Kristian Schmidt’s life was destined to be anything but average. Born in New York City his family moved to France shortly afterward and Kristian spent his childhood growing up in Paris. Kristian's father was a theater producer, Lars Schmidt, and his stepmother was Ingrid Bergman. At the age of sixteen Kristian moved back to New York City for a short period before moving to Tokyo where he began to work in the television industry. In 2000 Kristian founded his own production company Kamisol and produced over 150 music videos which he earned him a two Grammy awards. Kristian spent 10 years directing and producing television shows, music videos and commercials, but in recent years he has focused on photography. Kristian explores a variety of themes including the juxtaposition of combining fashion and wildlife which has gained him international recognition. His photographs have been exhibited worldwide including Milk Studios in New York City, Art Basel Miami and the Cannes Film Festival. In 2013, his visually arresting photographs of Whale Sharks went viral. This critically acclaimed project featuring underwater film stills of whale sharks and models have captivated the media and featured in over 200 magazines and newspapers globally. Through his photographic projects capturing wild life photography Kristian has become active in wildlife conservation and awareness. His recent projects aim to protect endangered species and raise awareness on the growing illegal trade of animal and sea-life poaching. These projects include; his ‘Whale Shark Series, a documentary in Kenya with Yao Ming, collaborative wildlife photo shoots with charities such as Virgin Unite and WildAid, and a series of PSA’s on the consequences of the ivory trade with Prince William and David Beckham.
His highly popular Whale Shark Series captured a concept that has never been seen before — beautiful models swimming next to the world’s largest shark – and brought together a team focused on raising awareness for the at-risk species. Kristian’s work has been featured on Wired, Complex Magazine, and the Washington Post. He also contributes photos for WildAid. In this interview, Kristian talks about how he swam with sharks, was charged by a rhino, and how he came up with the unique Whale Shark Series.
A talented photographer, the symbolic power and the magic of Kristian Schmidt’s achievements combines photographic art with the animal kingdom in perfect harmony.
Born in New York in 1977, Kristian Schmidt is a man of many talents who has lived a rich and multicultural childhood. Moving to Tokyo at a very young age, he first used his creativity behind the camera for Fuji Television. Upon his return to his hometown in 2003, he set up a film production company called Kamisol Productions. Throughout his career, he brilliantly assumed the responsibilities of a producer and director of photography.
Photography and wilderness
Traveling the world and revealing, among other things, wildlife behind his objective, he sets out on explorative fashion shoots in which the world of beauty models blend in perfectly with that of wild animals. Kristian Schmidt explains his approach with modesty: “Looking at a photo of a wild animal is something easily transmissible because so few of us have had the chance to travel the country and see with their own eyes. But as soon as you add a person to the final rendering, you take immediate account on the size, feel and what it would mean to be truly face to face with these amazing creatures.” The intensity of the relationship between humans and animals reveals a genuine force that attributes to this amazing artist a technique of which only he holds the secret to. Let us now dive into the depths of his most dazzling achievements…
Whale Shark Series
In late 2012 , Kristian Schmidt produced incredible underwater photographs of models swimming with whale sharks. The photographer explains how he came up with the idea for this exceptional and unusual project: “I was invited to a photo safari with Richard Branson, Virgin Unite and WildAid at Isla Mujeres (Mexico) where 600 whale sharks come to feed every July. It was amazing. So much so that I eventually tried to find a way to make a fashion shoot with whale sharks. ” His meeting with Shawn Heinrichs, a photographer and diver of genius calibre, led him to this opportunity. Heinrichs told him of a place in the Philippines where the whale sharks are hand-fed by local fishermen. The perfect place was found, and a brilliant project became one step closer to being realised. Schmidt then had to scope out models that were able to achieve the performance they desired. It was up to Kristian Schmidt to highlight the quality of their work: “Hannah Fraser stood out as the obvious: This is the person most comfortable in the water that I know of.” The approach of the largest fish of the oceans is made with all the sweetness and pacifism that characterises it. The result: a true aquatic ballet, which took place between the models and the sharks.
For a good cause
Beyond the artistic performance, the goal was to shed a cultural spotlight on this remarkable fish who suffers from the pangs of poaching because of the value of its fins. This therefore categorises the whale shark as an endangered species.”Nearly 100 million sharks are trounced each year. It’s astronomical!” states the photographer.
Kristian Schmidt and Shawn Heinrichs continue to work closely with WildAid, the NGO that fights for the protection of endangered species.
Kristian Schmidt’s commitments do not end there. In September 2013, he executed for the organisation publicity photos for the fight to protect rhinos. For this project, the former NBA basketball player Yao Ming, Prince William of England, and British football star David Beckham met in the name of a common struggle. The event aimed to raise awareness about the consumption of illegal products containing rhino horn, a species that is also threatened in the wild. Having previously produced a report with Yao Ming in Kenya, Schmidt measured the gravity of the situation: “It is certain that we will see elephants, rhinos, and sharks disappear from the face of the earth in our lifetime if nothing is done." By bringing together in a single image the Duke of Cambridge with Beckham, Schmidt moulded the dough that was the fame and influence of such recognised characters into his photographs which were produced in support of charity. In terms of people who were mobilised for this event, he tells us: “Their involvement does a lot of good to the cause. Things are changing.”
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