Photo: © Cirque du Soleil - Johannes Kirchherr
From the kitchen to the camera: A conversation with Johannes Kirchherr
A burnout of all things led Johannes Kirchherr to his true passion: photography. In our short interview, the Stuttgart graduate tells us how he gave up his career in the kitchen and opted for a subsidised retraining course to become a photo & media designer at Deutsche POP - and how he became successful.
From chef to photographer - that sounds like a radical change. How did it come about?
"Until the end of 2017, I worked as a chef for over two decades. Time pressure and stress are part of everyday life in the profession. In such an environment, I eventually had a nervous breakdown. After a short break, I just carried on as before, but unfortunately, burnout was unstoppable."
Photo: © Selbstporträt - Johannes Kirchherr
How did you carry on after your burnout?
"I was completely disorientated at first. So I took some time out and wanted to find out what I really wanted. During the year I was ill, I became passionate about photography. I realised that I had a certain talent and wanted to dedicate my life to photography."
How did you find your way to Deutsche POP?
"I went to an event for reintegration measures and found out what opportunities were available to me. That's how I found out that pension insurance also subsidises retraining. If you can prove that you really want to retrain, you get positive feedback. I chose my own path and submitted all the necessary documents to the pension insurance company. The retraining programme was approved and I was able to start my career at POP."
A few years later, photography is your full-time job. What does your everyday life as a photographer look like?
"I specialise in industrial corporate photography, events and portraits, and I particularly enjoy concert photography as I was also a musician. I've already had the privilege of photographing greats like Roger Waters and Silbermond. Tomorrow I have the honour of photographing Cirque du Soleil in Zurich. Some of my work is organised by an agency, but I also have a few regular clients. When I'm not photographing, I visit trade fairs, make customer contacts, plan and prepare shoots or work on my website."
What are your biggest challenges on the job?
"Commissioned photography often requires speed and perfection. At some concerts, like Roger Waters, you only get a few minutes to take photos. So I have to be lightning fast and focussed to deliver the perfect shot. You don't have forever to try out different things. But I'm now so experienced that the shots come intuitively and I can relax. Then it's sometimes difficult to separate your job from your hobby. You have to find a balance and take time out - even if you want to spend the whole day doing nothing but photography."
Photo: © Harlem Globetrotters - Johannes Kirchherr
How do you develop yourself professionally?
"By being open to new things. I recently bought a drone, for example. It would be cool to dive into the film industry too, but it's not easy to teach yourself. Luckily, I'm in constant contact with a videographer and former classmate. We support each other and share expertise when it's needed.
Apart from that, I also find AI very interesting. A few years ago, you had to spend ages editing photos and cutting things out, for example. AI can do that now, you just have to fine-tune it. Many people feel threatened by AI, but if you learn to work with it and not against it, it makes the workflow easier and increases productivity. A photographer brings creativity, planning and a wealth of ideas - AI can't replace that."
Your tip for prospective graduates or procrastinators?
"Be open and try out a lot. That way you'll gain experience and orientate yourself, and over time you'll find your niche. And: network! You never know which contacts or situations will lead to new jobs. You should also invest in good equipment. Last but not least: Utilise government support and further training measures if it is possible in your case. Why should you miss out on this opportunity? Dare and trust yourself, the rest will come naturally."
What are your goals for the future?
"One of my big goals is to do a real portrait with a world star or a big band and to photographically accompany a complete tour. Another goal is to create images that have a deep and great meaning. In other words, pictures that go around the world, reach people, invite them to reflect and also show unpleasant things such as grievances. Finally, I would like to see one of my pictures on the news."