Gundula Blumi Achieves This Stunning, Surreal Look Without Photoshop

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“Sometimes it feels like something in me is taking the pictures and not really myself,” expresses photographer Gundula Blumi to us in an interview. “…I use photography to put my impressions and emotions from everyday life in order.” Gundula is based in Berlin and does several positively fantastic images. When we found them, they were unlike anything we’ve seen before. Gundula uses the analog format to get her photos, and she connects her creativity to her emotions.

Talk to us about how you got into photography.

Both my mother and my father always took a lot of photos. At home, we had a photo cabinet that smelled so good of photo things. My grandfather, who later gave me the Leica camera that I began to experiment with, also captured his entire life in photographs. One of my first memories of photography was the day I was allowed to borrow my mother’s camera and take exactly ten pictures. I still remember the tingling sensation in my stomach because I could decide for myself what to shoot, and I was so excited to see the results. This tingling sensation in the stomach has remained until today. I soon got my own camera and photographed everything that seemed important to me. These were less aesthetic pictures than pictures of emotional moments.

What made you want to get into surreal photography?

It always bothered me to be dependent on the environment and its motives. And I like strange worlds.

I wanted to be independent of reality and be able to take my pictures anywhere and anytime, so I developed techniques that create surreal pictures. The techniques are the most important and decisive for the result, and the real motif often only acts as a kind of “carrier” for something completely new. I love to experiment without knowing what will come of it! I am also fascinated by surreal photographs, as photos seem to depict reality in the first impression. That is why I find surreal photographs very powerful.

So these surreal effects are done in-camera.

Yes, that’s right. 

Where does the creative inspiration usually come from?

Tension builds up in me during normal everyday life, and then at some point, I have the feeling that I have to go outside immediately to take photos, and I feel like high and realize that something is arising. Sometimes it feels like something in me is taking the pictures and not really myself. On other days when I really want to take pictures, it doesn’t work at all. My creativity comes in waves. If there is a wave, I have to take it, and after that, I always have to take a break. I use photography to put my impressions and emotions from everyday life in order.

Tell us about the gear that helps you achieve this look. 

I work with different experimental lenses, I mix my photos with watercolors, or I pre-expose films with a special light. My pictures live from experimentation and trial and error and the fact that I often don’t even know what result to expect. And when I expect results, it is usually the case that I prefer those pictures that have completely other results. I like the unpredictable (but only in photography).

The techniques themselves are a process and are constantly evolving and changing, always based on emotions. The secret is to try everything possible and never stop playing with the technology and never plan too much, ideally not “wanting” anything at all.

Lots of your images are at night and look a bit lonely and sad. What attracts you to these scenes?

The sad thing in my pictures just arises. I don’t force it at all. I think I like the different emotional nuances of our existence, including the dark ones. I find interesting what is under the surface, which in our society usually seems so smooth, but never is. Everything that is underneath is actually lively, interesting, and lovable.

You’ve got a few portraits, but not a lot. Are you just happier with landscapes?

I take photos when I’m relaxed and feeling good, and that’s mostly at places where nobody else is. To relax and feel free, I need places where I can see into the distance, where the sounds of nature predominate, and where I have control over the stimuli that surround me. I often think that I would like to take photos of more people, but when the time comes, I prefer to run away quickly and hide in nature. ;-D

You seem to go through periods of more blue images, then reds, then greens. What defines this? Just the weather? Picasso had his periods!

Yes, at some point, I noticed that too. In a phase in which I deal with a certain color, this color feels good and aesthetic, and it predominates in my pictures, but at some point, I got tired of it, and then, for example, red is suddenly much too bright and way too loud. For my “color relaxation,” I need then the green or the blue, and the pictures will automatically be like that. Lately, for example, I created my pictures with a lot of yellow, red, and orange, and I already notice that it`s getting too warm and I need a (blue?) cooling down again. Blue and green, and purple are probably my favorite colors. Because they are deep and calm, but also warm and intense.

All images by Gundula Blumi. Used with permission. Be sure to visit her website, Instagram, Facebook page, and Tumblr. Also, submit your own projects to the No Photoshop series.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.