Back to Writing / 3-01-2005

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German erotic photographer Arne Jahn explores the mysterious abyss of dark desire with his camera. His images of dominance, lust and pain are rich, eerie and complex. There are no victims, just secrets and longing. Jahn spoke with us about his process and influences.

Sez G: You use a lot of Christian imagery and themes. What's your relationship to religion?

Arne Jahn: I think you are referring to my older black and white work. At the beginning of my photographic career, it was most important for me to digest many influences. Over the years, I have been able to put them in an artistic expression. The whole Gothic lifestyle influenced me a lot in the eighties. I don't have a relationship to religion and Christianity, it is more a way of using symbols to increase power.

EZ: A lot of your images have a very eerie color overtone, like green or blue. Why? How do you achieve this effect?

AJ: There is no Photoshop work. The color overtones are achieved by coloured foils in front of the lights or classic colour filters in front of the lens This gives the pictures a trippy, surreal effect. To create an atmosphere is an important point of my work. It is like dreaming of the scenes or models for the viewers; it's a good way to reach their minds, not just their eyes.

EZ: To great effect! You do a lot of shooting on location. Do you prefer it over a studio?

AJ: Yeah, always, especially outdoor. It gives me an additional thrill not to know exactly what will happen while shooting. We get different reactions from random spectators. We've had some very open-minded reactions, but once some kids threw rocks at us. We were working near the harbour then. The model was naked with a gas-mask in the hot summer sun. The kids watched the scene, but it was a little bit dangerous to work while rocks were being thrown from behind.

EZ: When did you begin to turn your lens towards BDSM?

AJ: It started one night in 1995 with my former girlfriend. We were bored and I borrowed my friends camera to shoot some pictures from her in her nice PVC party-outfit. We got very inspired and it ended up being a ten hour shoot. After that experience I decided to become a famous photographer. By the way, she thought the pictures were absolutely terrible and a waste of material. But my decision was made.

I spent about four years learning auto-didactically and developing my photographic themes and style before going into public with my work in 1999.

EZ: How well do you know your models?

AJ: Some of my favourite models I have work with for 6 years, and I call them my best friends. Most of them are girls I met at fetish or gothic parties in Hamburg.

I like to work with non-professionals. They are more natural, and they are doing it for fun instead of money. They love to gain new experiences. Usually, it takes much more time to get to know each other hanging around, talking and drinking instead the shooting itself. With non-professionals it is easier to lead them to true expression of what they feel.

Over the years, though this changed a little bit. I now also meet with professionals from USA or all over Europe. This too has become important.

EZ: How much planning goes into one of your scenes prior to a shoot?

AJ: For free work, I set the environments by arranging new scenes, themes and combinations of models to create a space where my models can totally open themselves. It is more inspiration coming while working. Of course there must be a concept in the beginning to choose the location, light and theme.

The best sessions depend on a good relationship between photographer and model. I am not very inspired when a model keeps on asking how to look in the camera and what to do. The pictures are much better when photographer and model inspire each other. The model's ideas are as important as mine.

EZ: What's next for you?

AJ: Many, many pictures updated monthly on my website. A special project will start in May with a Fetish model from South Africa, traveling to Germany and staying with me for three weeks just for my pictures. I hope to realize my first film then, too…

Thanks Arne! We'll be keeping an eye on this rising German artist at

Arne Jahn - by Sez G.