You have already done a lot in the course of your career and don’t like being pinned down – that’s something we have in common. Tell me how you ended up being a photographer.
In a roundabout sort of way, although when I was a young girl, I would already organize photo shoots at home with friends and my younger cousins. I would dress them up and have them pose in front of a wall, just like the real thing. I suppose that was when it all started.
So that was your first attempt at styling too?
Yes, exactly. But back then, I wasn’t planning on a career in photography or styling. When I was 15, I was asked whether I wanted to model. So I did that for ten years, but I never had any great ambition, I saw it more as a sideline. It meant I was already earning my own money at that age which enabled me to do a lot, but I also missed quite a lot of school time. I found it all too tedious. I wanted things to happen quickly. Luckily, my parents were very liberal. They were just happy that everything was going well and that I told them everything. After that, I started up an agency with my boyfriend at the time, a graphic designer, and tried to publish art photographs in magazines. Then we launched our own magazine.
What was it called?
Neue Mode Magazine. It started off as a local project in Frankfurt, then we went national, and at some point we were ready to go international. That was a really great time, very exciting. At some point I was so involved in this magazine business that I lost interest in standing in front of the camera and travelling so much.
So you began working as a stylist. How did you get started?
I applied to agencies that represent stylists and ended up with Nina Klein in Cologne. I have been with her for almost 16 years now. It was a great way to get started, because they did everything for me, from organizing go-sees to writing invoices and negotiating salaries… I was able to focus on the creative side of things while somebody else managed the business. We could have done with that kind of support with our magazine.
And how did you end up doing photography?
At first, my agent encouraged me to get into art direction but at some point she said, “You really should buy a camera and start shooting.” I just thought “I’ve got no training in photography, I don’t know the first thing about it.” But I had a Polaroid, a SX70, and started taking lots of photos with it. I remember my very first series in our magazine. Through a friend, I got actor Clemens Schick for the job. He had just finished filming the James Bond film and was relatively easy to get at the time. I had had to order the films in Austria, though, and they didn’t arrive on time. So I left Clemens sitting in the kitchen in Berlin for a solid two hours while I ran around the block in a panic, phoning around after the films (laughs). Clemens still tells the story today. It was just 50 photos, 5 per outfit. With a Polaroid, you have to think more before you shoot a picture, you wait for the right moment instead of picking out the perfect image from hundreds later on – I loved that aspect of it.
But you didn’t stick with it. What was the next camera you bought?
I had taken some photos for Rika magazine and Olivier Zahm from Purple magazine was at the release party. I loved his photos and really wanted to know what camera he used. So I asked him. We were both fascinated by each other’s camera (laughs).
What sort of camera did he use?
A Panasonic GF1, a really cute little camera. I bought myself one after that. At the time, I had started taking photos with my friend Vanessa Fuentes, who had studied photography. We’ll meet her later. We’ve been doing photography together for five years now. I have since returned to analogue photography and have bought myself an analogue camera. It’s so exciting to wait for the film without being able to see straight away what you have photographed.
You were born and bred right here in Frankfurt and have stayed here despite having travelled the world. Why?
It’s ideal because I feel totally at ease here, because it’s my home base and something like a safe haven, a kind of den. That’s important to me. My friends are here, my sister, my parents – in other words the children’s grandparents – and my husband has his agency here too. I think nowadays it doesn’t really matter where you live. I have to be in a city where things happen fast – I can go anywhere I want and the airport is easy to get to. I love Frankfurt, you can walk everywhere and don’t ever really feel alone. I can lie down on the grass by myself in Grüneburgpark and feel at home. You don’t get that in many major cities.
I like that about Frankfurt too, although I love travelling and always want to move to the place I’ve just come from.
Yes, I was like that too before I had my two daughters. I was constantly on the go. I lived for a while in Paris, for longer in Athens and I often spent the summer in Berlin, but I kept being drawn back. Lots of my friends who have lived in New York or Paris or even Hamburg have come back to Frankfurt.
I was really planning to move to Paris, but then I met my husband. But I think that even if I had gone there, I would have come back to Frankfurt sooner or later. Friends and family are extremely important to me and they just happen to be here in Frankfurt. It’s important for my work too. I don’t need to live in a town with lots of business – I prefer to go there and then come home again.
Your mother is Serbian, your father Greek – do you have any recommendations for travelling in Greece?
Hydra, that’s where we got married. There are no cars or mopeds there, and in the ’60s, the island was Greece’s Ibiza. Mykonos of course or, if you want to get away from the tourist trail, Kea, just one and a half hours from Greece and still relatively unknown.
What would you like to do that you haven’t done yet?
I’ve always wanted to do a road trip! To drive across America in a cool car.
What’s a normal day like in your life? Is there such a thing as a normal day?
Yes, I have two children after all. I get up every morning at 7:20 a.m. – always feeling like I’ve been knocked over the head with a baseball bat. I’ve tried everything, but we just aren’t early risers. None of us are. Then I rush around getting the kids’ clothes ready, making sandwiches etc. until everyone is out of the house and I have some time to myself. If I haven’t got a job on, that is. First, I go for a round of boxing, I’m addicted to it, and then I usually meet Vanessa in Plank in the Bahnhofsviertel district for breakfast. We often sit there for hours, talking about things, more or less opening our office for the day.
Working while sitting in a cafe is my thing too. What do you do when you have a day off?
If I have a day with nothing at all planned – and they are few and far between – I enjoy simply doing nothing, just hanging out at home.
What is the greatest source of inspiration for your work?
Travelling. Our friends refer to us as the “holiday family”. We try to get away as often and for as long as we possibly can. That’s why we decided to go on a world trip two years ago before our eldest daughter started school. That was the best decision we ever made.
When you are here, where do you like going out?
I always find eating out in Frankfurt difficult.
And I thought I was the only one with that problem, because after almost four years in this town I still don’t know where to go.
No, it really is difficult, but my husband is a good cook, so we often eat at home. That’s why we have this long dining table – we enjoy inviting friends to dinner. Otherwise, we sometimes go to Rockmarket, which my husband regularly organizes, or to Lido.
Who would you like to photograph, dead or alive?
George Clooney. Vincent Gallo. Monica Bellucci. And Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters!! I would die of excitement! But George Clooney would be ok too. Preferably naked.
You like photographing people naked, don’t you?
Yes. Vanessa always warns them, be careful, she’s going to take your clothes off in a minute. But it has to be sexy and the person has to be right. They don’t have to have model looks, it’s their personalities that have to be beautiful and interesting.
Thank you Nada for these insights into your work and everyday life. For more information visit her website here.
This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with ZEIT Online who present a special curation of our pictures on their site. Have a look here.
Photography: Ramon Haindl
Interview & Text: Hadassa Haack