AM/PM: Andreas Laszlo Konrath
by David J Weiner
Video by Brendan Gosse
He didn’t open a single box of celebrity portraits.
Andreas Laszlo Konrath posed for the camera, the first time in a while. Behind him was a bookcase filled with boxes of film negatives and marked up contact sheets, the names of publications and famous figures were neatly scrawled on the outer lids. In his hands he proudly fanned out seven exactly creased photo zines. The images weren’t even his, but the work of friends that’d been sent in and printed on randomly colored recycled paper.
Andreas Laszlo Konrath's work has been displayed in nearly every major magazine, featuring the faces of today’s most prominent figures. Yet over the course of our three days spent together he didn’t drop a single name. He didn't bust out any of the thick boxes of negatives with Rolling Stone or New York Times written on the outer edge. Instead he thumbed through the gorgeous narrative of his past romantic relationship drafted into a photo book bound by rings. His personal projects deeply connect his readers to the subjects captured by his lens.
Before meeting Andreas, I actually didn’t even know what he looked like. I struggled to find a single image of him on Google nor a biographical interview telling his story.
He still gets nervous on the phone talking to his agent who frequently calls in with big commercial proposals. It’s the expectation of others that seems to put Andreas on his guard. With his personal projects he only has to answer to himself. He’s gotten to where he is in his career, with barely any self-promotion. The quality of his work and his genuine personality shown through his images have taken him to the upper echelon.
The first photos on his website are not of Kanye West or Pharrell Williams, but of his long-time friend Josh who he photographed for five years. There's now a published book of those images documenting their friendship, a telling sign of what Andreas finds most important in his work.
We walked through his perfectly organized apartment, thumbed through his meticulously arranged book shelf and watched him skate his favorite curb. We promised not to make him look 'lame.'
Skate culture is what Andreas claims to be his biggest inspiration. Vintage skate decks hang on the walls of his bedroom. We asked him to skateboard for us. He was hesitant to jump on the board for fear of looking “lame.” He took us to his favorite skate spot, a street by a hardly trafficked overpass with a slick curb perfect for grinding.
It was the influence of his friend group back in London that ushered Andreas into the world of photography. Skate culture and the entrepreneurial vigor of the mates he surrounded himself with spurred his desire to document their time together. You can see a young Andreas in the video above cut in and out of the footage we captured at his favorite skate spot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
ANDREAS: We stole my friends moms DV holiday camera. You know, one of those dodgy ones with the thing that comes out and the strap on one side. We got this really sketchy fisheye that we put on it, but it would always fall off. We were just fucking around as kids, learning how to use an editing software with no training and we were up to all hours of the night putting songs on and figuring out how to layer and just working it out. And it was just because we wanted to make a skate video. We didn’t want to be famous or make money. It was more of a feeling and wanting to capture this moment and this time with my friends and the way we skate. That’s now recorded for the rest of my life.
I love watching that (old skate video) because it reminds me of not having a fucking clue and just trying out stuff and having fun skating with my friends. We were all really productive kids, all my friends. Everyone I associated with, we all did stuff. All my friends I knew were doing stuff. I can’t name you one friend of mine that wasn’t a part of that life.
ANDREAS: About 3 years after college I was able to start working as a photographer. There was a year of really not knowing what to do. I was working in a skate shop and then I was like ‘I love photography, but how do I make it as a photographer?’ Then someone suggested that I should assist or go to studios and photo agencies. I started going through magazines and looking at who shot stuff, looking at photographers and making notes of who’s work I liked and sometimes the magazines would credit the photo agency so I’d write them and look online. I started emailing agencies asking if they had any photographers that needed assistants letting them know I’d work for free because at this point I didn’t have much experience.
The first internship I got was with Rankin at Dazed around 2003. I worked at Dazed in their editorial department because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do photography and I thought maybe I could work at a magazine as an editor or something which is funny because all this time late that’s kind of what I do with Pau Wau. I started design school before I switched to fine art.
It's a common theme amongst photographers to worry about outside influence obstructing the intention behind their work. The back and fourth struggle between giving into the rightful demands of an employer versus maintaining the creative control over one's own artistic vision is one many face as they advance professionally.
ANDREAS: I never want to paint the picture that I hate doing commercial work; it’s just more that I’m very aware that it has different implications. It’s a different thing. I don’t buy it when people are like, yeah I’m doing my photography in terms of this is my style and this is how I shoot because even on a job you’re answering to someone else. Photographers that don’t do personal work I always question what their goals and ambitions for photography are because if all they’re doing is commercial driven work then I’m kind of like ‘well, you’re doing everything on behalf of someone else’s request.’ Your whole body of work is based on requiring these commissions. What does that mean in the long term. There’s always this outside influence. Like what type of work would this person be doing if they commissioned themselves?
ANDREAS: Why did I buy this print by Sandy Kim? Did I buy it because I liked the photograph and thought it was interesting or did the fact that it was Sandy Kim’s picture and she’s popular right now make me want to get it?
His pursuit of purity in the form of being the most genuine self has him in a constant internal debate. He purchased the Sandy Kim print because he liked it just as he chooses not to take selfies with any of famous figures he photographs, not trying to capitalize on their influence. Andreas has less than a thousand followers on Instagram, doesn't use hashtags and has shot for nearly every major publication in the United States.
His large format photos of friends and strangers modeled after a Thomas Ruff's series of passport-style portraits gained him the attention he needed to start his career.
Andreas pointed out his favorite art and photo books. He had each shelf organized exactly how he liked it, pointing out first his section of 'favorite' books. After pulling out and showing us a selection of work by Larry Clark, Ryan McGinley, Lauren Greenfield, and Richard Billingham he took another half hour to put them all back in perfect order, flush with the edge of the shelves. He's very particular in that way, making sure everything in his apartment is exactly in order. He cited Frank Gehry's ideas about 'knolling' as being a large influence on how he works, keeping his space neatly in order each day to produce maximum efficiency and to keep a clear mind.
Andreas's mother was a ballerina from England. She moved to Sweden to dance and then to Germany where she met Andreas's father who is an architect.
ANDREAS: My goal would be to teach at the level of Yale or Coumbia. I might have to get an MFA myself. Getting an MFA wouldn’t be just to get the stamp to teach, it’d be a great opportunity to really invest my time in my personal work and to do a serious investigation of my own photography.
It’s kind of the reason I got into publishing so that I could be part of someone’s growth as an artist and if I could have a positive influence on that or impact it’d be really rewarding. It's much more sincere to me than some advertising campaign. Theres also a little bit of ego about it, just so I can be like oh I put out so and so’s first book. It’s nice if that person makes something of that. Like David Brandon Geeting is doing incredibly well and it’s nice to feel like maybe I had a little bit of influence on that because I published his first book (Infinite Power) and it's getting seen by a lot of people.
I like all these different aspects to what I do. I’m a photographer, publisher, or teacher and you’re always having to adjust your settings to fit the role. As a photographer you can be more stubborn about how you like to do things, but as a teacher you have to be more nurturing.
Andreas formed Pau Wau Publications in 2008 with his design partner Brian Paul Lamotte. We caught them as they prepared for the 8-Ball Zine Fair, an event in which their publications always make an eagerly welcomed appearance.
With every art book purchase at their table, customers were given one of Pau Wau's mini zines leftover from their Zine Time vending machine installation at the MoMA last year. The unique ways in which the duo package their publications has helped to push the art book community forward.
Luke Barber-Smith's book Masks was Pau Wau's heaviest endeavor at the fair and with the book came a customized flash drive with a hi resolution print file, a rare and cleverly executed commodity.
ANDREAS: I don’t know if I can have a clear answer for what makes my photography because you’re not really thinking about it when you’re doing it. I can think about the way I work and the imagery I make and the things I’m interested in and kind of come up with maybe slightly manufactured ideas about that. When you’re doing it you have to just go with the gut feeling of what’s happening at the time.
We followed Andreas from his apartment to his photo studio one last time. He lead the way on his skateboard, stopping only to grab a banana and a cold drink.