The images of the Düsseldorf-based photographer are ones perhaps best defined by their intimacy. You see quiet moments of contemplation back-stage at rap shows, lent atmosphere by plumes of smoke and glistening twinkles of sweat on the performer. Another, shows a couple embrace, lips locked and eyes shut, oblivious or uncaring of the fact that anyone’s looking. There’s candid group shots, too. One sees Tek and Steele, better known as the east coast Hip Hop duo Smiff-n-Wessun, alongside peers from another New York outfit, Heltah Skeltah.
You look at these photos and are forced to remind yourself that they are from a different time, when such intimacy and intermingling did not give cause for concern or pause.
The scramble to salvage and reengineer projects in the face of a global pandemic, speaks to a sense that cultural production is not only valuable – but that its inherent value outstrips that of a polished or pristine aesthetic. At least, that was the thought process behind the images on these pages, created to accompany RELEVANT PARTIES, Carhartt WIP’s recently-launched podcast series which celebrates the work of some of the world’s most vaunted independent record labels. These images are from the mind of Schiko – an extension of an ongoing personal project and imbued with a similar intimacy – even if he was not there to physically shoot them. Instead, he relied on others to capture the spirit and details of each record label HQ spotlighted, including Stones Throw, Ninja Tune, and Ghostly International within this post.
And in a sense, this was a solution befitting of the spirit of RELEVANT PARTIES – a project conceived of to celebrate those who started out as fans, aficionados and amateurs, but whose passion allowed them to carve out their own niche within the music industry.
To accompany these images, we got on the phone to Schiko – a longtime friend of the brand – to ask him about his process, introduction to photography, and scouring eBay for tiny analogue cameras.
Can you tell us how you first became interested in photography and how your process has evolved?
Schiko: My father worked at the camera company Agfa Gevaert and when I was twelve he gave me my first camera, an Agfa Optima 1535, around the end of the 1970s. On holidays to Italy, I started to photograph the sun, the hotel rooms, my sisters, my parents and the incredible food. At night, I shot with flash and captured our visit of the local pizzeria and the hotel band. As my father had given me slide film (a now-elusive type of camera film, known for its unique color reversal effect), the results were really sharp, colorful and great to look at when projected onto a wall. That fascinated me and I’ve not stopped making pictures since. My process has not changed much since then – I just optimized it and created a big body of work. It is still about describing, understanding. and being part of something.
For Carhartt WIP’s RELEVANT PARTIES podcasts, you helped us create an accompanying photo series. Could you introduce the concept to us and tell us how it works?
Schiko: I have a lot of these small Olympus cameras, which you always find for cheap on Ebay. I always hand them out to friends when they go on a trip and ask them to take random pictures of their adventures for me. As I did with Philipp Maiburg, when he was going to Los Angeles for Carhartt WIP last winter. That’s how the idea came about to do pictures for each label that is participating for RELEVANT PARTIES. The first idea was that Chal Ravens, who hosts each podcast, would take the pictures as she visited each label. I introduced her a bit to the specifics, but then Covid-19 arrived and nobody was able to travel anymore. As we still liked the idea, we decided to send the camera to each label and asked them to shoot the pictures. The results are pretty nice. An analogue point and shoot camera that travels the world – I like that idea.
A negative can be shown in a large format without losing the character of the picture. That’s what makes it special.
The Olympus AF1 mini camera is an analogue autofocus camera. What makes it special?
Schiko: The results are different. A negative can be shown in a large format without losing the character of the picture. That’s what makes it special.
Whether it’s rappers, skaters or graffiti writers, your website mostly displays pictures of people. What is it that attracts you to particular subjects?
Schiko: I mostly photograph people or the traces they leave behind. I am not so interested in nature or staged photography and architecture. Pictures of people tell stories, their faces distribute personality. I photograph people as if they were my accomplice, no matter if they are a king or a toilet attendant.