Michael Ernst, the Autumn and some magical realism

It must be because I come from the land of the magical realism of 100 years of Solitude that I feel moved and connected with a photo that cares to tell a story and specially the ones that with its composition, color and mood open our eyes to worlds beyond this conscious plane. When I meet photographers who inspire me with their work I get very curious about the creative processes through which they show us their own magical realism.

Last summer I met photographer Michael Ernst, a very cool human being who is also a theater and voice actor, and who visited our showroom at Ocean Studio to see first hand the Autumn backdrop, which he bought right on the spot because as in the movies, it was love at first sight 🙂

I was very curious to see what kind of photos he would produce with the Autumn, a very versatile backdrop with lots of depth and warm tonalities, (one of my favorite drops), so yes!  I was definitely curious to see what’s was gonna be produce with ma baby drop. 

La Imitola portrait backdrop by Michael Ernst
All photos by Michael Ernst

Anyways, days went by and soon I received his first photo, weeks went by and with them the summer and I kept receiving every now and then photos of his work with the Autumn, some in studio, a series of pictures of  actor Jeremías Koschorz and a session with health scientist Bill Mo and others in the middle of a planting field with musical performer Benjamin Sommerfeld, I enjoyed seeing the cleanest of the composition in perfect sync with the palette and the controlled looseness that his work inspires. It was so satisfying to see how the Autumn reacted so different to natural and studio lights, it was like is a whole different drop in studio and outdoors but yet connected to Michael’s aesthetic idea, complementing it and enhancing all the features of both the subject and the wholeness of the image in a very organic way that also takes you into the story he is telling, I love it! 

Im looking forward to see more of Michael’s amazing work, meanwhile I wanted to share with you a short interview/ questionnaire he so kindly answered for this blog, I hope it gives you an approach to the magical realism that I have found in his work. Enjoy!

Can you give us a little introduction about yourself?

M: My name is Michael Ernst. I was born in Bremen and moved to Hamburg to study singing, dancing and acting. I used to play a lot in several productions like West Side Story, Hairspray, Anything Goes, Singin’ In the Rain, all those good old musical shows where I could live my dream of performing. The love of my life somehow brought me to Berlin where I live now for almost 12 years. Back then I somehow shifted my work pretty much completely from stage to the studio where I work as a voice actor and a dialogue and musical director for several productions that you can watch on telly or stream on all those platforms out there. It’s a great joy and I manage to combine different projects in my life: theatre, studio work, I also have a band … life’s good. When I was a teenager I took pictures with my dad’s camera, a Canon A1, I enjoyed it very much and got really into this experimental vibe. I mean, it was the mid 90’s so all I had was some lamps and my bedroom but hey, I was 14 or so… Around 17/18 when I focused more on singing and acting, I somehow lost interest in photography which lead to a big gap for 20 years. Half a year ago, when I asked a good friend of mine, who’s a photographer, if she could sell me one of her cameras, I restarted my passion for this art form again. It somehow feels like I’m just diving back in again.

What inspires your work?

M: Marta Urbanelis, who’s not only a good friend of mine but also a super talented and creative photographer, is a huge inspiration for me. She is like my inner MacGyver and every time I’m shooting I’m like “What would Marta do?”. She is so passionate about her work and the way she works with lights, framing, texture, the way she leads through a shooting, the way she talks to her clients while shooting is my biggest inspiration so far. She gives me wonderful ideas about composition and storytelling and I somehow feel that I’m very connected to her work. Every time I see pictures of other photographers that match Martas or my pictures I’m like oooh yes!, for example Phil Sharp or Marc Sirisi. The inspiration also comes from a technical kind of view. I’m very new in this business and I might say I have a good eye for composition and a good sense for aesthetic, but I still have to learn even more about technical things. That would improve my work even more so that’s something that pulls my attention when I see super clean pictures (on a technical base) in someone’s photos.

What has been your experience using hand painted backdrops?

M: You know, I love the work of Annie Leibovitz and I immediately wanted to have a hand painted backdrop. I just googled it. Yes, I JUST GOOGLED IT and the first website that popped up was La Imitola Backdrops, Jackpot! And since this beauty is mine (thanks again!) I have it with me every time I’m shooting portraits. What would I do without it? It gives the person in front such a warm and magical surrounding which makes my pictures (I hope I may say that…) a very special look. I love this vibe of a very “classy and royal” backdrop and it’s just fantastic for a simple portrait but you can also combine it with something funky. I sometimes use flowers in front of the lens to give the photo some depth and it works so fantastic with the Autumn backdrop.

Have you worked with hand painted backdrops before?

Never. Shame on me. But honestly 6 months ago I haven’t even used a camera before. Well, for 20 years time that is.

What do you think are the advantages of using a hand painted backdrop for your photographic work? 

M: The advantage is first of all the result. It’s just a stunning setting. And it frames the model, you know. I used the backdrop outdoor on a field. Just a couple of weeks ago. It felt like a random idea but when I set it up and positioned the model in front of it, he all of a sudden was in a frame that gave the picture a calm look. And it weighs nothing, it’s so light. I could even take it with me when I’m traveling by train.


La Imitola Portrait Backdrop Berlin

The Autumn backdrop is my absolut favorite. It has this natural vignette on the outside and puts everyone who’s in front of it in focus. It’s very well made and just touching it is pure joy. When you gently stroke over it it’s like you have the Mona Lisa in your living room – or wherever. You can feel and SEE the love that you put in there. 

– Michael Ernst

If you got inspired by Michael’s work with the Autumn backdrop check out our shop  or possibilities to commission a backdrop, we are happy to respond your questions, get in touch at info@la-imitola-backdrops.de

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