Interview with Marcel Castenmiller
More than likely, you've seen Marcel Castenmiller in one way or another. Whether modelling for HBA, lounging with his girlfriend Ali Michael in the CK One ad or in another of his enviable modelling jobs, but it's his photography that makes him stand out the most. Straddling the line between documentary photography and digital art, Marcel's photos are beautifully personal, a snapshot of what life is like right now.
Your work ranges from analog film photos, to cell phone photos and screenshots, why do you choose to work over these mediums? You document your real life events with your camera, do you see your work with cell phones and screenshots as an extension of that documentation into your digital life?
My choice between devices I feel only comes down to two qualities, ease and/or quality. Cell phone photographs were accessible since the phone was always on me and it also has it's own unique look (Especially the older Blackberry). 35mm is a medium where the images it produced looked the way I want to see the world but was not as easy perhaps because of prices of developing and film. So I feel almost no restrictions when it comes to documenting because there are always a means to capture. If those devices were taken away I could resort to screenshots or even scrap booking to satisfy my need to record. That's the reason behind my variety of mediums, my choice of what appears online is partially random.
You've released at least a zine a year for the last couple years, what is it about zines that appeal to you?
The most appealing thing about a zine is even after you've captured a great photograph you still can create further with an inexpensive printed matter such as zines. Printing photographs gives another life to the photograph. Not to say it was dead and has risen, more like an extended experience within it's own existence as an image.
Is it the tangibility and the printed aspect of them or are they just a way of getting your work into the hands of people who wouldn't necessary be able to come see your shows?
It's definitely the printed aspect but I can also say having something printed is a lot stronger than sharing images on a phone or tablet.
You very publicly document your relationship with Ali Michael. I know the idea of muses seems quite dated, but to what extent has being in love changed how you document your life?
I like to think the way I capture images has always been the same but change only based on where I am and who I am with. Love is a huge part of my work. Whether Ali is in the photograph or not. It all comes together to create a larger image of how I see my own existence and what puts sparks into my soul.
What's it been like working with Ryan McGinley? Has connecting with him effected/inspired your own work?
Working with Ryan was my first experience seeing an Artist at work. It was very significant that I experienced the time I did with him. In the past I had a lot less faith in my own work and the possibilities of considering myself a photographer. My time with Ryan taught me to do what I love and not focus so much thinking too far ahead.
New York and Japan both seem to be reoccurring in your work, what attracts you to both these cities? Do they effect your work in different ways?
Both Cities to me are so surreal. On one side with New York you have this city with an intense history and personality. It's saturated with people and experiences. It's like a theme park that has all the rides. Japan is like being on Mars. I don't mean disrespect saying that, nothing about Japan is strange. I say Mars because it's so far ahead of it's time, at least from a North American perspective. The things that are taken into detail and consideration in Japan hold qualities that show a sort of advanced futuristic simplicity and convenience.
You've worked with/alongside a variety of artists, models and photographers, such as Sandy Kim, Miyako Belezii and Tim Barber, both as a model and as a photographer. Being successful in both theses worlds, do they lend to each other well in terms in opportunities? Does it help that you've the experience of working from both sides of the lens?
Sandy, Miyako and Tim were all people I met going out and at parties. Through mutual friends and acquaintances I met Miyako who also shared our mutual love for zines and the 8 ball zine fair. Tim I knew more through Ryan McGinley. With Sandy we sometimes hang out and she'll at "hey! I gotta shoot something for dune, would you and Ali be down?". It's very nice working with friends and I wish I could do it more often. I do feel like we learn a lot from each other.
Who would you consider your biggest influences, artists or otherwise?
My first influences were from Hokusai, then Akira Kurosawa films and currently Araki Nobuyoshi. It's a repeating phenomena how influential the Japanese have been on me. I can't really explain what it is, somehow there is magic and I believe in it.
I've seen that you have a thing for Spiderman. What is it about Spiderman that you like so much?
Spider-man was my childhood Hero. I adored that he was a photographer, lived in New York City, dated a really gorgeous girl and saved the World from time to time. Spider-man however is one of the few super heroes who often fails, his loved ones die, his Life is constantly ruined in complications and lies. Peter Parker... what an amazing terrifying life he leads. It's realistic and challenging.
If you were Peter Parker, how would you use your photography to convince Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle, that you weren't Spiderman?
I figure since I have so many Photographer friends, I could easily get them to shoot me as Spider-man and then work together on the profits. I guess the whole trick seeing how Spider-man relationships usually go, one of those friends of mine would become a Villain and eventually try to destroy me.
What are you up to right now? Are you working on any upcoming publications or exhibitions?
Right now I'm about to have a meeting about a fashion shoot I may do in October of Ali Michael. I've got an interview for Urban Outfitters this week where they will have me shoot photographs of my day/week for their website. Further into the Future a possible trip to Tokyo for November/December.
Sept. 22nd Ali and I have done a zine for Pete Voelker's "Spot Zine" series. We are having a launch with the bands "Drowners" and "Cable". My "Hundred Flowers" zine will be at the NY book fair at the end of September. In October I'll be shooting a couple fashion stories which will be very exciting!