MICHAEL KURTZ (This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 31)
Colin Squire regularly joins us for big sailing events on our chase boat in Palma or St Tropez, to take photos together and we recently discussed the honour of myself, and my work, being featured in the “The Professional Snapper” section of his “Yachting Matters” magazine.
However, my history in photography, or my “snapper job”, as he calls it is very different to the top photographers that have already been published in his magazine. I know most of the top 20 yacht photographers of today and have had the pleasure to work together with some of them on chase boats.
One of them, Franco Pace, has been a “god” to me since I bought my first poster of his work at the Genoa Boat Show in 1989. Later we became good friends when our company stands were side by side at the Düsseldorf and Paris boat shows and where I asked him for testimonial shootings for Pantaenius. Much later I enjoyed meeting his assistant Alessandro and we have over the years worked hard together in St Barths taking many very good pictures.
It is the same for example with Peter Neumann from Hamburg, Carlo Borlenghi from Italy and Cory Silken from the USA. Nobody can imagine how much respect I have for all of these great photographers.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to study photography; I am self-taught. In the analogue days when the word of the internet did not exist, photos were the one true message that could bring images and information to the world, an iconic medium which has fascinated me ever since I finished school in Germany and moved into my student life in Hamburg. I studied economics in the 70s - and already then I would often carry my DSLR camera with me, no matter if I was working as a truck driver in the harbour of Hamburg, at music concerts, demonstrating against the Nazi regime or nuclear power plants, or when I was sailing in the Baltic - my Olympus camera with its two or three lenses always accompanied me.
Since then and until today - I see my pictures as timeless; my interpretation of seconds of my life frozen for the future. Many of my analogue films are stored; I am just waiting to have the time to develop and digitalize these personal treasures.
I joined in the “Norddeutscher Regatta Verein” in Hamburg in 1967 and have been racing Finns and Dragons ever since. In the past 25 years I have participated as crew at many Dragon World championships with extraordinary helmsmen and I am still enjoying participating in the Finn Master circuits.
My relation to racing and yachting brought me to Pantaenius and there I started a special career as a Claims Manager on difficult marine claims from all over the world. Here the camera again proved invaluable to document the accidents, using pictures in all kinds of “investigations” and fraudulent cases. My teacher at that time was the top photographer Peter Neumann from Hamburg, who taught me lots of tips to take good pictures.
20 years of intensive travelling throughout the world has produced lots of films and another extensive archive. But again - all my photos are taken with feeling and intuition - never with the target to display them as photo art. I only ever used them as a tool to document what happened; my money I earned via my job.
During those times, I was a director in the Pantaenius ‘Yacht’ department and also responsible for Marketing and PR. There we used the claim and racing photos with tremendous success for all kinds of media. We also have given our existing and potential new clients my photos of their yachts participating at a regatta or race which has always been appreciated. This is unchanged today.
In 1997 I moved with my family to the Mediterranean to open and develop the Pantaenius Monaco office - I am still responsible for Marketing and PR for Monaco and I assist the main office in Hamburg as much as I can. But since I have lived on the Cote d’Azur, photography has become my “creative love” and I really started to learn more about the secrets of the sense of photography. My love is not just being out on the water, I also enjoy photographing classic cars of all types, but that’s another story….
I have used Nikon cameras throughout my later life and am now working with the D5 with Zoom lenses from 14 to 400mm. When possible, I also try to use my fixed lenses, 200mm / 300mm and 500mm – but these are large and difficult to handle on the chase boat – even if I carry two or more camera bodies. Also there are always problems with carrying all of this equipment on a plane – therefore, when I have to, I use the Sigma 150 – 600 Zoom, it is light and fast – but the quality is lower.
Regarding the black and white world, I enjoy using this format when I can and to get the best results I am using the Leica monochrome body with various wide angle lenses.
I have read lots of photography books and I am an avid collector of the work of famous photographers of the last 80 years and I have participated in various photographic seminars. With the experience I have gained over the years in photography and my knowledge of all the regattas and events I have attended, I developed, unintentionally, my “photo snapper” job for Pantaenius and have essentially become the house photographer with continuing success.
For around 15 years I have been driving the tender for our film hero Tom Nitsch (www.tom-nitsch-images.de). Tom in my opinion is still one of the most professional film makers and photographers on the Yachting scene. His productions are outstanding and due to my experience in yacht racing and my general knowledge of bigger yachts, I developed a deep understanding of immediately seeing developing situations on the water when we are out filming the big events – being the tender driver it is crucial to decide where the best spots are - and where not to go.
The photographer on the water needs the help of a top driver to approach the best spots - and this is what we have always achieved, without being afraid and also keeping everybody safe, not just us but also those on the vessels we are covering. The quality of the pictures is the only thing that matters. My problem has always been that I am not able to take photos when I have to drive the boat - but that’s life.
The photos produced from these events are worth suffering a little for.
And here, the circle is closed, with Colin from Yachting Matters - he is often a guest on our boat; we have always enjoyed working together taking our pictures and films, I even let him drive at times, we both strive for high quality but, thankfully, with very different results.