May 13, 2016

German photographer, Malte Brandeburg is an expert in all things minimalism. His photographs capture the dramatic high rises of Berlin, grey fronted buildings popping against blue skies. We caught up with Malte to discuss taking pictures from unusual spaces, post-war housing estates and the best bits about living in Copenhagen…

UO: How did you discover an interest in photography, and specifically for architectural photography?

When I was little my father gave me his SLR camera when we were on holidays and I started playing around with it. But at that time it was just an interesting toy for me, which seemed technical, but functioned without any batteries. For many years to come I didn’t waste another thought on cameras or photography, but one day I ended up buying a DSLR.

I still don’t know what made me do it. But once I had it, I wanted to explore the possibilities and after a period of experimentation I felt that architecture was the way I wanted to go. I have a rather structured and analytical personality and I figured that as a city dweller, I should probably focus on something that basically surrounds me every day, so that I can draw my inspiration from it.

UO: What is it about post-war housing estates that captures your imagination?

I think these buildings look different from what you typically see these days, when new buildings are constructed. They also represent an entirely different era, with a lot of history. It simply makes them special in my view, and it seems that we have forgotten them.

UO: How would you describe your photographic style in three words?

Descriptive, minimalistic and simple

UO: What are your thoughts on high rises as a social experiment? How do you think they affect communities?

I think social experiements are very risky as they can be very costly for all parties involved. I don’t understand why the city, by providing pre-defined housing space, more or less dictates how people shall live, but afterwards they basically pull themselves out and let these buildings kind of uncontrolled. We have to remember, we’re talking about human beings, not machines. So people naturally change their behaviour and I find that the city should manage the change process in order to avoid social segregation, which causes many issues. The affected communities experience negative effects on education, income or the environment.

UO: Have you ever lived in a high rise?

No, never. Though I grew up close to one of Berlin’s major housing estates with almost 20,000 flats. It’s almost a city of its own.

UO: What is your favourite area of urban development and why?

I must say that I am really impressed by what the government does here in Copenhagen. The sheer amount of skateparks is just crazy! And that’s only one aspect. It seems they have a very pragmatic approach to urban life and the issue of how to keep the city functioning. Most houses are built with the familiy in mind, with a sense of community. Often you have a big backyard with a playground, a lawn and benches/tables for bbqs. You have huge public parks, lakes and sportfields. People are encouraged to really live in the city. I do of course realise, that Copenhagen is a rather rich city compared to Berlin and not fully immune against problems either.

UO: Film or digital?

Digital, else I would only produce a handful images per year.

UO: What is your favourite camera to shoot with?

I still shoot with my eight-year-old Nikon and am very happy with it. I am used to it, I know what I can do with it and what not. It’s as simple as that. It’s not really an important element of my work, I typically don’t bother much about it. Though recently I decided to get a smaller secondary camera, which I can have with me more often than this old, heavy brick!

UO: How important is post production to your work?

It’s crucial to me. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the screen, it is necessary to achieve the desired result. The display on the back of my camera is for example very small. I will never get the perfectly straight angle on site with that, so I need post production to correct those things.

UO: What is the most challenging position you’ve put yourself in to get the perfect shot?

At some point I had to climb on to the roof of a cark park through a window from the stair case. For a moment I started to regret all the gear I had with me.

UO: Are there any buildings you are dying to capture but haven’t gotten around to it yet?

I would love to go to North Korea and capture its cities.

UO: You’re currently living in Copenhagen – what do you love most about the city? Best way to spend a weekend in Copenhagen?

I love that people in Copenhagen are very relaxed and not too serious about everything. It’s more about enjoying life and that you should spend time with your friends and family. This attitude is widely accepted and more or less hardcoded into the cultural DNA of the city.

Another big plus is the ocean. In Berlin I was kilometers away from any form of water (there was a public bath not too far though). Here I live ten minutes from the beach and on the weekend I can have breakfast with sand between my toes!