Gil Bartz reveals how inspiration, patience and instinct helped him to get the winning shot


Berlin-based photographer and winner of the 2019 Spotlight Awards Travel, Documentary and Landscape Category, Gil Bartz, has travelled through countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Russia working on personal photographic projects since 2012.

His current project ‘We Won’t Die Sleeping’ features his winning photograph during his time in nomadic Mongolia. Read on to see how Gil utilises a balanced mix of improvisation and intuition to capture what he envisions.

The winning image of the Spotlight Photo Awards 2019 Travel, Documentary and Landscape Category. Photographer: Gil Bartz

Production Paradise: Tell us about the winning image – the idea behind it, how was it shot?

Gil Bartz: It was a cold morning – well, mornings are always cold in the Mongolian winter – I was heading to the lake with not much of a plan of what I wanted to capture. Then I saw these two men, father and son, breaking the ice open with iron bars. The men, dressed in traditional clothing, with their old pickup truck next to them, fascinated me. Suddenly the daughter came by too, wearing ice skates. I knew then this would be the perfect scene for the morning. I watched them for quite a long time. For almost an hour I took pictures of them working. They were not bothered by me at all. When the family was getting ready to leave, I saw this picture in my mind: the family sitting in the old pickup together, the broken glass of the windscreen, I needed to get this picture!

Usually, this sort of pictures you have in your mind never turn out the way you imagined it, but this time it happened! I only took two or three shots and chose this one. I do think it is just about perfect and one of my favorites.

Production Paradise: How do you feel about winning the Travel & Documentary Category Prize of Spotlight Awards 2019?

Gil Bartz: It’s a great feeling being awarded for my work. It gives me the feeling that I’m doing the right thing.

Production Paradise: How would you describe your style?

Gil Bartz: I usually do try to keep it simple. On my trips, I carry with me one camera and a maximum of two lenses. This way I can work comfortably and fast. In order to be polite, I prefer people noticing me while I work to ensure they know there is someone taking pictures. It’s important to me that no one feels uncomfortable being in the picture.

Production Paradise: Name three photographers that have inspired you.

Gil Bartz: Martin Parr, Bruce Gilden, Nikos Economopoulos.

Production Paradise:  How did you end up behind the lens? Tell us about your career path.

Gil Bartz: I studied Cinematography at the University for Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg. After I graduated in 2012, I decided to take a break from the film industry to work more on personal projects. Using a photo camera seemed to be a better medium for me than a film camera because I wanted to work completely on my own.

Spotlight Awards Travel, Documentary & Landscape category winner Gil Bartz

Production Paradise: What do you think is necessary to become a successful commercial photographer?

Gil Bartz: To be a good photographer it takes perseverance. You also have to be absolutely sure about what you want. Once you know this, you take photos instinctively and you are ready to combine your talent with the ideas of clients.

Production Paradise: If you weren’t a photographer, what would be your alternate career path?

Gil Bartz: That’s easy. My alternate career wouldn’t be much different. I studied cinematography at a film school in Germany. And if I wouldn’t work as a photographer than I would work as a documentary camera man.

Production Paradise: We believe you are not resting on your laurels – what are you working on now? 

Gil Bartz: At the moment I’m working on a long-term project about economic exploitation of non-renewable resources like coal, lithium, and sand. Therefore, I want to travel to South America, Africa, Russia, and Germany.

Production Paradise: The Spotlight awards had a judge’s panel composed of potential clients for commercial photographers – did that influence your choice of image(s) selected for your entry?

Gil Bartz: Honestly, it did not. My submitted picture is one of my best shots that I did in Mongolia. The picture tells so much about Mongolian people, their life and culture.

Production Paradise: What made you want to participate in these Awards?

Gil Bartz: I took this great opportunity participating in the Spotlight Awards to have an international platform to show my work.


We would like to thank Gil for taking the time to share his experience with us! If you want to see more of his work, visit his member page or his website.

Production Paradise has published a special edition of the Spotlight Magazine featuring all the winners and their images. Make sure you subscribe to our blog and Spotlight Magazine so you won’t miss out!

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