Steffen Grap is an artist born and raised in Berlin and someone to keep an eye on. His intimate images of close friends reflect the spirit of a generation. In the course of his collaboration with Polaroid, we spoke with him about Berlin and how you can feel part of a community here too.
Hi Steffen! When and why did you decide on photography as a medium?
Photography came at the same time as skating, about 12 years ago. All of a sudden a lot changed and super much happened, so I just tried to capture everything. We were simply on the road every day from morning to night and discovered the city, traveled around and collected experiences. And I was in the middle of it, documenting everything.
Do you prefer working on personal or commercial projects? And how does your work process differ?
It’s hard to say. I think both are great. I like to work for myself but also for others. Of course, I have more creative freedom with my projects but I also like to implement someone else’s concept without trying to lose my style. Most of the time I’m also lucky that clients book me because of my style and therefore give me a lot of freedom and trust me.
What was the most exciting project you ever worked on?
There have been many super interesting projects. But I think my favorite project so far has been the „Chauncey Street Journal“ Newspaper. A newspaper-sized magazine with photos from a 2-week skate trip to New York in 2018.
Are there any ideas you haven’t realized yet?
I have an endless list of ideas I would love to do, haha. I always try to experiment a lot and try new things. But as soon as I’ve done something new ideas come to me, so the list probably remains endless. But it would be a shame to run out of ideas….
What attracted you to working with Polaroid?
I’ve had several Polaroid cameras for years and love the instant outcome. I think a Polaroid photo always brings a bit of nostalgia. It just has this unmistakable charm. When I was asked to collaborate I just couldn’t say no.
The Polaroid Go is much smaller and more compact. What advantages does that have for you, too, coming from the skater scene?
The fact that the camera is so small and handy makes a lot of things easier. I love to take photos quickly and spontaneously. It doesn’t fit when you first need what feels like 3 years to set up the camera. In addition, it takes up very little space in the backpack and does a good job.
You grew up in Berlin and still live here. How did the city inspire you?
Berlin and the people have definitely shaped and inspired me and made me the person I am today. I don’t know where I would be today without skating, photography and the people around me. Berlin is a great, huge playground for people who want to let off steam creatively and constantly reinvent themselves.
Your photographs convey a very intimate feeling. Do you know the people you photograph beforehand?
My favorite people to photograph are my best and closest friends that I have known for years. You trust each other and can be who you are. I don’t have to pretend and neither the other way around. I’m always open to meet new people, good times and taking photos.
How do you manage to feel part of a community in a city like Berlin?
Through skating we are a huge community. Plus, all the people from the fashion, art and music scene. Spending time with people who share the same interests makes it very easy to feel part of a community.
What role does your crew play in your work as a photographer? Are they involved in the process?
I prefer to work with my friends, whether it’s in front of or behind the camera. I like to try and involve people I know and trust. It creates a comfortable environment and feels less like work.
Thank you, Steffen!
Interview by Antonia Schmidt
All image courtesy Steffen Grap / Polaroid.