Geoff Jaeger | Meet Alex Weltlinger
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Meet Alex Weltlinger

I met photographer Alex Weltlinger at a Glebe coffee shop in 2017. He contacted me through LinkedIn to talk about his work, and explore opportunities that may see us working together.

Alex agreed to be a Guest ‘Grammer for GkJE 1, sharing his work, process and images with the gallery’s followers. In exchange, I requested an interview to promote both Alex’s work and the new GkJE website, which launched this month.

How did you become a photographer?

I came to photography through filmmaking. I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and originally studied architecture to become a set designer. My thought was that I loved making worlds. But after a year, I realised my brain wasn’t wired to be a designer and quit the degree.

I made my way to Metro Screen (a now defunct film school). That course really gave me the mindset of filmmaking, which is pretty much ‘things will go wrong continuously. So get on with it and solve the problem’.

I found after leaving that I was excellent at production, and over a few years I produced many different projects like small commercials, music videos, shorts, corporate films, and even a couple of interactive shows at the Sydney Opera House.

At some point, and I really don’t know when, I picked up a stills camera and began shooting. First photos of my girlfriend at the time, then portraits of friends and stills on set. I never studied photography, nor did I ever assist – everything I know came from figuring things out on the fly.

Looking at your photography today, that’s hard to believe.

Thank you! I get bored if I’m not exploring new things and expanding my skills. Life is about growth after all, you get stagnant if you stand still.

On that first interactive show at the Opera House – Emergence – I was associate producer; thrown into the deep end where luckily I didn’t drown. That project forced me to skill up and make things work. As a result, everything else seems manageable today.

You’ve told me that people, their stories and how they like to express themselves is at the core of your work. Why is that?

Because people are the most fascinating things on the planet. A person’s story, their ideas and their perception of themselves are endlessly compelling if told well.

I’ve always been attracted to portraits. In the early days of my producing career, I had little creative control. There was never enough money, and the people – my crew – always seemed second. Which is not the way it should be – the crew should come first.

While producing, I started shooting little jobs – events and publicity images. Producing was getting less and less fulfilling, and the stress levels were getting to me. And, I hated feeling like I was constantly exploiting people, even when I wasn’t.

So how did that change?

One night, in the middle of constant 100 hour weeks on a big production job, I watched a TED Talk by photojournalist James Nachtwey, “considered by many to be the greatest war photographer of recent decades.”

Something just clicked, and I shifted my creative focus to photography, and later back to filmmaking, but this time in the director’s chair.

Alex spent a year developing his skills as a photographer, and frequenting the Café Lounge – a small bar in Sydney’s Surry Hills. It was the blueprint Lord Mayor Clover Moore would later use for the development of small bars in NSW.  

Offered an exhibition at Café Lounge, Alex decided he should photograph the bar staff and exhibit their portraits.

Your fascination with worlds is obvious in this dreamlike work. And, the Café Lounge staff look like they had some serious fun getting ready for their close ups!

Thank you! We all did. As mentioned before, I’m interested in perception – how people see themselves at a certain point of time. Loungin’ – the name of the exhibition – was about that.

I asked each person to tell me how they saw themselves in Café Lounge. It didn’t start out as a particularly crazy project, but grew into something quite different. I was lucky to be able to follow everyone’s particular rabbit hole and make something cool.

And to this day, I’ve honestly never had such a creative period again. Incidentally, it was over the course of that project that I turned pro.

Check it out, along with other projects on Alex’s website, where you’ll notice Alex is a man of few words. And that’s just fine. His images do all the talking he needs.

Thanks for the interview and sharing your work as part of GkJE Galleries. Just finally, a question every business owner needs to answer. Can you describe your ideal client?

Tricky. I like working for a large variety of clients. Sometimes I’m creating an exacting world with sets, props, talent, make up etc. And sometimes it’s pure portraiture in some environment or the studio. I don’t really have a single ideal client. More like multiple ideal clients, depending on the job.

What I do want is for clients to respect that these things cost money. Crew and talent are expensive. Equipment is expensive. And what I do is expensive.

And very worth it, based on the work you’ve shared in GkJE 1. 

If you’re only looking for the cheapest possible option, then it’s a race to the bottom. And there’s been enough of that. And your images, or video, will most likely be a bodged job and a waste of money.

What’s the point of producing something your audience or client base will forget?