Christian Reifenrath: Painter and Photographer
The name KrisnKiraly Studios, associated with fashion photography, is the dream come true of a photographer and his wife, Anna Ignatova. Discover, in this interview, more about Christian Reifenrath, a photographer and painter.
In 2013, Christian Reifenrath graduated in hotel management and hospitality from the Les Roches International School of Hotel Management, but the academic title is not going to be used. The KrisnKiraly enterprise was born at the same time, and Christian Reifenrath plans are all centered on photography.
Q You are a photographer, but also a painter. In fact, you started drawing comics at the age of 5 and afterwards moved on to oil painting. When did you first pick up a camera? What attracted you to photography?
I grew up in the 80s, so when I started to take pictures the world was changing from film to digital cameras. For one Christmas, I got a gift from my father. It was my first digital camera, a two megapixel Canon Ixus One.
Then for a high school assignment I received a Mamiya ZE Quartz with a 49mm lens. This lens was old and very hard to focus, and I began to understand the two worlds of cameras: the digital one, which, at that time, was a great tool to find my creativity through freedom, and the Mamiya that made me learn to make pictures in only one shot.
Once, while in Paris with my parents, at the age of 13, I saw an advertisement for Marlboro in a French airport. It was a very contrasty picture of a cowboy smoking at sunset. All colours were so harmonized that I was more amazed by the content of the photo then the advertisement itself.
I remember asking my father if it was a painting, only to find out it was a photograph. I think that influenced me and made me want to capture all types of colours and explore contrast, while searching for my style.
Q The human figure and light are a main element in your paintings. Is that one of the reasons why you are now photographing people, and moving into the fashion area?
My passion is to paint peoples' expressions and show their feelings through their eyes, and through that tell their life stories. Fashion photography is more or less the same, focused on the interaction between models and photographer, to create images that meet the customer's expectations. Fashion photography is, in my opinion, a more complex work, because you have to combine the artistic aspect of photographing people with the fashion skills.
Q Which photographers have influenced you? And in painting, which are the names that attract you most?
In photography, I have some very important masters to follow: Mario Testino, La Chappelle, Steve McCurry, Tim Walker and Jill Greenberg. In different aspects, they all take an important place in my life as a photographer. In painting my teachers were Velazquez, Joaquin Sorolla, Carravaggio, El Greco, Rembrandt, Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec, Hans Reudi Giger and the great Richard Estes.
Q You're French, but as the son of an international civil servant you grew up and lived in various countries around the world, in contact with different cultures, creeds and political doctrines. Has that affected the way you look at the world and photograph it?
I lived in many places in the world and, yes, it did change me. It helped me to be open-minded and always try to find something new and different in each new environment. My home was everywhere that I could get used to. New cultures, new ways of life, different mentalities, all of these contributed to my formation as a person and a photographer.
Q You worked as a sales agent and graduated in hotel management. Why did you decide to become a full time photographer?
I strongly believe that every person has to follow his or her vocation and do what he or she really loves. My vocation is art and I want to create a new tendency in photography that I want to leave to the future generations.
Q You recently did a wedding project at the Ritz Carlton Moscow for the magazine "We are getting married." How long does it take to prepare such a project and how many people are involved with a project like this?
It took us one and a half months to prepare this wedding project with a crew of 20 people. Among them were the magazine editor, the Ritz Carlton Marketing Manager, two sponsors and a whole crew. My part was to define the exact location, color scheme and style of shooting. It was a great time working on this project in Moscow.
Q Was the wedding project all shot in one day? In terms of lighting, what is needed for a project of that kind?
The wedding project was made in 4 days. Two days on final preparations, like test shooting, contract signing and other details, and two days for shooting. As the weather was wonderful, I used two little Elinchrom lights at 125W and 250W and two reflectors.
Q You have a portfolio covering everything from family and lifestyle to weddings and events, fashion and artistic photography. Are these different compartments in your photography or do the experiences acquired in each of them cross-contaminate?
I think that there is, eventually, a cross-contamination, but it's only logical, because composition and art are both present in wedding and fashion photography. In the end, I believe it's all about how you can open your vision and mind to make a great picture. So I always take something from each area, if I find it suitable, in order to create my style.
Q You've created the KrisnKiraly studio, a fashion and advertising company for start-up companies, and you're working as a team with your wife, Anna Ignatova, who also has a passion for photography. How is it to work together?
Together we work very hard. Sometimes we are lucky to have just one day in the week to rest. I think that if you love what you do, you don’t need holidays. My wife is always with me to help or support, no matter what. She contributes a lot in our work. I can say that I am the luckiest man in the world, because I have a wife that I love and we can be together.
Q Before someone else asks, what does KrisnKiraly stand for?
KrisnKiraly... Kris is Christian, and Kiraly stands for King in Hungarian. My name is Christian Reifenrath and this family name, in some places, is impossible to pronounce, so they call me Rey (king). I had a Hungarian friend who always called me Kiraly. So Kiraly stood.
Q In terms of gear, what can usually be found in your bag, both when you're just shooting for yourself and on assignment?
In everyday life, I just carry in my bag a small reflector and a camera. At work, depending on the assignment I take lighting, diffusers, and at least a couple of lenses.
Q New photographers and readers always want to know the secret of success, or at least how to move from amateur to working photographer. Is there a shortcut to achieve the status or is it a long winding road? Any tips for those wanting to try it?
It's hard for me to point a unique direction, as every photographer has his own aims, needs and challenges. The only thing that I know is that success doesn’t come immediately and you have to work and struggle very hard to deserve it.
My only advice is not to lose faith, be strong and constantly try to find your own path.