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Colour-intensive street photography by Guido Klumpe

Short profile

Guido Klumpe was born in Osnabrück in 1971. Despite his congenital visual impairment, he became passionate about photography at an early age. After graduating from high school, he wanted to enroll in college, but German bureaucracy stopped him. As a visually impaired person, he was not suited for studying photography. Ultimately, years later, a documentary about famous street photographers in New York reminded him of the joy and passion he had once discovered with his street photography.

In this interview, Guido Klumpe tells us who introduced him to photography in his youth, what inspires him, and how he works.

Guido Klumpe standing.


Can you tell me a little about how you became a photographer?

I got into photography as a teenager. I was volunteering at a youth center. The director knew I was good with technology and asked me if I would like to photograph the concerts there. Why he asked me of all people – the only one there with a severe visual impairment – is still a mystery to me. I am blind in my left eye and in my right eye I manage to see about 25%. But it captivated me. A few weeks later I had a used SLR camera and was photographing abandoned buildings. Soon after, I set up a photo lab at the center and taught the kids their first steps with the camera. After graduating from high school, I spent 9 months touring Asia and discovered street photography without knowing the genre even existed.

I was fascinated by the magic of making decisions in the moment. When I returned to Germany, it was clear. I wanted to study photography. I foolishly went to career counseling to get some info. That's where they asked me how I could possibly have gotten the idea in my head that, as someone with a visual impairment, I could in any way study photography or become a photographer. Being a telephone operator or massage therapist would also be nice career options. That gave me quite a shock and instead I decided to go into social work.

In 2016, I rediscovered my passion for the genre through a documentary about famous street photographers in New York.

woman walking down a red staircase.

Photo: Guido Klumpe

It would be great to hear more about your images.

I see the city as an urban landscape whose forms, colors, and light I document in relation to the inhabitants. It's important to me to have a clear focused composition. My style is strongly minimalist to abstract. I'm less interested in technically perfect renderings of reality than in a humorous or at times confusing interpretation of the urban spaces that surround us. The colors in my images are vibrant because I prefer to shoot on clear, bright sunny days.

Guido Klumpe´s art on a wall.

Photo: Guido Klumpe

What inspires you? And what are you inspired by – is it films, books or magazines? Or the things that surround you?

At the moment, I enjoy going to the outskirts and arterial roads of cities. I love the areas where there are lots of factories, malls, car dealerships, etc. The colorful facades, graphic shapes, and people moving around this scenery inspire me. It's like a backdrop that I can play with. I pay attention to graphic markers where my eye lingers. It's like they light up. This can be anything, for example, a shopping center with a staggered roof or a bollard in front of a painted wall. I start working through the scenery, abstracting it. To do this, I make several laps around the object, get down on my knees, go far away and close to it. It's like playing with Legos. I take everything apart in my head and put it back together again.

crow sitting on a roof.

Photo: Guido Klumpe

I look for lines that converge, superimposed shapes that turn the sky into a graphic element, and so on. With gas stations or a furniture store, this can easily take over an hour. In the beginning I only see the obvious, the more exciting ideas for pictures don't come immediately. Sometimes the light isn't right either and then I go back another day. I often superimpose several image layers and pull the aperture small so that all of the layers become sharp and the viewer loses their orientation. I work with the fragile moment when three-dimensional elements of the cityscape transform into a two-dimensional abstract photograph that shows balanced pictorial tension. For me, a good picture is one that is not immediately understandable. A good picture captures the attention of the person looking at it and makes them ask themselves questions: What is this? Where is the front and the back? What is happening outside the image? I prefer to be out and about on sunny, clear days, because that's when then colors shine really brightly and the hard contrasts give me more design options. I try to incorporate people into the scenery wherever possible, but that doesn't always work out. And since I see myself as a street photographer, I would never take extras along, even though it's sometimes hard.

Guido Klumpe´s art on a wall.

Photo: Guido Klumpe

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

So far, I've been most excited about the invitation to join the "Street Sans Frontières" exhibition in Paris in May. Works from the world's most famous street photographers were shown there.

What are your plans for the rest of the day?

I'll first make a nice cup of coffee and then go out for a little spin with my camera.

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