The new photo book by Simon Bolz.
The last time we spoke with acclaimed German photographer Simon Bolz he had just published his first coffee table book FRISKY. Now just five years after the success of his first he is back with a new book titled SUBLIME. Simon’s photography celebrates naked female beauty and describes the themes of his second book as “desire, the feeling of freedom and a rush of emotions.” His limited edition hard cover book will take you on a visual journey with 30 stunning pictorials and 23 irresistible beauties captured in some amazing European locations. We caught up with Simon (which was long overdue!) about his new work.
Your first book Frisky came out in 2014 and was a big success for you, selling out in only eight months. You’ve just recently released your second book Sublime. How would you say Sublime differs from or improves on Frisky?
It might sound strange, but I believe, since the release of Frisky, I have become more mature. This is something I realised while I was working on Sublime. Even though, I still photograph female nudes, Sublime is more about desire, the feeling of freedom and a rush of emotions. Nudity becomes a matter of course. So, I would say, my new book is more profound, even though it looks trivial at first glance. This is something I did on purpose, because I love to entertain with my photos and to get the viewer in a nimble and playful mood.
I stayed in Europe for the 30 photo productions I did for Sublime, but of course, I chose different locations. It was clear to me from the beginning that none of the models from Frisky would appear again in my new book and I also did not want to repeat myself with similar themes. The biggest improvement is the flow that I have in Sublime. I paid a lot attention to the rhythm, the number of images and the motives, so the viewer will not get bored when browsing the book. There are a few surprises in the book as well that you will only discover when you look close enough.
What did you learn from your first book that you were able to bring to this one?
At first, I felt extremely intimidated. Frisky was such a big success, I had no idea how I could ever reach such a high level again. It’s the same feeling that a musician has when working on a second album, I assume. I had no idea where to find new models too, and I knew I needed more than twenty of them. Also finding locations and official permits to shoot nudes is a dreadful and complicated process.
Technology has improved over the years, so for example filming behind-the-scenes has become easier. And production-wise, I printed the book at the same printing house where Frisky was made. The printers already knew me and I was at the printing press on both days, the sheets were printed. Making a book is something you do, because you love large size images on paper. It’s not a business decision. As a photographer you earn money with other jobs, but a book is a heartfelt desire.
How long did it take until you decided to make another book and how long was your process in making this one compared to the last?
It took me one year after Frisky to begin with a new photo book. And I wanted to work very careful and highly critical on this project. Therefore, it took me another four years until Sublime came out.
When I grew up, there were no computers, no mobile phones. The times we live in now are marked by overstimulation and time pressure. People on Instagram spend less than one second to view a photo. Therefore I believe, it made sense to slow down in life. And the journeys and locations also cost a lot of money. You can’t just do one trip after another.
Sublime is full of amazing locations across Europe. What are you looking for when scouting locations? Do you have any dream locations that you haven’t shot yet?
My pictorials are always about a beautiful women in an exceptional location. Two ingredients you need to start the cinema inside the viewer’s mind. My parents dragged me into museums and exhibitions a lot, so I believe this emerged in my childhood.
Nowadays, it’s great that we have Airbnb. Many of the locations in Sublime are from there. Not all hosts are happy with nudity being shot in their homes, so I strongly advice everyone to ask before doing a shoot in a rental home. Some people wouldn’t give me a permit, but you have to learn to deal with rejection. And if you keep on trying, you will succeed. For me, it was also difficult, because when you Google my name, you’ll discover that I work for Playboy. And when people see a brand name like that, they automatically get dollar signs in their eyes! But I really don’t want to complain. I have found wonderful hosts and also invested quite some time and money into searching locations simply because they are so important to me.
It’s not only about having a nice background in your shoot. The feeling that the model and you have when you are in such an awesome place, helps to create the right atmosphere for the photos too.
There is no such thing as the dream location where I would love to shoot. The place definitely does not have to be famous, so please no Instagram hot spots. All I am looking for is beautiful architecture, furniture or nature.
Last time we spoke you told us your shoot process is to find the balance between distinct ideas and the personality of the model. Can you talk a bit more about this method? How much collaboration do you do with each model before and during the shoot?
Things have changed, even though it’s only five years since we last spoke. Today, it’s very difficult to communicate with a model before the shoot. Many models communicate via instant messenger only and they receive a lot of messages. I am old-fashioned and put a lot of time and work into preparing each shoot, but there’s always some kind of risk when two people who don’t know each other decide to work together.
You need to connect with a model and create trust which is mandatory for producing beautiful images. But you also need to see with whom you can shoot what. For some of the more daring themes in Sublime, I had known the models already from previous shots. For example, I would never ask someone to sit naked on a photocopier machine, if I didn’t know her before.
I believe the more time you invest, the better the results. I still only have a vague idea of each theme when going on a trip. The rest comes spontaneously, together with the model. But I always prepare the complete styling for all of my shoots and all the props that you see in Sublime are carefully picked. When you start shooting, it helps me so much to have these props. It makes it easier to think in a series of images and link them together.
What was the most challenging or most interesting shoot in Sublime?
The shoot with a horse was a big challenge. First of all, I needed to find a model that was an experienced horse rider. Then I needed to find a horse stable that would give me a horse and allow someone to ride it without a saddle and without clothing.
The horse stable I found was run by a woman, so I had to approach her and ask her those questions. Such situations always feel awkward to me and give me a headache, even after working in this business for so long. But luckily, she understood my ideas and agreed on the shoot.
I know nothing about horses, only that they are tall and have a strong personality. At the shoot, I learned that you need to have a second horse on the set, to chill the atmosphere. So there were actually two horses around me the whole time. I had to make sure to compose the frame, the way I wanted, and with moving subjects it is not so easy.
But it was a lot of fun too! It felt so unbelievably free. You are in the middle of nowhere with beautiful women and horses and think to yourself, is this really happening?
You’ve been photographing beautiful nudes for more than 10 years now. What do you think is the biggest change in the industry since you first started?
The internet has been a blessing. The world has become a smaller place and people can connect more easily. But at the same time, it lead to nude photography becoming a common resource free of charge. It’s similar with music. But while a digital market for music occurred with iTunes or Spotify, the print industry did not succeed in creating something comparable. Since I started with photography, a lot of magazines featuring nude art have disappeared. This means there is a lot of competition among photographers to appear in something like Playboy, one of the only remaining prints magazines with sophisticated nudes.
Another thing that has changed society, is the so-called social media. Because of the prudery of companies like Facebook and Instagram (just to name a few), even people in Western countries start believing that nipples are bad and can’t distinguish between nude art and pornography. This makes it very difficult for artists like me, to reach a wider audience and be understood.
But the biggest change is the way we perceive visuals. Literally thousands of still images and videos bounce at our heads every single day. I don’t understand why this isn’t addressed more openly, because this visual overload is something we should be aware of. When I say such things, I question if it is a sign of me getting old! But I am just worried that we will lose our capability to enjoying visual art when we don’t take the time art requires.
Great points. Sometimes we need to “stop and smell the roses” as they say. Simon thanks so much for chatting with us!
SUBLIME by Simon Bolz
Order the book online here