PDN30 2013 Interview

At just 16, Tobias Hutzler set out from his native Germany to see the world, backpacking though Asia, India and Africa, snapping photos along the way. On the journey, he says, “I developed an eye for simplicity and truth that is still the foundation of my work today.”

Hutzler worked some for international aid organizations before deciding to study photography in order to “learn more about the medium, its possibilities and conceptual, theoretic foundation.” He studied in Germany and England, then won a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he earned an MFA in 2009.

After graduation, Hutzler says, he spent time traveling, experimenting, starting new series and developing his voice. “This is so valuable today,” he says. In 2011 he won best portfolio at the Palm Springs Photo Festival with a book that mixed his automotive assignments, sleek landscape images and a personal series he had shot in the studio, of people in awkward or contorted poses. The prize attracted the attention of a rep. “We represent some of the best car photographers in the world, and to stand out in that market, you have to have something more than CGI skills,” says Bill Stockland, who signed Hutzler to Stockland Martel last summer. “Tobias has a unique perspective, and his images do not rely on post-production for their magic.”

“I make it my mission to learn something from every image,” Hutzler says—and to push boundaries. For The New Yorker, where he contributes regularly (the magazine’s former Director of Photography Elisabeth Biondi had seen his book at a portfolio review), this means striving to express the magazine’s sophisticated, allusive brand of illustration. “How can I make it more abstract, more graphic, but still real?” he asks. Sometimes he experiments simply for the sake of it, regularly retreating to the desert to play with speed and light—sometimes only moonlight—and creating images both simple and otherworldly.

“I am constantly trying to explore and push the boundaries of the digital medium,” Hutzler says.“I think we are just at the beginning of understanding the new possibilities.”

Kris Wilton