Meet Manuel Kottersteger, who, thanks to life's serendipity and his quick reflexes, won the Travel, Documentary & Landscape Spotlight Awards this year. His vision of the imperfect image allows him to capture the present moment and authentic scenes.
How did you end up behind the camera?
I was a graphic designer when I first had close contact with professional photography. I had to plan and organize various photo shoots for my job at the time throughout the year. I booked a photographer from Munich to execute the project, and at the end of all these shoots, I bought his professional camera, including sports optics. That's how the journey slowly but surely began. In April 2016, I left my full-time job and dedicated myself exclusively to photography.
Can you describe your creative process when conceptualizing and planning a photo shoot?
The creative process can often take a few days, but sometimes it happens in just a few seconds. It depends entirely on the nature of each photo shoot. Sometimes, no planning is required, but other times, it can take days of conceptual work.
What is the story behind the winning shot? What inspired you to capture it?
The story behind the winning shot is quickly told. On my way to work, I saw an old van on a mountain pass road in Austria, and I didn't have to think long before I decided to stop at the small rest area as well. Initially, I didn't even notice the dog in the car. But when he happened to place his paw on the window and looked in the rearview mirror, I was fortunately quick enough to capture that moment. It instantly became one of my all-time favorite snapshots.
What is your favorite piece of equipment or photography gear, and how does it enhance your work?
My favorite equipment is the Leica M10-P. It enriches my work in a way that it visualizes subjects differently. It takes me away from the current technology with dozens of frames per second and a super-sharp autofocus that never misses. I like the "imperfect" image, the one that requires more experience because you're not assisted by technology. These projects hold greater significance for me, and I find more joy in looking at these images.
What do you like the most about being a photographer?
What I like most is that I constantly meet new people, and I can also grow through new projects. I may see things differently or more reflectively through the lens.
How do you balance the client's vision and your artistic style to create compelling visuals?
My personal style always takes precedence. I try to interpret the client's vision in my style and see each project in my own way, then convey it to the client.
Your portfolio features a diverse range of landscapes, from rugged mountains to serene seascapes. How do you adapt your photography technique and approach based on the unique characteristics of each landscape you photograph?
I don't think you need to adapt much. You just need to be open to the diversity of nature, whether with or without people. Often, with people, you can enhance the impact of certain situations or locations. However, sometimes it's enough to simply capture the moment and let it speak for itself.
Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to share or discuss?
I'm currently working on a very exciting project. A sports equipment manufacturer wants to completely change its visual language and rebrand the brand with a very new and authentic concept. It also involves the "imperfect image." I enjoy capturing authentic scenes, especially in the sports field, and by not being perfect, standing out and differentiating from other competitors in the sports equipment segment. I'm very excited about this journey and the upcoming planned projects.
We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Manuel Kottersteger for offering us an insight of his unique perspective, commitment to authenticity, and dedication to the "imperfect'' image through this interview.