Daniel Zielske on Books, Libraries, and Being the Ambassador for WHITEWALL
German photographer Daniel Zielske known for his imposing landscapes and libraries is one of five new ambassadors for WHITEWALL, the world's leading photo lab specializing in high-end photo printing. Daniel Zielske worked for much of his career as a duo with his father in travel photography and later urban photography. Daniel mainly focuses on book projects but also holds art exhibitions and does travel photography.
IRK: you have published in almost 30 books and in several photo essays for national and international magazines. What has been the highlight in your career?
It is hard to say, because I always put my heart and soul into every new project. Every new challenge is a highlight. But I will certainly never forget the first major solo exhibition together with my father, "Megalopolis Shanghai" at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, in Hamburg in 2006. 50 large-format pictures showed very special views and cityscapes on the occasion of the 20-year city partnership Hamburg / Shanghai. The work over a period of more than three years found its crowning conclusion there. But making books is just as exciting and thrilling. From the not always easy selection of the photographs to the layout, to the print approval and the great feeling of seeing your almost finished book come out of the press, that is certainly one of my personal highlights.
IRK: What fascinates you about empty rooms?
The rooms are not really empty. Just deserted... I have always been fascinated by the absolute and deep silence in libraries, in combination with the very special smell of paper. I always have the feeling that the room belongs to me alone and that I can let the atmosphere have an intense effect on me. For me, the supposed emptiness there is also the source of my inspiration. As soon as I soak up the atmosphere, the first images start to form in my head.
IRK: Your library series is one of our favourites. Are libraries still important in this digital age?
For me, there is nothing more beautiful than leafing through a book and immersing myself in it. I particularly enjoy doing that in my own library at home, for example, and in my conservatory. Of course, I could do the same digitally, but the feel of the book is very important to me. It calms me down and immediately brings me down in stressful phases. For me, libraries are cathedrals of knowledge, oases of tranquillity. The classic library has a great symbolic character for me. In our fast-paced, digital world, where we are inundated with information and stimuli whether we like it or not, they are a place of retreat for me, my own little refuge. And when it gets too much for me, I just close my book and enjoy the silence.
IRK: You had a unique partnership with your father, having photographed together for most of your career. How did that come about?
Photography has always been a part of my life. I am the 2nd generation in our family to work as a photographer. I was always in my dad's shoots even when I was in the stroller. My father was a classic architectural photographer in Göttingen, who then specialized in travel photography. After I trained as a photographer, we worked together as a father-son team. The starting point was our joint book on Germany. Travel photography later became city photography. In the meantime, art photography has also become part of my repertoire, but my focus is still primarily on book projects. That was a great time! There was nothing better than traveling, seeing, and photographing together and sharing the moments and emotions and seeing them later as pictures in books or on the wall.
IRK: How did you become a WhiteWall Ambassador?
I have been working closely with WhiteWall on my projects for a very long time. With the introduction of the WhiteWall Ambassador program at the end of 2020, I was asked early in the new year if I would like to become part of the Ambassador community. I was very happy to do so! A great honour!
IRK: What is so good about WhiteWall Prints?
WhiteWall manages to perfectly combine photography, art, and technology. I can always rely on the quality, it always meets my highest expectations. Pure professionalism, from the uncomplicated order to flawless and fast delivery to me or my customers. I simply feel in the best of hands.
IRK: If you could give advice to young readers, what would it be?
Often in the photography field, it is all about higher, further faster, even in terms of the subjects being photographed. But sometimes you just must take the speed out of it. And you should not forget that subjects that seem trivial at first glance very often have potential for great things. My advice: Stay curious and change your perspective occasionally. Then there is also a lot to discover in your immediate environment. You do not need expensive equipment to start with, as the increasingly popular smartphone photography impressively proves. Photography is not technology but seeing!
IRK: Covid has made it difficult for many artists to show their work. Has this also been the case for you?
Of course, the current situation has meant that, unfortunately, no exhibitions of mine can take place. To be honest, though, I am not a big fan of virtual exhibitions, which many see as an alternative. Here I miss the special atmosphere in the vicinity of large-format pictures, the feeling when one is deeply impressed and would like to immerse oneself in the picture. In my opinion, this feeling is hard to transfer to virtual space. Due to the special situation, we are all in right now, I too have been looking around intensively in my immediate surroundings and have found that there is a lot to discover photographically. I am currently preparing a home story on where I live in Göttingen, working on the doorstep.
IRK: What's next on your artistic agenda?
My home story is literally crying out for a book project and an exhibition.
But the topic of libraries is also far from exhausted for me. Besides Germany, I would love to visit other libraries in Europe and capture them in pictures. I love hidden object pictures and I could very well imagine, for example, that the National Library in Vienna would be perfect for an XXL picture.