Here & now with Max Siedentopf – Interview featured by #jungbleiben
Former competitive swimmer Max Siedentopf sees things from different angles and loves what he does. He is a cosmopolitan, the youngest partner in the history of KesselsKramer and a master in creating creative, provocative and above all unique works. Max is who he is and that’s a good thing. We had a chat with him for our series “Featured by #jungbleiben magazine“.
What makes you work most effectively? What’s the driving force in your work process?
The impending fear of death.
What three words describe your work best?
Is there a mission you want to accomplish with your work?
World peace would be a good start.
You claim that you don’t identify yourself as an artist or photographer and don’t want to be called by any of your professions but rather as a human. Why is that and has that changed since?
The difficulty is that most people always try to put everyone inside a little box with an even smaller label of who you are. If you’re a photographer, you’re a photographer, if you’re a designer, you’re a designer. However I believe the beauty of today is that thanks to the slowly disappearing borders between disciplines and technological advances it’s easier than ever to cross over into different disciplines and try out new things that weren’t possible in the past. You don’t need to be stuck doing just one thing, all you need are strong ideas.
As you mentioned in other interviews, you don’t believe in aesthetics. What was your first thought when you were asked to realise a beauty campaign?
I had to find out what mascara was and what you do with it. I personally think there is already so much beautiful photography, design, videos and so on out there, but seeing so much beauty almost makes it a little bit boring to look at – there’s only so much beauty you can digest and appreciate in a day. Instead I prefer to think about stories and interesting ideas. Here it doesn’t matter so much how they look like, the idea will always shine through.
How do you handle criticism by the media or the public like on social media?
I try not to pay too much attention to it. It’s very easy to criticise on the internet, go on any photo, even of a cute kitten and some person will be offended.
In the end art should inspire critical thinking and cause a reaction, both positive and negative, we’re not making a new flavour of soda that everyone should like.
You have a quite stressful and busy job. How do you maintain the balance between work and a healthy lifestyle?
Until I was 21 I was a competitive swimmer, training up to 6h a day and until today I strongly believe that a healthy mind and body go hand in hand. My days are usually planned through to the minute but I always try to keep healthy dose of time away from the screen.
Do you ever stop working?
No. I do what I love so I don’t see why I should take a break from what I love.
How important is sustainability for you regarding your work but also in your private life?
I’m from Namibia, the second least dense populated country on the planet and I grew up surrounded by nothing but nature and animals so sustainability and taking care of our planet are very important to me. I’ve been fortunate enough that many of my current and past clients are very progressive when it comes to sustainability and I’d always prefer to collaborate with brands that actually try to do good for the planet instead of just reckless taking and destroying for a quick profit that quarter.
It seems like you are never running out of ideas. What helps you to stay young & playful?
Don’t try to take yourself too serious and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself, even if you think an idea is absolutely stupid, sometimes it’s also good to get that out of your system. For every good idea there are 15 average ones and 55 terrible ones, but if you self-censor yourself too much it becomes harder to come up with new ideas.
What does staying young in the long term mean to you?
You get old (very quickly) when you start to close yourself off to new thoughts and opinions – keep your eyes and mind open and flexible like a yogi master. A decent skin care routine also helps.
You had quite a creative phase during the first lockdown in spring. Was it hard for you to stay inside?
In 2019 I had to travel almost every week and was barely in London, so in many ways I really appreciated being forced to stay at home. It of course had its ups and downs. The week before the lockdown I stepped down as creative partner at the international communication studio KesselsKramer to focus on my own work – being all of a sudden forced to stay at home with all shoots being cancelled wasn’t the new start I imagined. However I strongly believe that you can find something positive in any situation so I tried to show that being stuck at home didn’t mean you needed to be stuck. And so on the bright side, this new confinement actually brought many new creative subjects to work with as we adapted to our new lifestyle.
On social media you asked your community to contribute to your project. Did the responses spark new ideas?
Countless. Home Alone A Survival Guide was meant from the start as one huge collaboration and in less than 2 weeks over 1000 photos were created by people all around the world. The idea was that I would always give the first instruction what people could do at home, but they were always intended to be open enough for interpretation which lead to many surprises and new ideas.
Did the last couple of months change anything in your way of working or your private life that you keep doing?
I think as everyone slowly adapted to the new circumstances things very quickly speed up and I’m currently working on a number of exciting new projects that will see the light of day next year. I also mastered making the perfect Quiche.