Meet a photographer: Juergen Buergin

Juergen Buergin in a shutter click

Juergen Buergin. Born on 31-May-1971 and lives in Germany.

Main camera: Sony α55.
Main lens: My favourite lens doesn’t really exist. It would be a prime lens, very very small, of high quality, 20 or 25mm, f/1.4
Post-processing software: Photoshop.
Favorite lighting: Available light.
Favorite time to make photographs: Twilight.
Favorite season to make photographs: Spring and Autumn.
Favorite mood while making photographs: As I am, although my pictures do not often show this: optimistic and full of fun.
Your dream equipment: Does not yet exist. A smartphone size camera with all DSLR abilities.
Favorite photographer: I don’t have one and those I do have are changing constantly. OK, I have to decide for one, so let’s say: Henri Cartier-Bresson. But it’s not really true. Or Elliott Erwitt? Or Nan Goldin? Or Robert Doisneau? Richard Avedon? So you see it’s changing constantly.
Favorite quote related to photography: “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.”- Garry Winogrand

Juergen Buergin, street photographer

Why photography? What do you hope to achieve?
It’s somehow weird. Nearly all photographers I know  say that they started with photography when they were a child or a teenager. It’s totally different with me: I started with photography less than two years ago. OK, I had a snapshot camera for holidays, but that wasn’t really photography. Suddenly I decided to buy a DSLR and this was the beginning of a great passion for me. I’d like to do some exhibitions and make some coffee-table photography books with my photos. That’s a dream I have – so to all galleries and to all publishers: Don’t hesitate to contact me!

Which photograph do you consider made you get out of your comfort zone in order to make it? How did you feel about it?


Well after all my work as a street photographer one day, I decided to make some portrait shootings with a young woman, Maxi, who had never done this before, either. This was completely new to me: I had to make decisions about what clothes and make-up she should wear, if she should smile or not, how she should hold her arms and so on. It was not easy for both of us, but I think we learned fast.

Which photograph do you consider is representative of the life in Berlin?

Taking the bus home

For me, this photograph tells so much about life in a big city like Berlin. I think it’s a picture about solitude. It’s one major topic for me: To show people in their loneliness in Berlin – or in any other big city in the world. It’s such an inner contradiction: 3.4 million people are living in Berlin, but nevertheless, a huge part of them are singles or don’t even have close friends. They are lonely, although there are thousands of possibilities to meet people. But many people are afraid to open up to others, to listen to their stories, to their everyday life problems, and even worse: many people are afraid to talk about their loneliness. And instead of getting help, they live a sad and lonely life. I think this woman is a represents this subject very well: We do not know her, we do not learn a lot about her in my picture. But I was impressed by how she stood there and didn’t know if this is the right bus that will be taking her to her lonesome home in any district of Berlin. What really makes me proud is that I’m on the shortlist for this year’s Sony World Photography Award with this picture!

What style attracts you most? Why?
I’m not sure if I should call it style, but for me it’s important, that a photo tells a story, evokes emotions and that it surprises the viewer. I think those are three rules to prevent photography from being boring. It’s not that all good photos must have all three of them, but a great picture for me has exactly those components. To tell a story with a single shot is so difficult to achieve, as you need to implement the viewer, the recipient as an active part of the picture, because the story has to evolve in his mind – he has to invent a pre-story, and he has to think about what will be happening in future. And that, makes the photo totally different for every single recipient: Everyone has his own different story, a story that is influenced by his experience, by his past, by his social life, by his relation to arts and so on. On my Facebook fanpage, I love to encourage the fans to write down their stories.. and it’s so amazing how many different views of my photography are written down under them. The next part is to evoke emotions. I did not yet come to an end on how this really works, but often, it has to do something with the relations between the people on my photos and with the views towards each other. But that’s not all, by far. And the third point was: surprise the viewer. Life is too short to be boring.

How far do you go with post-processing?
Post processing is an elementary part of my work: I often crop a lot, I often work with the contrasts and the colours of my photo. By the way, many people forget this: Post processing is not a digital invention, what I’m doing with Photosop today has been done in the darkroom in former times. My street photography does not claim to be a documentary work nor even a journalistic work. It’s all about art. Maybe this seperates me a little from many of the classical street photographers that have a more documentary approach. All I like to do is to evoke something in the viewer, and if it helps to alienate the colours or the contrasts of my photos, then I’ll do that.

What motivates you to grab the camera and go make a photograph?
I always have my camera with me. Mainly there are two aspects: Is there any situation with some people on the street that could tell something that leads beyond, that could possibly tell me something about life? And: Does this scene possibly make a good photo, let’s say for example in a graphic way?

Tell us about a weird thing you do or a weird habit you have before a photoshoot:
I wouldn’t say that it’s a photoshoot, as mentioned, I always have a camera with me, so it’s more a constant shoot. There’s nothing too weird I do. Maybe one thing while making photographs: I never look through the viewfinder of my camera, but always on the display, so I don’t look too much as a photographer when I’m taking photos.

Describe your feelings during a photoshoot:
It’s a constant up and down. Often I miss to make photographs of situations that could have been good because the camera is not ready, or I had it in my bag, or it would be too obvious to take it out or so. Often I’m sure that a photo should be great, but when I’m looking at it on the computer it’s simply boring but often it’s the other way round: pictures that seemed not to be too good turn out to be great  after the post processing work. Going around through the streets and make street photography is a complete fun for me, as I discover so many details, so many things that I would never have seen, if I didn’t have started to make photos. You learn so much about the world and about the people, so I love doing street photography because it’s so rewarding!

Ethically, what are your limits in photography?
I don’t make a photo if someone lets me know that he doesn’t like this an I don’t make photos of situations that are evidentally meant private.

3 tips / advice to other photographers:

  1. Do not think that expensive cameras will produce good photos. It’s you – not the camera.
  2. Look at as many photographs as possible. Go to your public library and to your bookstore and take every book about any photographer.
  3. Do not hesitate to do post processing if it helps the effect andthe impression of the photo.

Prizes and publishings:
Competition: Sony World Photography Awards 2011 – Open Competition Shortlist.
Magazine: SCHWARZWEISS 80 – Das Magazin für Fotografie, February/March 2011, p. 67+69

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