Los Angeles-based celebrity photographer Bjoern Kommerell chatted with Powerjournalist Markos Papadatos about his distinguished career in photography and being a photographer in the digital age.
“As a kid, photography was always a hobby of mine,” he recalled. “In high school, I had friends and their parents had a dark room. I remember the first time that I went into a dark room, and the process was simply magic. Photography was always a hobby up until I graduated from college.”
“In the meantime, I would do photography just for the fun of it, and the week before I graduated I submitted a photo for a reader’s contest in a German magazine and I won $10,000 in the same week that I graduated and I thought that was a sign, and I decided to get into photography,” he said.
He shared that he first got started in photography he would sell his photographs to the record label while photographing talent on his friend’s music video set. “The label staff would find my work interesting and they would ask me if they could buy my photographs,” he said.
“My motto was the following: ‘do what you have to do,’ and then, we would experiment and do other things. That’s how I developed my style. I loved the cinematic lighting from the music video sets since it looked so much cooler than the clean, generic portraits,” he said.
Once the word went around in Los Angeles of how appealing his photography is, the more Kommerell’s clientele and popularity grew. His goal is to not make any of his celebrity subjects feel judged by him. “Lighting is all ratio and then you feel it out. I love jamming every photo shoot with music,” he admitted. “To me, a portrait session evolves into a music session. It’s all about frequencies and vibrations, which allow you to get into that zone. The music in the background helps create an emotion. Music is a big thing for me. I am a big fan of ‘what ifs?’ The only tool that you have in a portrait session is your own energy: what you say and what you do with people,” he said.
“My job is to provide clients a platform where energies can emerge. It’s all about creating an energy of trust,” he added.
On being a photographer in the digital age, he said, “I miss the darkroom. I must admit. My fascination with the darkroom pulled me into photography back in my early years. On the upside, it’s faster and the possibilities that have opened up now are infinite. I enjoy it.”
Regarding his inspirations in photography, he shared, “Dennis Stock took the image of James Dean walking in Times Square in the rain. All it took was two guys one rainy afternoon in New York and a cigarette. That’s an iconic image. This taught me that things don’t have to be big and elaborate all the time. I thought that was cool and that inspired me a lot. I also like German photographer Peter Lindbergh because I’ve always been drawn to the set of a set. You see all the elements in there, such as the lights in the shot.”
At this stage of his life, he revealed that he has done well over 10,000 photoshoots. “That defines you. It’s really driven by your work ethic and your willingness to improve. Always look for something new, play with it, and experiment. That way, you find your style by doing it. Also, I love people,” he said.
For young and aspiring photographers, he encouraged them “to shoot every day.” “Go out and do it. Don’t try. Do it. Don’t be afraid to mess up since that way you learn things that don’t work. Experiment and have fun with what you do. It’s all about practice, practice, practice,” he said.
Kommerell defined the word success as being “high in demand” and “excelling in your craft.” “I can’t do this all by myself in my line of work. The demand tells you how successful you are. If you are busy and you get called in every day, then that’s success,” he said.
Several of his photography subjects in acting that Kommerell has had the pleasure to shoot include such Emmy-nominated actors as Brandon Beemer and Bret Green (The Inspectors), as well as Emmy winner Jade Harlow (The Bay), Blake Cooper Griffin, and Peyton Witch of Stranger Things.