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In this long article (written seven years ago - and still completely valid for me) I would like to talk about my understanding of human photography, about my way of taking photographs. For all those who do not know me personally: I am "medieval" and father of two grown children. So what drives a man like me into glamour/beauty/nudes photography? After all, glamour/beauty/nude photography is sometimes seen as suspicious, and middle-aged men who devote themselves to this subject are all the more so. I am aware of that. Not as a defence (I don't have to, because I am - besides my family - mainly responsible to one person only, and that is myself), but simply as an explanation and supplement to my work, I want to tell what makes me and my work with my models special.


I've been into photography for a very long time. I got my first SLR camera when I was 12 years old - an analog Minolta X700 with a small lens park (which still serves me as a retro macro lens park every now and then). In my youth I almost exclusively photographed landscapes. Those people who "threatened" to run in front of my lens, I mercilessly chased away from my pictures. So I have analog experience and had (and still have) a small (now dusty) darkroom in the basement of my house to expose my black and white and color films.


Afterwards there was a long photographic break. The new beginning took place digitally at the end of 2008 - and, I can certainly say that, as therapy. As a therapy for myself in a very difficult time, in which I was systematically and strategically defamed as a political functionary (wrongly and unsuccessfully) by single individuals who coin political change, accused of abuse of office and threatened with legal action. This time brought me to the brink of burnout or beyond that brink and harmed me not only psychologically but also physically. Having something that only "belonged to me" (and that was and is photography) did me good and gave me and gives me strength.


My first model was a dear former work colleague, who allowed me to try out whether I would be good at people or beauty photography at all - Jutta - first EIKONAS model. She is "partly to blame" for EIKONAS. My former work colleague, or let me better say, my fantastic girlfriend and I are still walking together today. Thank you very much! It's great that you exist.


From hobby grew passion, from passion grew curiosity and constant learning and practicing, and from passion and curiosity grew a new professional orientation, international attention, magazine publications and awards. With the intention of making a profit, I mainly take photos for business clients. But above all I am an eternal learner, critic, practicing, making mistakes, sometimes dissatisfied and struggling with myself, I am on my way and (fortunately) never finished.


My path in the creative photographic field ultimately led me to what I believe I can do best, which is what I see myself most strongly in: Into beauty photography, especially with the available light from the most unique light source we are given - the sun. I try to portray beauty in the play of light and shadow, in the play of sharpness and blurriness - in a world that I love, but which is not always beautiful. I try to give this world, through my "little drop on the hot stone", a little bit of beauty that it deserves. I "help myself" to beautiful people, I admit that with pleasure - there and there this is also blamed on me in the sense that it would make it easy for me to remain on the surface. All those who know me, however, know that there is one thing I am certainly not: superficial. (Moreover, beauty is very subjective and I would like to see beauty defined much more broadly in the context of some projects in the future).


I photograph many areas of human photography. I photograph editorial and lifestyle, preferably and with the greatest passion but sensuals, as I call them - female models in lingerie and fine art nudes. I affirm sensuality, physicality, eroticism in a world in which for centuries we were told that our (naked) body was evil, that eroticism and sexuality were bad, in a world in which all this still reverberates in many ways today. I admit that I find femininity beautiful and aesthetic. And I am not irresponsible, not towards my family and not towards anyone else. I do not exploit my models, nor do I expose them or, in an emancipatory view, harm their femininity and equality.


My sensuals are mostly quiet, unagitated and rather sensual than erotic. But I also play with eroticism every now and then, I also play with clichés every now and then, I play with pleasure in physicality - I do not play irresponsibly and thoughtlessly with it, but I always convey this openly and honestly together with my models. Some of my pictures may seem light-footed, clichéd and "simple", but they were never created thoughtlessly. They should and may also convey lightness of being in a fast time, in which many things are not made easy for us and in which we do not make many things easy for ourselves. And above all they should never be one thing: disrespectful, degrading or humiliating. This is very important to me.


Beside all this I have experienced one thing in my nude photography again and again and that is fantastic and beautiful:


In "clothed" photography it is often necessary to play a role. In these role-plays, you "hide" behind fabric covers, behind accessories, you are seldom "yourself", you mediate or sell your role, as unrealistic and photo-shopped as it may be. In my interpretation of sensual and nude photography, I often try to create a counter-design to this world of roles. My models, who place their trust in me, do not "hide" themselves and their personality behind covers. They are more immediate, they are simply "themselves". They are, in a positive sense, thrown back on themselves - and this results in wonderful, immediate and very "honest" moments and little glimpses of the beauty of the "soul", if I may use this big word for my photography. I see this very often in the eyes of my models. They are simply whole and intense with themselves in these moments and that is fascinating and beautiful, that touches. And I want to touch with pictures. If I manage to do this now and then in this extremely difficult area of people photography, namely to touch others, then I have reached my goal together with my models.


I am never in search of poses, I am always in search of moments. Such "soul pictures", which ideally arise from this search, are very special - and that is ultimately the reason why this way of capturing moments in pictures fascinates me. On the part of the models, it takes a lot of trust to go down this path with me. "Soul pictures" only exist if you can trust each other. That's why you very often see the same models with whom I photograph again and again. I am not a big "model collector". I don't need naked skin just for the sake of naked skin and as much and as "fresh" as possible. My way should - and this is of central importance to me - be respectful and appreciative. My models are, as much or as little as they have clothes on their bodies, not interchangeable (sexual) objects, which are used arbitrarily, but unmistakable subjects and equal partners with all their feelings and with all their emotions, their passion, which they have put into the pictures together with the other side of the camera. People with charisma, aesthetics, love, pride and beauty, which also radiates and works from the inside out.


Josephine Baker, a famous actress and dancer of the interwar period, an early icon of physicality, is said to have once made the following statement: "I was not really naked. I just had no clothes on". This is exactly how my pictures should be, with all the affirmation of sexuality, sensuality and eroticism. My models worthy of protection should never feel exploited, exposed, depicted - they are at any rate wrapped in respect and appreciation, in all their nakedness.


The human nude has always been a tightrope walk between admiration, contempt and misunderstanding, and it is indeed so: little has "touched" and "moved" for thousands of years and probably still to such a high degree and as many as nudity and the unveiled (female) body. And nowhere is the line as narrow and difficult to walk as in forms of art dedicated to that genre - that line between beauty and aesthetics on the one hand and cheap display of bare, soulless skin on the other.


On the part of the audience, it happens again and again that my models receive "good advice" and other things after publication. Phrases like "Don't sell yourself below your value" or "You don't have to", as they are offered to my models, may be well-meant and I acknowledge that. But often these expressions also show ignorance and at worst dubious bigotry and double standards. And last but not least they devalue me as the creator of my serious pictures. In the same way, my models and me, but also those viewers who for "immature" reasons can't get enough of nudity, also devalue me and my models and formulate this in a clear and ambiguous way. The privacy of my models should also be taboo. My models see themselves as part of my world of images, which we share with you, but not as easily accessible "fair game" on the market of sexual needs. Both, bigotry and moralizing narrow-mindedness on the one hand, but also sexism and mere instinct on the other hand miss the sense and purpose of my and my models' efforts.


So I have high expectations of you as my audience and I am proud that I can describe you as a very mature and responsible EIKONAS "community". I would like to ask you now and in the future to never forget one thing in particular in your comments and answers to the pictures: Respect and appreciation for my models, who have the confidence not only to me but also to you to share their and our world of images with you.


Whoever is irritated by "too much" naked skin, may he look away mercifully and not withdraw his favour from me. I don't want to offend anyone, not now and not in the future. Thank you very much for your understanding, but also thank you very much for having "held out" reading this far. And now - always good light!


Yours Günther Achleitner, EIKONAS Photography - Painting with light

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