The Flying Imagery of Berlin-Based Photographer Koone
Sneakers and streetwear photography is a fast-moving field, with thousands of images circulating around the globe every day. But what’s not so fast-moving is the fact that most of the images depict sneakers and models in standing poses, devoid of any motion. Koone is the exception. The Berlin-based photographer’s imagery is an explosion of motion. Literally obsessed with all things flying, Koone created his own style that often defies the laws of gravity. But on that note, Koone is also proud to point out that nothing is photoshopped in his imagery. Here’s a selection of some of Koone’s greatest work and words from the man who’s putting kicks in motion.
Koone, how did you get into sneakers? Please tell us your story – what kickstarted your interest in the whole thing?
I was always connected to hip-hop culture. I did a lot of graffiti back in my hometown and used to be a B-boy. For breakdancing, clothes and especially shoes were really important. I needed good quality shoes that had to be first of all functional and comfortable but also look cool and fit my style. So I started to be interested in sneakers.
What were the models that caught your eye back then?
At that time, it was all about the classics. Stan Smiths, Shell Toes or Clydes. Later when I could afford it, I developed greater interest in special shoes and editions not only for dancing. My first special love was the Air Jordan 4.
And when did you get serious about photography?
I bought my first real camera around 2013. It was a Sony Nex6 with a nice Zeiss Lens. When I was a graffiti writer, I already developed a certain interest in graphics and designs. We used to take pictures of our graffitis with analogue cameras just to keep the pictures and remember them. But I never considered that to be real photography. When I got my first digital camera it awakened the interest to create graphic art myself. That was always important, because in the graffiti scene it was also important to make things yourself and create your own style.
Your style is really marked by motion and people flying through the air. What’s the philosophy behind your approach?
The love for dynamics clearly comes from dancing. I like to catch the moment of people f lying, make them look like they are standing still in the air. I like to show this moment of peace and stillness where you can’t see the effort of the movement. For me it’s catching the impossible. It has something surreal I guess, against physical laws, showing people floating in the air has something controversial, impossible and even magical. It’s definitely my speciality but not the only thing I do.
So you don’t want to be pigeonholed as the “flying through the air photographer”?
I enjoy trying everything and I want to improve in all styles so I can reuse my knowledge for my own style again. I think that keeping this interest is important to develop and grow. Besides dynamics and movement, I have a great love for urban architecture that I show in my photography. My photos tell stories about moving in the urban space. They show the stillness in a fast living city. I like to show the beauty of the city and how the city can be used in photography.
Your Instagram says “no Photoshop.” Is that really true for all your shots and why is it important to say that?
It is definitely true that I don’t use Photoshop. I don’t want to be a „photo shopper,“ I want to be a photographer. My work is about capturing the one right moment. My pictures can look surreal and as if I used Photoshop on them. So I think it’s important that people know the image was not photoshopped but is actually possible to capture. I don’t want to fake my pictures and I don’t want to be mistaken or misunderstood. I try to make the impossible possible, in reality, not on the computer.
So there are other, real skills at work in making it happen?
There is again a connection to dancing, especially b-boying. It’s about moving differently, like others can’t move. About jumping or holding a freeze or spinning in a crazy surreal way and even holding impossible positions. I think that is the interesting thing about it. So I try to do the same in photography, I try to make the impossible moment last in a picture.
You’re often part of your own photos. Why is that and is it difficult to get the right moment and angle? On that note, do you go out and shoot alone on your own or with a team?
It’s actually quite simple: Sometimes I just don’t find anyone to go outside to take pictures with. But I really want to go out and shoot, so I often go alone. Finding the right angle can be difficult, sometimes I have to try a lot and timing is difficult but I usually find my way and at this point know how to do it. Sometimes I go with a friend and we exchange ideas or spots and we take pictures of each other.
When do you know you go the “right” shot?
Mostly I find the “good” picture at home when I look through them, and often it turns out to be a totally different one then the one I had in mind beforehand or during the shoot. With my style, it is a lot about letting things happen but still putting in a certain motivation, energy, ambition and intention to lead the process. It’s important to have the sensibility to feel the right moment, leaving room to flow but leading the action.
Who are your favorite photographers – whether sneakers or not?
I like Saul Leiter, because his colors are just incredible and the mood he creates is fabulous. He’s just creating great paintings with his camera, I think. He shows fragments of spontaneous moments in the city, I love his style. Also Little Shao, a fFrench dance photographer whose pictures I saw and thought, I wanna do something like this! David Wallace is a master of levitation. I find his dark, urban style very inspiring and am not sure of how he got his pictures all the time. For sneaker shots I like Ryustyler on Instagram. He designs very graphical images with food and sneakers. I love the colors and materials he uses and more than everything else his love for the small details.
Big question, what are your five favorite sneakers?
Although it’s quite hard to decide on five, I would go with: Air Jordan 4 White Cement, Air Jordan 1 Fragment, AirJordan 6 DMP, Air Command Force “Billie Hoyle”, and adidas Stan Smith Deer.
You are working for Overkill, one of the most wellknown stores on the globe. How does that feel, what do you like about it?
I was always connected to Overkill Shop through graffiti, as Overkill used to be very important for the graffiti scene with their magazine. So the love for graffiti and sneakers definitely drew a connection. Now I’m proud to be able to work with Overkill and bring my own style and quality that I can share and exchange with them.
Overkill also brings lots of connections, possibilities and contacts for me. They host important and interesting events and often invite artists I really love, for example Nas. So of course there is also a fun factor connecting me to my work with Overkill. But it is also a chance for me to bring my personal photography style to a professional level, to keep on working with it and to improve myself. It’s a great opportunity as I can work for them and be creative, still keep my freedom of expression and do my own photography. I get to pick my model, the spot, and so on. I hand in what I think is good and suits the product and the style and as Overkill uses my work it makes me feel appreciated as a professional.
And finally, here is an open question: What inspires you?
Exploring possibilities, spaces and moments. My loved ones. Interactive work with interesting people who I can share my ideas with. The knowledge I get to collect on my way. And openness to the new and unexpected.
Thanks for the interview, Koone.
Koone on Instagram
This is a shortened version of our interview with Koone. The full story appears in SNEAKERS MAG #37 – Released in Janury 2018