Martin U Waltz - "...You are crazy my child, you must go to Berlin..."

Martin U Waltz

Martin U Waltz - "...You are crazy my child, you must go to Berlin..."

Martin U Waltz was born in Heidelberg in 1962 and has lived in the vibrant metropolis of Berlin since 1984. There he works as a photographer, photography teacher and author of various books.

In this city he constantly finds new impressions, which he implements for his numerous and diverse projects.

Martin plans his photography very meticulously and leaves nothing to chance. Or let's put it this way, due to his experience, he recognises the photographic potential in situations, which we commonly call coincidence, already in the making, and is able to capture these motifs accordingly, and transform them into a picture.


For his photography, he uses different cameras according to the situation. A Ricoh GR III is his constant companion in order to give chance a chance to deliver the ultimate motif on his forays, which were not necessarily planned as photo sessions.

Martin U Waltz - "...You are crazy my child, you must go to Berlin..."

Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 200 // Exposure Time: 1/100 Sec. // Aperture: F8 



For over 25 years, Ricoh GR cameras have been welcome companions for photographically capturing daily impressions. Even as an analogue camera, they were popular for "snap shots". Names like Saul Leiter, Henri Cartier-Bresson or Vivian Maier, to name just a few of the great street photographers, were usually only known to insiders, and the term "street photography" was rather uncommon. Photography that most closely corresponds to this genre was generally regarded as, and often dismissed as, "snapping".

With the beginning of the 21st century, street photography became more and more relevant as a photographic subject area in its own right, with Berlin-based photographer Martin U Waltz certainly playing a major role in the development of the German street photography scene.



Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR III // ISO 800 // Exposure Time: 1/4 Sec. // Aperture: F10



Early on, Martin started compiling information about this, initially rather unknown, art form of photography on his website, and it is probably no exaggeration to call him a driving force of the scene, and mentor to many photographers, who has played a major part in the success and status of street photography today.

Due to the knowledge, he has gained in the meantime and the very strongly grown and established community, he now has time to dedicate himself to his own and very personal projects.

But that doesn't stop him from being one of the organisers of the German Street Photography Festival, giving workshops and helping out whenever he is needed, like at our GR photographers' meeting on the occasion of the GR Cities - #shootGR_Berlin event 2022, where he gave important tips for their photography in an exciting talk.


We would like to learn a little more about his current project "BERLIN UNSEEN" in this article. Martin U Waltz uses the quote from Franz von Suppe: "...You are crazy my child, you must go to Berlin..." to headline his current book, which would probably never have come about in this form without small pocket cameras such as the Ricoh GR, and in which many pictures were taken with the Ricoh GR II / GR III, some of which we show in this article.


Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 3200 // Exposure Time: 1/125 Sec. // Aperture: F11



RICOH IMAGING: Martin, we are pleased that you have taken the time to talk to us, and we'll just jump right in: Martin, are you crazy? 


Martin U Waltz: Anyone who works on projects for such a long time and collects recordings over the years in order to publish them as a book at some point must be a little crazy. In any case, I am perceived as such by those around me when I spontaneously and excitedly pull out my camera and realise the potential of a scene, while for those around me it is only recognisable as an insignificant everyday situation.




RI: Yes, Martin, I think many of our readers can relate to that. Would you like to tell us a few words about your photographic career and how street photography began for you?


MUW: I got into photography as a teenager, I soon had my own darkroom and roamed the streets taking pictures of whatever I found interesting. I thought about becoming a photojournalist after school. In the end I chose a more conservative direction and until I was 50, photography was just an often neglected hobby. At 50, I realised my previous professional career was coming to an end. This gave me the choice of an "old timer" or starting something completely new. So I bought a small camera and started taking pictures on the street.



 Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GR

RICOH GR // ISO 200 // Exposure Time: 1/4 Sec. // Aperture: F8 



RI: In the introduction we described you as one of the European pioneers and the forefather of the German street photography scene. Is that an exaggeration? 


MUW (laughs): As far as my age is concerned, it fits. Otherwise, of course, it's a gross exaggeration. I did my thing, like many others. Maybe I communicated a little more back then and was therefore more visible. If I was able to contribute to making the German street photography scene as a whole a little more visible, then I'm happy. Otherwise, I don't take myself or how I'm seen so incredibly important.




RI: Since you have been involved with street photography, this genre has developed very strongly and has evolved from an art form for insiders to a "people's movement".

Do you have an explanation for this, and does the available technology play a role? 


MUW: I think several things come together here: The development of social media and digital photography. Taking and sharing pictures had suddenly become very easy. And we started to communicate with other people through pictures. That works particularly well with street photography.




Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 200 // Exposure Time: 1/4 Sec. // Aperture: F4.5



RI: In the street photography community, we have noticed with our GR Cities events, in which you gave a successful lecture in Berlin to around 50 GR photographers, that the desire for personal meetings is increasing.

Your workshops are always fully booked, and the German Street Photography Festival, which you organise together with Marco Larousse and Siegfried Hansen, is even taking place this year as part of photopia in Hamburg. And finally, the Street und Meet - Treffen der deutschen Straßenfotografen (Street and Meet - Meeting of German Street Photographers), which you took part in with 200 other photographers, took place again this year and was organised by the Nuremberg collective Nürnberg Unposed.

How do you explain this trend towards personal meetings and exchange at festivals in a time when more and more activities take place in the anonymity of the internet?


MUW: I see it in other areas as well. People who know each other online also want to meet and get to know each other in person at some point. That is very exciting when you meet people in "real life" whom you have known online for a long time. For me, the encounters are incredibly enriching.




RI: At the Street and Meet events mentioned above, the sale of exhibition pictures by the participants raises quite considerable amounts of money, which are donating to charities that support the homeless, according to the motto. The motto is "From the street, for the street".

How do you see the social component of this kind of photography and your pictures?


MUW: Street photography documents everyday life on the street. This is almost inevitably accompanied by a kind of social reporting. This seeing and observing is always the first step for me to deal with a situation.


 Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR III // ISO 320 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8 



Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 4500 // Exposure Time: 1/400 Sec. // Aperture: F8 



RI: When I look at your current book "Berlin Unseen", you show an arc of images of Germany's largest city. You cover a huge range of motifs, and I would also assign a historical character to many of the pictures. If you have only been superficially interested in street photography up to now, you will find many pictures that show impressions of an urbanity, often even without people. How do you define this genre of photography for yourself?


MUW: My definition of it is quite simple: "Street photography explores the human element in urban space."




RI: But with this definition you expand the field of this kind of photography enormously and open it up to many motifs that have often been ignored so far. Was this also the approach for the book "Next Level Street Photography" which you wrote together with Pia Parolin?


MUW: Exactly. We wanted to find a definition that gives more scope than simply limiting it to "photography of people on the street". We define it this way in order to show a variety of possibilities for photography in urban space without immediately opening up the unsatisfactory "Is this still street photography?" debate.


Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 400 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8 //  Exposure compensation: +0,7 EV  



Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 400 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8



Martin U Waltz shoot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 400 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8 



RI: Back to your current book about a city that is subject to constant development. Are you angry with me if I title it Martin U Waltz's Berlin photo album?


MUW (laughs): No, it's amazingly accurate. It is, after all, my very personal view of this city. With this book, I have recorded the development of the metropolis of Berlin over 10 years between 2013 and 2022. In doing so, I show many facets, historically relevant events but also impressions from backstage at concerts, between the Brandenburg Gate and the outskirts of this giant city. This is a collage that still seems very immediate to us today, but the pictures from 2013 already represent historical documents, and are therefore more than just Martin U Waltz's private photo album.




RI: When we "hang around" in the social media today, we always notice very successful photographs by various photographers, but when we look at their portfolios, we often notice that it usually remains with this one really good picture. What would be your tip for consistently high-quality photography?


MUW: To be clear, not all the images in my books are outstanding top images. Nobody takes top pictures exclusively. Quality comes about when you work conceptually in series of images. That is a long process. And in series there is also room for rather quiet yet attention-grabbing pictures. So my tip is quite simple: don't just snap around, but develop concepts for picture series based on an idea. Have your tools with you all the time and observe your surroundings carefully).


Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR III  // ISO 200 // Exposure Time: 1/8 Sec. // Aperture: F2.8



Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 6400 // Exposure Time: 1/100 Sec. // Aperture: F6.3 



Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 6400 // Exposure Time: 1/100 Sec. // Aperture: F6.3 



Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 25600 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F9 



RI: Do you have a recommendation for the right tools?


MUW: When I started my website, I introduced different cameras here. This page was not meant to be a TechTalk, but an overview of tried and tested photographic equipment from my own personal point of view.




RI: To be quite honest, we were not unhappy about appearing on this list. And also very recently you can be seen photographing with a Ricoh GR and now with GR III, with which the pictures in this article were also taken. What do you appreciate about this camera?


MUW: The Ricoh GR is incredibly compact and can be operated comfortably with one hand. It allows me to always have the GR with me. It also allows me to shoot at close range without attracting attention. Personally, I also really like the high contrast black and white emulation.




RI: Martin, when we planned this blog post, we wanted to show a few pictures with descriptive words from you, but as we have now noticed, you are not a man for half measures, so allow us to ask you about your participation in photopia in Hamburg. In the past years, one could listen to your lectures and afterwards you were a sought-after discussion partner. But this year, as mentioned, you are also co-organiser of the "German Street Photography Festival". Isn't that too much work for you?


MUW: We are a well-coordinated team. And Marco Larousse will do most of the preparation on site, as in previous years. But yes, of course it's exhausting and at the same time it's a lot of fun.




RI: We wish you, Marco and Siegfried every success with the festival.
For you personally, we also wish you much success with your personal projects, the book "Berlin Unseen".



We thank Martin very much for the interview, and recommend visiting him at photopia, and having a copy of his current book signed personally. You should also take the opportunity to have the joint work of GR photographers Martin U Waltz and Pia Parolin "Next Level Street Photography" signed, as Pia will also be a guest at the fair again.


We would be delighted to see you in Hamburg at Photopia in Hamburg

 Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR II // ISO 1100 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8 



Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 1000 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8 


 Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 200 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8 



Martin U Waltz shot with Ricoh GRRICOH GR // ISO 200 // Exposure Time: 1/250 Sec. // Aperture: F8 


All images on this  page copyright by Martin U Waltz

Visit Martin on his website ... 

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