots, of course. In February the “Golden Renaissance” is going to Hamburg again. In August, like this year, I will be presenting myself with a booth at the “Classic Days” at Schloss Dyck. This is a large, multi-day classic car event in Jüchen in North Rhine-Westphalia.
And in October I’ll be holding a vintage workshop in Dortmund. Interested photographers will have the opportunity to take pictures of experienced vintage models in a great, old industrial environment on the Zollern colliery site . Of course, the models wear appropriate clothing and are styled accordingly. The workshop will take place on Sunday, October 7th, 2018.
That sounds very exciting. I wish you every success with the workshop and thank you very much for the interview.