All images by Oliver Leins. Used with permission.
“I decided to drop university and start from scratch.” states photographer Oliver Leins in what is possibly one of the scariest things anyone has ever said. Most people who read this site opt to go get a college degree when they can. But at the same time, most also don’t give it up to pursue their passion. But Oliver thought this to be the right choice for him–and I honestly need to agree.
Oliver creates actual photographs, but he also creates surreal photomontages in grayscale. “They are syntheses of human characteristics, personal emotions and observations in nature that I process in my own fantasy, mainly my dreams.” says Oliver. “I strive to open a door to an unknown world for my viewers without stealing their space for personal interpretation.”
What’s really cool is how Oliver does it–through custom techniques that “controls the mirror effects that occur when UV-direct-printing the images on alu-dibond plates.” he say. Oliver then installs these in a hovering position using polyamide wires while illuminating them with custom lights. Then he adds in music that he composed himself.
Phoblographer: How did you get into photography?
Oliver: Back when I was a kid, my family did spend a lot of time in the Swiss mountains. Being surrounded by huge rocks, wandering through the extensive woodlands, smelling the dry grass in autumn and experiencing the sheer force of the very, very changeable weather deeply influenced my world of thought. Unsurprisingly, I went back there after more than 10 years when I got my first DSLR at the age of 17. I would simply sit down in the grass, try to find out what I could do with the camera – apertures, exposure times, focal lengths, composition, learning and breaking rules – evaluate the results and take notes.
That was when I realised that photography would play a role in my life.
As I told you, at that time I still did (or better: had to) study law at the university. I paired up with my best friend (who was studying as well) to start a photography business in our spare time. However, even though we did achieve first successes in fashion and event photography (you can find some work of that time on my website under “music“ and “people“), we split up. He dropped out of university and therefore had to find a full time job which would no longer leave enough time for the photo business.
Since I did not have the capacity to continue my studies and build up two strong branches in photography at the same time, I had to choose.
So I went back to the mountains in summer 2013 in order to figure out what I should do. And – quite obviously – I decided to drop university and start from scratch. In the following months, it all started coming together: still life compositions of nature, editing and studio techniques learned for fashion and the fusion of music and visuals experienced during concerts and festivals.
That was when I realised that photography is my life.
Phoblographer: Where does your inspiration for this type of surreal work typically come from?
Oliver: My first and foremost source of inspiration is obviously nature. Now, to abstain from unnecessary repetition, I’ll focus on my second most important inspirational source here.
You know, from early age, I had a strange relationship to sleep. I have a medical condition called sleep paralysis. In short, it’s a disorder trapping me in a state between wakefulness and sleep due to a complete paralyzation of my body.
This usually results in strong hallucinations that can cause panic depending on how much one fears this state. However I realised that channeling these experiences into pictures enables me to no longer suffer from this condition but rather seeing it as a gift. This is one of the main reasons why the series is called “the trauma.”