For many photographers, the pandemic has been a time to step back and take stock of their lives and work. It’s provided opportunities to get more organized, look for inspiration and make adjustments to their businesses.
For Gunther Deichmann, a PhotoShelter member and photographer based in the Philippines, inspiration was waiting for him just outside of his apartment in Manila. Over the last two years, Gunther has compiled more than 18,000 images from a single location: his 10th floor balcony. “Views From My Balcony” is a body of work that turns seclusion from COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions into something magical. It stands as proof that art can be created anywhere, even in the face of monotony.
“It took a pandemic, a lockdown and curfews to imprison me on my balcony. This could have been like a jail sentence because, like all photojournalists, I like to roam freely, hunting for pictures, for colour and for people. The restrictions became a test during which an amazing variety of subjects emerged. Pictures were coming to me! I was astonished, inspired, observing daily routines seen from a new angle. Vendors would wander past, people ran for cover during monsoonal storms, dramatic storms flashed through my city, Manila. It was astonishing how the art of observing from a fixed position gave me the power to overcome a hindrance imposed by a virus so small we can’t see!” he says.
We spoke with Gunther to learn more about how the project came about, the process of editing the images into a book and more. Check it out below.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. Cover image by Gunther Deicman.
PhotoShelter: Can you tell us a bit about how this project came to be?
Gunther Deichmann: I had made some images from my balcony before but then Covid arrived and so did the lockdowns and curfews. Locked away for almost 2 years with only limited movements allowed, it became obvious that the only way to keep my sanity was to focus and shoot more images from my balcony. I started to post images on social media and received some very nice feedback that created a nice following, and suggestions came in that I should consider making a book since the variety of images were so varied. Tossing the idea back and forth, I decided to go ahead with this project and subsequently spent more and more time on my balcony, rain or shine.
How did your PhotoShelter account help you with the project?
GD: After the initial first edit—I’d made more than 18,000 images from the balcony—I uploaded the selects into one dedicated folder. Once I was ready to make the book selections, I created a second folder and moved the ones I’d chosen for the book into there.
Using PhotoShelter made my life and organizing so very easy because I didn’t have the hassle of having external hard drives always connected and overloading my Mac’s hard drive.
What PhotoShelter features did you use?
GD: Creating different folders and moving things around was easy during my editing. Later on, when I received requests for images, I would select certain images, create a special folder and provide access to magazines or possible publishers. The part I love is that I can always password protect them and only the people who have the password can access the images. I can also make them available for a limited time which is another very nice feature. Plus sending out low res files (a great option in PS) is very quick and efficient. I also love that with PhotoShelter I can access my images from anywhere or use the FileFlow app on my iPhone. It’s a great app and very handy if you like to quickly show someone or a potential new client some images. Love it! Then, of course, there’s the peace of mind with PhotoShelter, knowing that all your images are secured, backed up and in one place.
Let’s talk gear. What were you shooting with?
GD: Every single image was made with Lumix GX8 using a variety of lenses up to 800mm. Due to the limitation on my balcony, I needed to react fast looking down on the street below and leaning over the ledge, so I ended up using a tripod about 10% of the time. The gear performed outstandingly, even enduring heavy monsoon rains where the camera (and I) got soaking wet.
I also tried as much as possible to keep the ISO at 200 but of course, at night I had to increase that a bit more.
Can you share how you went about finding a publisher for the book?
GD: I actually self published “Views from my Balcony.” I have published some 12 books previously with publishers but unfortunately, the publishing industry is not what it used to be. I did approach some publishers in Europe and am still waiting for some feedback; the interest is definitely there. Hence the reason I made this a Limited Edition with Blurb, who did a superb job. I am very happy with the outcome, color and overall production quality. I also made some pre-sales prior to production to cut down the unit cost which went very well. I’ve had some great responses from the likes of Eric Meola, plus many others and the American Photography’s Pro Photo Daily did a great article recently.
How did your editing process work?
GD: Ohhh! Well that is always a big headache, choosing the right images for a project, or in this case a book. I am very radical and unless I really like the image or it is very different or unusual I just delete it. (That’s my very first edit.)
However, I still ended up with a lot of very cool images and had to find the selection or the right flow for the book and so I decided, in the end, to make it visually appealing instead of organizing it by dates or subjects.
Again, using PhotoShelter made this task so much easier, having the images all in one location and just moving them around from one folder to the next. Later I just downloaded the selected high res images from my folder in PhotoShelter to be used in the book.
What advice would you give to other photographers looking to create a photo book?
GD: Very carefully and thoroughly edit all your images first. (This might be time consuming but it is a must.) Then, prior to final production, request a proof copy first. This might cost you additional money but I absolutely recommend it. Self publishing is also a good idea to get your project out there, even just printing a few copies, if it is just for a portfolio or showing it to potential publishers. Take your time and don’t rush things, have a good honest friend or a professional to look over before pressing the print button and check on your text and spelling.
Do you have a favorite image from the series? What is it and why?
GD: Yes, there are a few.
There was a dramatic fire nearby and I got out of bed at 2 AM and stayed on my balcony until sunrise only to witness a full moon setting behind the smoke. There are also some very dramatic and exceptional sunsets, and during the monsoon season making images in the pouring rain, not to mention the awesome thunderstorms with lightning. There is really not a single image I can call my favorite.
Have your own quarantine photo project? Email [email protected] for a chance to be featured on our blog.