Nihilist, firebrand, provocateur. Oliver Rath is the sower of bad seeds, the pornographer who takes delight in disturbing, presenting his models with phalluses, naked women in niqab, with armaments from every corner of the globe, the drugs of excess, and other wanton delights of the imagination against a backdrop of an altered Berlin. His photography is anarchic, obscene and incomplete, freely combining the beautiful with the grotesque. His visual repertoire is urban and alternative, sometimes trashy and explicitly vulgar, at times elegant and refined; he aims to provoke. His language and narrative is coarse, brutal without compromise; a slap in the face. Intractable, his wilful taste for the subversive can lose him top brand ad campaigns. Born in 1978 in Heidelberg Germany, he is self-taught, learning his craft himself or with the help of YouTube videos. The grandson of a celebrated musician and composer, Oliver decided to completely change his life at the age of 31. As a kid he moved to Fribourg-en-Brisgau and found himself in the nightclub dance music scene using the DJ handle Al Kapone. Soon tiring of it, he warmed to photography for creative expression.
Selling up and moving to Berlin, he invested in photographic equipment and started a blog. Up to four photos a day earned an early following which has blossomed to over 20,000 hits a day. He used this as an outlet for his fashion and nude portraits, selling some prints in exhibitions, and then taking some fashion commissions. He has become renowned globally as ad campaign photographer; his portfolio boasts clients as illustrious as the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Microsoft. He has worked with the greats; Karl Lagerfeld, Ellen Von Unwerth, Eva Padberg, Dieter Hallervorden, Franziska Knuppe. In August 2012 he launched Rath Gallery, devoted to contemporary photography and art centred around Berlin. As the Berliner Zeitung would say: “Der Welthauptstadt der Kreativen” (the world capital for creative people) where he is now firmly implanted, living as he is, with his wife and daughter.
Your ideal model?
If someone isn't able to show their feelings and to be open during a shoot, then they are at the wrong place. Then I would rather shoot animals: they never pretend!
Could you describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it?
Rath wants to provoke feelings, like a mirror of society, someone on a mission, looking for something. He awakes the desire of freedom.
Is your approach to fashion photography the same than your personal style?
That depends on the job. Unfortunately, most of the agencies don’t have the guts to work outside of the standards. They want to be different but not too much. Sometimes I ask myself why they booked me when they don’t want my own interpretation of the Project. But fortunately, I’m lucky to have enough time for my own free work, which is shown more and more in great exhibitions. I also show them in my own gallery - so I’m independent from the industry.
What do you do for yourself?
I love to cook, unfortunately I don’t experiment a lot; I make always the same meals.
What is a good image for you?
A good picture should catch the viewer immediately - in the best case without any further descriptions or a title.
Your best failure?
I signed up for the Berlin Half Marathon. I doubt if this was a good decision, I’m no runner.
How does it go shooting with Oliver Rath... are there drugs?
On shootings I’m not as relaxed as it might finally seem. When people are taking drugs it’s all part of the show. In my experience people on drugs are hard to navigate. As I’m a very impatient person, I want to see results fast. The best result! This works best without drugs.
- Meet Oliver Rath in Normal Magazine issue 3 -