Photographer Markus Klinko on bringing “2000s: David Bowie and Beyond” to Hong Kong

Celebrity photographer Markus Klinko

David Bowie, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga are only a few of the iconic personalities that are included in 2000s: Bowie and Beyond , the exhibition by award-winning fashion and celebrity photographer Markus Klinko that is finally showing in Hong Kong. The project has already brought some of the most famous pop-culture images around the world and celebrates the 2000s through the icons that define the decade.

In Hong Kong, Klinko has teamed up with the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation (HKAHF) and The Landmark Mandarin Oriental.

We caught with the Swiss-born photographer to talk David Bowie, photography and the exhibition’s highlights.

Beyoncé by Klinko

Can you tell us a bit more about the 2000s: Bowie and Beyond?

This is actually the 8th exhibition since the death of David Bowie. It started in Miami then it went to Switzerland, Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney, Tokyo, and now it’s in Hong Kong.

I’m particularly excited to bring it here because China and Hong Kong are an enormous market for art but not photography art yet. The David Bowie collection is extremely successful in the US, Europe and Australia and in Japan already, but we hope to open and expand the market for photography here too – It’s an adventure.

David Bowie by Klinko

What are the highlights of the exhibition?

I would say that one of the highlights of the exhibition is a picture called “The Protector.” It portrays David Bowie with a white wolf jumping. It’s one of the most successful pictures from the collection and in the large format is nearly sold out. There’s only a couple left and in general, in the Bowie Collection, there are four that are almost sold out.

That picture was also on the cover of GQ UK in 2002, for the “man of the year” issue.

How was it like to work with a legend like David Bowie?

It was amazing, especially the way it happened. Iman gave me the huge opportunity to shoot the cover for her book “I am Iman.” I had an appointment with her to edit the pictures and she came with David – I was so surprised. He looked at everything – I think he was very excited – because he turned around and said “do you want to shoot my album cover?”

He called me again in 2013 and he asked me to be the director of his video Valentine’s Day. Not even a couple of years after that he passed away. And that’s when my partner Koala had the idea to do the exhibition and my sponsor, Fuji Film , offered to sponsor it worldwide.

Why is the theme of the exhibition the 2000s? And why are these artists included in it?

I think the title speaks for itself. The 2000s were a very iconic time in a certain way. All the people included in the exhibition were already big back then but are even bigger now. Including David Bowie! He had been a huge star since the 1970s, but now he’s so monumental. And you can say the same about Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.

You photographed many celebrities, how is it work with them on a more personal level?

I’m very used to work with celebrities. Many people tell me “Oh my god, you met Beyoncé” or similar things, but I don’t see it like that to be honest, it’s part of my work. When I met with them, we’re working together, I just need to get a great picture.

Many times, I was lucky enough to shoot these people at the beginning of their career and I could contribute to who they eventually became. Even now, Koala and I have just shot some album covers, like Carle Ray Jepsen, you is ready to explode and will be very big.

Kelis by Klinko

I met Kelis, for example, when her huge hit “Milkshake” came out. She used to be a waitress in a diner and she wanted the milkshake she used to serve in her pictures… and I shot her like that.

When somebody already huge, like Mariah Carey and Will Smith, come to me, then I try to find an unexplored perspective to show them to the public. I help them to loosen up and get into the right mood.

I can’t pretend I get to know my clients personally, however…It’s not part of what I do. But at that moment, there is a chemical connection and you will always remember a great photoshoot.

How did you become a photographer?

I was a classical harpist, my dad was a symphony orchestra musician. My childhood dream was to become a classic musician and I eventually became the only harpist in the world with a major record deal with EMI and I won a Grand Prix du Disque, kind of like a Grammy for classical music. Two months after that, I had an issue with my hand.

Within four weeks I decided that I wanted to be a photographer. I learned everything from scratch. I had never had a camera before.

It was hard at the beginning, because I had to learn everything from scratch and deal with very rude modelling agencies. I kept saying to everyone: “In two months I’m going to shoot for Vogue.” I didn’t. But I shot a campaign for L’Oreal in Paris and for good magazines.

Lucy liu by Klinko and Koala

Why did you get into fashion and celebrity photography in particular?

My own experience was to be photographed, to be in front of the camera, so it was something that I was familiar with.

To be honest, when I started I had no interest in shooting celebrities, especially musicians, because I was a musician. I only wanted to shoot models.

It was the record companies that approached me. I didn’t get that excited until David Bowie. After that, it all happened very fast, with Beyoncé, Britney Spears and all the others. I realised that pictures of celebrities, especially if you show a different side of them, will always have a much bigger impact than a fashion picture.

Kim Kardashian by Klinko

When and how did you start working with your partner Koala?

About two years ago. In this exhibition, we shot Freida Pinto and Lucy Liu together. We both have the camera in hand, it’s almost a competition, because we have a very different style and perspective. This is our new style, cause it gets more dynamic. Koala is also a successful DJ.

How does it feel to collaborate with the Hong Kong Adventist Foundation for a charity project?

I’m extremely excited to work with the foundation to help them break into China, and bring exhibitions to Shanghai and other places, to reach a much bigger audience. I’m honoured to work with them, as well as The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Fuji Film and Stefere.

The charity exhibition will run from March 6-16 at MO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and the Alisan Fine Arts Central Gallery.

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