Famed photographer, Markus Klinko, is bringing the 2000s back
Markus Klinko is revolutionizing the way we think about the 2000s – aside from our Juicy Couture jumpsuits and butterfly clips.
Having shot the most iconic of iconic artists, such as Beyonce, Britney Spears, David Bowie, and Mary J. Blige, Markus has been a huge part of the most badass waves of pop culture.
Aka, it’s safe to say he’s a legend.
Markus will be opening up a 2000s themed exhibition of his photography. The exhibition will be open to the public at Mouche Gallery in Beverly Hills from June 15th to the 30th, so make sure you get over there.
Markus is also debuting the Becky G x Galore 2000s-inspired cover, along with all of his staple photographs from the luminous decade. We stan.
Check out our interview with Markus below, as we unravel the moments in his career that are cultivating his radiant future.
I actually started very late. I was a classical musician all my life – since I was a baby. I wanted to be a classical performer, because my father was a sympathy orchestra member. I became a classical concert harpist with an amazing career. I was signed to EMI classics, a very prestigious record company.
At the time, I was the only classical harpist in the world, with a major record contract and touring the world. One day, in the height of my career, I had a hand issue. It forced me to stop playing concerts and I decided on a whim in the summer of 1994, without any experience, I’m going to be a professional fashion photographer.
Of course, I had a lot of experience in front of the camera from when I was a musician and touring the world. I envied photographers, I thought they had such a great life different from mine. It was destiny. I was passionate about learning fast, I taught myself.
After getting an agent, I started shooting for underground magazines. After a couple of years, I got really lucky. I was helped by a lot of key people along the way.
Your new exhibit is based on the crossroads of pop culture, fashion, art, and technology – what was the process like creating this exhibit, and what can we expect when we visit?
This exhibit completely reemerges you into the 2000s. When I saw life sizes Beyoncé in the vibrant colors while signing them, I was transported back into the 2000s. Even for the shoot with Becky G for Galore – it was all 2000s styled, I felt 20 years younger because of it. The guest at the gallery will be reemerging into that mindset of the powerful images.
Who has been your favorite person to shoot and why?
I am lucky because I shoot so many interesting people. Always the last one I shoot is my favorite, because of the adrenaline rush. The list is wondrous. I have top favorites, of course – Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera, Kim Kardashian, Kanye, and Jay Z. They are all among my very favorites, that is why they are in this exhibit.
It’s not just because they were shot in the 2000s, it’s because I really love them and had a wonderful time working with them. David Bowie, of course. My previous exhibition, “David Bowie Unseen,” which went all over the world. Iman, his wife, a big time favorite. I have to tell you though, shooting Becky G was an incredible experience for us.
All the new shoots are Markus & Koala. There was an incredible energy about this shoot. Becky is so fresh. She’s the next Beyoncé. We are taking the transition phase of a young pop star to a major celebrity. We’re creating a new image that’s helping create who she is going to be. She represents the next generation.
Tell us about your Spotify project currently in NYC.
Spotify has collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum of Art in helping to promote the David Bowie exhibit called David Bowie Is, which I’m apart of. I was selected by Spotify to be one of the main contributors to this exhibit. I was chosen to be highlighted in a Spotify showcase, a subway takeover.
Spotify took over the Broadway subway station in Manhattan, completely plastered it with gigantic David Bowie installations. This was a fantastic experience seeing it coming alive. Something of this magnitude, before it was up and running, I was worried if something would go wrong.
I started seeing million Instagram tags under the David Bowie hashtag. Such a big highlight in my career. I thought, “This is as big as it gets, nothing can top that.” To be a part of this, I was very honored and humbled.
What was your experience like shooting David Bowie?
Out of this world. Not only is he obviously one of the most photogenic and incredible artists ever, but he is so direct and personable the way he collaborates with other artist and the people that contribute to his projects. I’m used to big celebrities using their team, “your people call my people.” Not so much with David Bowie. He is someone who picks up the phone and calls and gets very involved on a personal level.
Very little staff, assistance, PR, or marketing involved. It was a direct conversation. He took part of the post production sessions. Back in 2013, when I directed his music video “Valentine’s Day,” I hadn’t heard from him in a while. I got an email from his manager saying, “David wants to talk to you urgently.”
He asked me If I wanted to direct the music video. Every single time I did something with either David Bowie or Iman, it was always hands on and that’s extraordinary. That is an aspect that distinguishes them from other celebrities.
The most iconic moment in your career so far?
It’s really some of those. Capturing David Bowie for the GQ Man of the Year, or Beyoncé, or the Spotify installation. I think also next week stepping into the Mouche gallery, to be next to people who have shot the Marilyn Monroe’s and the Audrey Hepburn’s, with my 2000s work and Becky G for Galore is pretty iconic itself.
I’m really excited for this debut. At the gallery, I’ll be doing 6-7 hour workshops for Fujifilm in the gallery every weekend. I will be meeting people and talking to young photographers about techniques. Fujifilm has helped me in a lot ways the past 25 years, they’ve always been there.
The 2000 is premiering in Beverly Hills, but there are plans being made to take the 2000’s around the world. While this 2000s gallery is opening in Beverly Hills, my special feature, “David Bowie Retrospect,” is going up at Art Basel in Switzerland simultaneously.
What has been the craziest thing to happen on a shoot?
I would say working with wild animals has been pretty insane. I’ve worked with some of the most ferocious animals imaginable. I had 3 black panthers for Janet Jackson. I had wild wolves for David Bowie. I had baby lion cubs for Aubrey O’Day.
Some gorgeous animals have been at the shoots. When the black panthers came out, without any chains, I’d be lying to say I wasn’t scared. I don’t know how I was able to focus and shoot. They were so fast and they could’ve done anything they wanted. That’s as crazy as it gets.
Anything on your bucket list still to be accomplished?
Many things. People think that because you’ve shot many big names and iconic covers that you’ve done everything. There never is everything, there is always more. I haven’t shot Madonna yet – that’s definitely someone I’d like to shoot as soon as possible. There are other big ones and incredible new stars coming up. I hope Koala and I could shoot some of them for Galore.
Photography is ever-changing. In your opinion, what has stayed most constant?
As a business it has it’s ups and downs, but I would say to be able to capture an image that is able to move people. That talks to people, that makes people stop. That hasn’t changed. The need for images to stay relevant beyond their shelf life.
What I’m very proud of, like those images in the 2000s, they have aged very well. As a matter of fact, I would dare to say that many of them are much more relevant today than when I shot them. The time they came out they were great, but I feel like they are much more impactful today.
Any exciting upcoming shoots or projects?
Definitely. Very big covers and collaborations coming up. I’m working on a book deal as well as a very exciting TV documentary series.
Favorite part about the 90s/2000s?
In terms of producing photographs at that time, the opulence was appreciated. When clients were able and willing to pay for really big productions. Clients are very budget conscious now, which could be great too. It pushes your creative buttons.
As a person and a photographer, I certainly appreciated when budgets were large and photography was a production. Now things have shifted, but I produce even better photos now with my small team. My partner, Koala, is so creative and comes up with solutions, we make it happen on a shoe string.
What do you love most about being able to shoot some of the most iconic people in pop culture?
I love how as a fashion celebrity photographer, I get to meet some of the most successful and creative people from many disciplines. It’s not just actresses and pop stars. It’s designers, editors, and sometimes socialites who are very chartable. I’ve shot for many charity campaigns such as Keep a Child Alive for AIDS. I’ve shot brands like Hello Kitty.
Such a wonderful collaboration with them shooting Lady Gaga. When we were in Japan, they welcomed Koala and I at the Hello Kitty Museum and showed us all the different collaborations. That is the most exciting treats when we get welcomed by these amazing artists and celebrities.
Do you prefer film, music, or books?
I wouldn’t want to have to choose. I’m fascinated and can get totally lost in all three of them. I love watching TV shows. I can’t stop watching. Books are dangerous for me, because once I start reading a book, I can’t put it away. I love them all.
When you’re not working, what is your favorite past time?
I love working out. I always work in one way or another. I’m always thinking of the next shoot or exhibit. Or who we want to work with next. Prince and Jacob are great examples; we brainstorm over ideas of who we can work with next or collab with.
I could be at the gym or in the shower, but I’m thinking about work. My work isn’t really my work. It’s my passion. I don’t really call it work. There is no way to distinguish the two. Its 24/7.
With your busy lifestyle, when are you most alive?
I come alive the most during photoshoots. I am so high on adrenaline, and so excited for the image in front of me. I’m so excited to capture the image. It’s a split-second decision. That moment – that’s when I’m most alive.
Photos courtesy of Markus Klinko and Mouche Gallery