By Emma Lucas
Director of Photography or cinematographer Christoph Hagen is at home in Hamburg & Cape Town, but shoots commercials, music videos and mood-films all around the world. His images capture a natural and light sense of beauty and authenticity. Susanne Dittrich, Henning Winkelmann and Thomas Balmés are some of his past collaborators. Getting to know the stories about this brilliant DOP is our great pleasure:
Christoph, please introduce yourself to us and tell us how you got into film-making?
Well I’m a director of photography or cinematographer based in Hamburg and Cape Town. I can’t decide which place is home for me, so at the moment it is really both of them, and I constantly move back and forth between them.
Back in the day, I was working for a German photographer in Hamburg, and it was him who introduced me to Cape Town, and when later in a gap year in New Zealand, I decided rather to create moving images than still ones. I remembered there was a film school in Cape Town, and I just went there. It was a great time and that’s where all started.
At 33 you are still quite young, but already you have worked very successfully for big brands, how did you achieve this?
I guess it is a combination of things that led me to where I am today. As I said, I was assisting photographers before switching to film, so I had a network this field already. When DSLRs came around in my last year of film school, I could go back to that, because suddenly these photographers also required little making-of and mood-clips to be shot alongside their shoots, and that allowed me to create some very beautiful and commercial-looking images, with great make-up and locations and all these things, and so I could start to build up a nice reel.
And then of course, people really liked my style and what I created. I always knew I had a very good eye for composition and lighting, and it was nice to get so much confirmation in that way. Lastly it just took someone to allow me to shoot my first big commercial, and I am very thankful to Jonathan Degueldre from Twin Film Cape Town for trusting me to do that.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I have always been a passionate traveler, so I really appreciate that I get to work in all corners of the earth. I have worked in Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Lebanon, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Greece, Spain, France, and probably a few I am forgetting. Also, I like that it’s always a team effort, and you get to learn something new on every job for the rest of your life. No two shoots are ever the same, and you get to meet new and interesting people every time. I am living the dream already, and I am still just at the beginning, I am sure there will be much more exciting things coming!
Describe your style of working?
I really enjoy working as a team with the director. I always try to get a good sense for what he or she likes and what’s important to them, because if they can just rely on me getting the images they need, it’s one less thing on their busy plate. With my technical team, I usually make collaboration. I know what I want, but if the gaffer suggests a different approach in getting there I am almost always open to try it out.
What do you aim for in the future and would you like to focus more on anything?
I think the future will be quite exciting, because I am just at the beginning of the road. So far I haven´t really focused intentionally on a specific direction, I just tend to take whatever comes my way. I have obviously done a lot of kids and lifestyle-shoots, but my next project for example is for Adidas where I´m venturing into sports, which I find really interesting. I think eventually I would like to shoot a feature film as well, but I’m not in a hurry. And also I have never worked in the US, I hope to do that in the future.