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Till Janz is a photographer, artist and tech geek at heart, who has built an international career as an image maker exploring storytelling and technology. He has gained international recognition over the years and his personal work has been published in many publications such as Interview USA, Zeit magazine, Dazed and Confused. Till has been commissioned for clients such as Nike, Burberry, Maison Margiela. For his commercial work Till is globally represented by artworld.agency
Hello my name is Till Janz and I have the absorbing pleasure to interview my biggest idol in the crypto art scene today – Till Janz!
Good morning Till, how are you today?
Hi Till, today I’m alive. Thank you for asking.
You’re welcome! Where were you born, Till?
I was born nowhere. Well, that’s perhaps a little bit of an exaggeration. But, as you know, I was born somewhere that felt as close to nowhere as a place can feel. The town of Worms in Germany, 70’000 people; the collective mentality felt very small-minded when I was growing up. I was bullied a lot, relentlessly from birth until the age of 20; that’s how it felt at least. I dreamt continually during my years there and mostly these dreams were of leaving, of escaping and finding myself somewhere new and big and exciting. These dreams morphed into stories that I used to entertain myself, and, eventually, to entertain others. I found my way to London by accident in my early twenties, then I was able to begin putting these stories to work in weird and wonderful ways.
So Till, how did you get into art?
I was surrounded by art, in its many forms and uses, from a very young age. My father worked in advertising, and he had these VHS tapes of the Lürzer’s Archive, which showcased the best adverts from all around the world in the 1990s. I’d watch these frequently, immersing myself in all that colour and audiovisual persuasion. My mother wanted to be a clothing designer but was encouraged to become a teacher when she left school instead. Since then she has spent her whole life in pursuit of art, which is perhaps part of the reason my older brother and I both became artists. My brother Patrick is an illustrator, and I was always very intimidated by his talent –– I can’t draw at all!
I stuck mainly to music, playing the guitar from the age of five, and to my computers, the first of which was a Commodore 6. Photography came later, when I was around 22, just after I’d spent some time training to be a chef. I think my previous training in these other areas proved useful in developing my practice as a visual artist. Photography requires a great deal of focus on composition and harmony, not unlike playing an instrument or cooking the perfect dish. So I like to think that all of these things are contributing when I’m making my work. I guess the other foundational thing is my fascination with technology and the digital, that underpins everything I do in both a technical and a creative sense.
What do you find interesting about photography:
Photography is interesting because I can hide behind the camera whilst still feeling close to my subject. There’s this feeling of real intimacy, but if I take a step back there is often a huge production going on behind the scenes and it’s up to me to direct that big team. It’s like tuning a complicated sports car until it runs smoothly and then jumping into the driver’s seat with one passenger-subject beside you. Photography can also be really collaborative; I tend to work closely with clients to develop ideas and then I translate them using my visual and conceptual approach so that it always feels authentic to myself and my style.
And how do you use technology in your work?
When I was a young, lonely kid, technology presented the best possible tool for escapism and generally avoiding reality. My first computer, the Commodore, became my best friend at the age of four, I still remember that my favourite games were Zak McCracken and Monkey Island. By my mid-teens I’d morphed into a total gaming geek, and since then I’ve always craved the newest technologies. I was the first person I knew to get an iPhone, and I’m still obsessed with anything that has a screen.
I often use and blend cutting-edge technologies together in my current photography practice, incorporating things like 3D scanning and lidar data. These offer a great deal in terms of experimentation and finding new ways to produce and present images. I’m always keen to push the boundaries of photography, and to combine it with an element of play. I’m also very interested in emerging publishing platforms and the new possibilities they offer artists. I’ve never really enjoyed working in print media, it’s so hard to achieve a highly specific desired finish on a piece when you’re working to someone else’s specifications.
How do storytelling and technology intersect within your practice?
I love telling stories. Whilst I’m not great with words, I feel that creating visual narratives comes naturally to me. I guess that’s what I’m always trying to do with photography, describing and composing different scenes and stories. I like to make people laugh, so many of my projects are humorous or have funny characters. Laughter helps people feel comfortable, so you can use it to approach some really hard-hitting topics. This desire to connect with people and put them at ease definitely informs my aesthetic.
I take inspiration from everything around me, but I guess some recurring themes are the Nineties, mixed in with futuristic references, old advertising styles, and English humour. I don’t see myself as a traditional photographer, but rather as an image maker. Technology can be used to interact with audiences and open up a great deal of opportunities to develop and share narratives. I like to combine traditional media with cutting edge technology, and it is this intersection that I seek to inhabit and explore. I don’t necessarily foresee a future dominated entirely by the digital, after all, I’m from the Nineties and nothing is better than reality… However, I think that future technologies will continue to enhance reality, which sets a really exciting precedent for experimentation!
What interested you in a collaboration with SupeRare:
Over the years I have had numerous dialogues with galleries, here in London and abroad, but I’d never been fully convinced that the existing system really worked for me. I discovered SuperRare very recently, and it immediately felt right for my work. I find the traditional approach of attaching value to a physical print of a digital photograph strange, after all, it’s a reproduction of the image file, not the original image. The fact that SuperRare allows artists to sell the actual digital file is fascinating and pretty groundbreaking. Exhibiting online, rather than in a physical space, also allows for global accessibility and exposes artists to a world of collectors. Not having to deal with traditional art galleries, who hold a monopoly over the art market, feels freeing and has revolutionary potential.
Can you speak a little about the artworks you’re releasing?
Lipstick is the second image released for my debut on SuperRare, which is a photograph from a series of 12 images I made in collaboration with Isamaya Ffrench, Burberry’s global beauty director. But that’s not all – it is Isamaya Ffrench herself in front of the camera. As if this would not be enough to make it a rare collectible, the image was also published in one of the most celebrated magazines in the fashion industry – Buffalo Zine issue 12, which was curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries, London. The image has been professionally retouched and has a size of 5053 px 6710 in 300dpi.
Portrait Nr.1 is an image I collaborated on with Isamaya Ffrench, one of the most respected and sought-after makeup artists currently working in the fashion and beauty world. Isamaya is known for pushing the boundaries of beauty through her artistry, and we worked together combining traditional photography methods with CGI face-scan technology, which we used to add makeup to our model’s face digitally. The portrait is one of six that were featured in Interview magazine’s print issue #532 in October 2020. I think that this work really exemplifies the technical rigour of my practice. Each image is the result of multiple digital processes, many of them carried out painstakingly over time. I think it is important to emphasise the skill that goes into creating digital art, as this can be overlooked, particularly in relation to valuation and the art market.
Has the pandemic had an influence on your current or future projects?
I think everything that happens around me impacts my work to some degree, nobody works in a vacuum after all… Of course the pandemic is no exception; it’s been such a powerful force in terms of how it’s forced many creative practitioners to reframe their practices. Since the commercial job market has been so much slower, I’ve had more time to experiment and have spent time working on a self portraiture project. The example shown below is a scan of my head, attached to a custom Prada outfit, assembled on one of my dream bodies. I used motion capture data to animate myself and also produced the music for the dance myself. Over time, I hope to release a series of these self portraits, each reflecting the things I’m interested in at that particular moment. Don’t worry, they will all be strange…
What’s next for you, Till?
I have various projects in the pipeline, one of which revolves around my interest in programmable art. I’m also exploring the possibilities of Cryptovoxel, a user-owned virtual world powered by the Ethereum blockchain. I am going to build a virtual gallery with the help of an architect; this will be used as an accessible space in which I can curate and present future exhibitions of my work and the work of others. Another personal project, Past Present Future, plays with the idea of conformity through programmable portraiture photography. It will reflect on my path as an artist via observations on my upcoming 40th birthday, and will aim to subvert the traditional role of portraiture as status symbol. I will be posting updates on these projects and more on Instagram (@tilljanz), so please connect with me there and keep an eye out for what’s to come!
Link website: www.tilljanz.com
Client List: Nike, Burberry, CK, Maison Margiella.
Publications:Zeit Magazine, Interview USA, Artreview, Buffalo Zine, Dazed and Confused, CR fashion book.