Elke Bock – Insights into the world of Portrait Photography


Meet Elke Bock, a German professional photographer based in London, United Kingdom. Her client list includes several big magazines like “Spiegel Magazine” or “The Guardian”. Apart from that she has also done a number of shootings for companies like “Commerzbank” and “Dr. Oetker”.
Some weeks ago, Modelmanagement.com created a casting for Elke as she was looking for two female models for a black and white photo shooting with a Vintage touch. Then, with the chosen models Maria and Phoebe, she did an incredible photo shooting at a stunning location in Crouch End in London, however, she re-decided against black and white results.

After that, Elke Bock shared the amazing photos with Modelmanagement.com and was open to talk a bit about her work, her passion about photography and her projects at the moment and for the future as well as giving some useful tips for aspiring photographers and models.

Modelmanagement.com: Elke, where would you say is your focus in photography?
Elke Bock: Portraits.

Model: Phoebe Whittaker

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MM: You have worked for different kinds of magazines such as Focus magazine and The Guardian. How can a photographer have a list of clients like yours? Any tips you can share with our members?
EB: Research is key. Checkout the last few publications and analyze how you and your work can fit in. Put together a specified Portfolio and present.
Ideally, present your work to a person, if you can get hold of a name.

Model: Phoebe Whittaker

MM: This was you first time working with the modeling community Modelmanagement.comHow was your experience with it?
EB: Very approachable and quick with all replies. I can recommend Modelmanagement.com.

Model: Maria Di-Tommaso

MM: Why did you choose Phoebe and Maria as the models for your photo shoot? What’s the concept behind this project?
EB: When I’ve had the first contact with Modelmanagement.com, I presented my rough concept idea. The casting list was called with this concept in mind, which is a great help for a photographer. My concept is not commercial, so I was looking for very striking individual personalities in the category “fresh faces”.
The more individual the better, even if it is not the classic, commercial model look I was after. London is such a fantastic place for a photographer to work. The pool of diverse backgrounds is so useful for all projects. My project requires a Vintage / Retro or at least a Classic look in terms of female characters. Phoebe, for me, personifies a young redhead who could be straight out of a Dutch painting or a Period Drama set in the 18th century. I combined that look with a 20th century kids T-Shirt.
Maria has a classic Mediterranean beauty about her; very rich in personality and with her acting background she brought a lot to the set. I saw a combination of Godfather dress, Hollywood Italian style, and 20th century. The concept was a celebration of the Vintage fall back in dressing and clothing which started a few years ago. I don`t have a working title,yet.

Flea market items or second hand dresses are around for decades and were very much part of young people as hand me downs or small budget solutions.
But since the digital revolution I detected that this trend seems more than a necessity, it’s a wish to keep something from a time soon to be lost. I meet young women whose entire identity is woven around 40s dresses, tattoos, swing dancing and old movie posters.
I have meet subculture communities, including different generations celebrating the 50s lifestyle, e.g., which seem not so out of place now, 60 years on.
First the 50s were big, now the 60s and 70s are being picked to and implemented in main stream fashion seasons.
There must be a reason why we are very comfortable in design and fashion we can rely on, if we don’t know how the future will look like. And no bold style like previous defining decades is around to fill this vacuum. It is partly filled with cloth, which is still around, a life style, which is established, an identity, which is understood and easy to replicate.
Look books are around in forms of old advertising, movies and gender stereotypes.
And there is the environment to be considered as well with its landfills. But I am not going so far as pursuing an agenda. It’s pure documentation, anthropology in a form.

Model: Maria Di-Tommaso

I had a great time at the vintage shoot!
Elke from the start was very kind and organised. I arrived at the shoot 20 mins early as I am very efficient. The bar was a lovely bar with lots of vintage items. I had arranged a MUA for the shoot and she, was excellent throughout. Elke provided many clothing for the shoot so was looking forward to dressing up as a 1950’s lady. The shoot was fun and I felt comfortable throughout. It was a great experience this shoot and I hope to work with Elke again. I love being creative and creating different poses. Model: Maria Di-Tommaso


MM: You also teach master classes to photographers.Can you explain us a bit more about this?
EB: The Master classes were born 2011 out of requests of my students I met teaching accredited courses with an official public provider. I am holding a B.A in teaching and a B.A in Photography I gained in Germany, so these two parts of my background were coming together eventually.
With the first round of austerity cuts, it was not possible to offer all workshops I had been organizing with a government provider, where I worked for 10 years until last year as a photography lecturer.
I decided to take the plunge and offer similar and more workshops involving technical and creative challenges with set themes on location to educate up and coming photographers.
With London locations and a pool of people to work with it was a good decision.

As a former active member of the AOP (Association of Photographers, London) and appointed judge of the AOP Students Awards a while ago, I had a good inside of what student needed, themes which where going to become trends and the technical and admin knowhow to pull this of.
The students I work with are selected through a portfolio view and interview, very informal. This is important to put together teams and find appropriate concepts, locations and models they can work with to grow as photographers.

Model: Phoebe Whittaker

MM: Can you list some tips for models that will attend a photo shoot for the first time. What do you photographers usually require from them?
EB: Tips for models: Communicate, be open and see what you can bring to the set. Commercial shoots require that you present a product, service, lifestyle, etc. and very often its very straight forward work. But some projects are benefiting from your individuality and character you can bring to the set as well. Communication with the photographer and the production team is key. In the end we are visual problem solvers, we have to be effective and creative and function well in a team.

Model: Maria Di-Tommaso

MM: There is a lot of competition in the photography industry. Tell us, what do you think makes your work special?
EB: A Picture editor told me once: “ You seem to always catch a fleeting moment in your portraits. That’s what makes them so present, you feel the present. The fleeting moment is encapsulated, preserved and you always look for a combination of the fleeting moment and relevance.”
I can only say that it paid off to learn the craft and the technical side. Fine art analogue colour printing; I still do that myself. That’s important for collectors as a craft reference and creative control, which I think has to stay with the photographer. Creatively, I am looking for what interests me personally, not commercially. Luckily, I reached the point in my career quickly, where I was booked for my style not because people needed a photographer. And the way forward for professional photographers is to produce individual projects anyway, as there are a lot of mainstream images out there, which is produced by amateurs; I mean that in the most respectable way. Technology has opened up the market and we use the Visual Language now like writing: Aka, “I was here with’, or “ wish you were here” with a selfie or describing a culture with all the food images taken. So, photography has more niches and a broader place in all our lives.
The only comment I can make towards my style:
I preserve in my portraits the encounter I have with that person on that day.

Model: Maria Di-Tommaso

MM: What can we expect from you in the upcoming future?
EB: Book projects and exhibitions. More concepts about people, what trends might be around the corner and celebrating diverse characters and backgrounds.
I expect more Folklore after the Vintage, Retro look and something completely new, something we have not seen before. Times are moving very fast these days.
People might fall back on tradition on one side but also looking for new perspectives.
It will be exciting.
In terms of portrait photography: I truly hope that the pressure on models eases in terms of measurements and plastic surgery. All shapes and forms welcome.

Don’t forget checking out Elke’s profile and website to have a look at her previous projects and shootings.

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