Mike Meyer: human builder, world traveler, seeker of answers…
What moves us? How are we all alike? What does happiness mean? For years Mike Meyer has been looking for answers to these universal questions on his journey around the world - and finds them in honest, unvarnished portraits. We spoke to the photographer from Franconia about his latest project.
By Tim Southwell
Whenever people describe someone to me as ‘a force of nature’, I always think, ‘you haven’t met Mike Meyer, have you?’. Now there, my friends, is a genuine force of nature. He’s like a mad hybrid of the Duracell Bunny and Sherlock Holmes. With a camera. Nothing is left to chance and every opportunity is hunted down with a relentless enthusiasm which is, quite frankly, intoxicating and infectious. I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve been together in some crazy part of the world when, just as I think we’re done for the day he drags me 200 miles out of our way in order to go and ‘see something amazing’. Just as I dare to think, ‘well, that’s the job sorted, let’s go hang by the pool’, we’re off again in search of adventure and a good photo. And it never fails to deliver. When he’s not marauding through a desert or sitting on top of a jeep crossing a river in Colombia, he’s working with world famous brands and icons. Mike has orchestrated photo shoots with many global players including Justin Timberlake, Johnny Depp, Angela Merkel, and Manuel Neuer. Photos of such instantly recognisable international superstars are naturally eye catching, no matter who takes them. But things get a lot more interesting when the pictures tell us something: an idea, a moment, a story - something personal. Mike Meyer is a genuine artist in this regard. He brings out something extra, something which takes the viewer behind the facade, inside the psyche of the person. Mike not only finds this artistic insight in famous people, he finds it in everyone he meets. And, believe me, he meets a lot of people. This charming, humble and down-to-earth 39-year-old world traveler - draws no distinction between the well known celebrity and the man/woman next door. They are all fascinating to him. They all have a story to tell. Mike calls this approach to photography ‘Human studies’. In his black-and-white portraits, which are always consistent in form but are all the more complex in content, he is concerned with the essential: the human being itself. Mike Meyer is nothing if not driven. He pretty much epitomises the word. In fact, he’s been on the road creating this project for four years (an average of 200 days a year), often taking his young family with him. In Georgia he focused his camera on women workers on a tea plantation at an altitude of 4,000 meters; in Italy the last cowboys in Tuscany and the workers of the famous Carrara quarries. In New York’s Time Square he documented passers-by. In the desert of Morocco it was the nomads. At Tempelhof Airport he photographed visitors to Berlin Fashion Week. On a historic two-master yacht in front of Stromboli, he photographed the entire ship's crew. And the constant backdrop and environment for all this? - Mike’s mobile portrait studio, The White Cube, which popped up across the globe, its presence forming an iconic nerve centre for the mission. The White Cube is a transparent white plastic cube three by three meters in size, into which people are drawn, a light-flooded shelter that brings everyone in front of Mike's camera to a common denominator. This project is the realisation of an ambitious vision and is a thing of true beauty. Now, can we go and sit by the pool?… don’t answer that!
Whether it's an international superstar or the person next door: it's always about the question of all questions, says Mike: ‘Who are we?’ ‘What moves us?’ ‘Where do we want to go?’ Mike knows exactly where he wants to go: to the human condition – human nature.
“CAPTURE THE PEOPLE AS A BEING IN THE PICTURE”
Mike, your white cube project, the endless journeys, that sounds a little crazy - above all incredibly exhausting: What drives you? “The amazing thing is: Of course it takes a lot of energy to do this, but mostly it doesn't feel like it at all. It's more like I'm constantly and effortlessly learning new things on my life's journey - a great feeling. I'm just incredibly hungry for new experiences, for encounters and exchanges about life, things we have in common and visions. A universal idea hovers over everything: to capture the human being as a being in the picture.”
How do you translate this photographic vision into reality? “It's about making visible what unites us all when you take away everything that surrounds us. Hence this reduced setting, black and white portraits in front of a neutral wall.”
During the portrait sessions you meet a wide variety of people - and do you obviously manage to get them to open up to you? What is your secret? “There is no real secret, it just takes focus and appreciation. I'm always friendly, open and interested, and actually I always ask very simple questions: How are you? what moves you What makes you happy? Then I ask the other person to close their eyes for a moment, to introspect and then to look back at the camera. This is the moment when everything happens.” Tim Southwell, London
Clients i have the privilege of collaborating with
Amazon, Axel Springer Verlag, Audi Corporate, Audible, Berliner Verlag GmbH, BMW, Börse online, Bunte, Burda, Brose Baskets, C3 Creative, Constance Halaveli Maldives, Capital, Caritas, Cecil, Comma, Computer Bild Digital, Constance Le Prince Maurice, Conde Nast Traveller, Deezer, Deutscher Golfverband, Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, Detroit Motorshow, Drykorn, Dubai Magazine, Ecco, eightbyeight magazine new york, Emotion, FHM, Fifa, Focus, Ford GT, Formel 3, Gala, Glatz AG, Golf Digest Malaysia, Golf Punk Magazine, Gruner + Jahr Corporate Publishers, Häberlein & Mauerer, Hugo Boss, Handelsblatt, IAA, Indianapolis Indy 500, IG Europe, Isostar, Inter American Coffee Hoboken New Jersey, Johanssen und Kretschmar, KJUS, Köhler, Laurèl, L+T, La Gazetta dello Sport, Le Groupe Bel, Lerros, Le Touessrok Golf Course Mauritius, Lexware, Longchamp Paris, Madame, Mattel, Marlinx, Meire & Meire, Media Markt, Mercedes-Benz, Mastercard, Montgomerie Golf Resort Dubai, Morning Read, Motor Classic, Mustang Group, N-TV, Neumann Kaffee Gruppe Company, Nissan, OAGM Maui, Omega, Omira, Philipp und Keuntje, Philips, Penguin Randomhouse Verlagsgruppe GmbH, Perfect Eagle Golf, Porsche, Pro Sieben, Red Bull, Roche Pharma AG, Scalaria, Scholz & Friends Brand Affairs, Sherpa, Sky, Sky Sport, Simplon Bikes, Sportswear International, Spiegel, Stern View, Sueddeutsche, Südwest, Sportweek Mailand, s.Oliver, Sylt Tourismus, The Times London, Tagesspiegel, Unicef, Verdi, Volvo, Vodafone, Wallstreet Online, Welt, Weltbild, Wote Fashion, Warner Music, Wire, Zeit, Zdf, Zum Goldenen Hirschen