Piercing the veil // portraiture from beyond
Smith & Köppen, portrait photographers of hidden subcultures and city tribes.
Offering a glimpse into unseen worlds, Smith & Koppen don’t take photos. They create portraits that allow others to dip their toe into the ocean’s of subcultures around the world. Their art explores the heights and depths of human imagination and creativity, capturing fleeting moments of impossible beauty in time forever. As visual cartographers of the underworld, Smith & Koppen give a glimpse of an ethereal cast of performers and artists from the world’s most breathtaking music festivals, events and nightclubs. Togther, this photographic duo pierce the veil between normality and fantasy with portraits from beyond.
Smith has travelled the world, like a medieval journeyman, moving from studio to studio producing photography and content. This has led him to have his hands in almost every aspect of his craft. Smith prides himself in delivering quality images to clients, whatever the challenge, of great work.
His passion for photographing people was forged during the formative stages of his career. The American fashion photographer Stan Shaffer took Smith on as his assistant in 2007.
««Stan was a character. He could be really difficult to work for. I lasted longer than most assistants, which I took to be good. He was an amazing photographer, truly a larger than life personality, a real artist. Stan taught me creativity. He always pushed the boundaries with his photography and embraced the unknown. He was known most of all for his relationship with photographing women and his biggest problem, according to him, was that 'he fell in love too easily’. He pushed me to discover a real connection with the people in front of my lens, and not to use the camera to hide behind.
Smith worked with Stan for two years, even living in his spare apartment next door at one point, until starting on his own work for small fashion publications and well-known advertising clients he photographs for today.
In another life, Köppen was a trained carpenter and paramedic. That's where he developed a hunger to explore and discover the unknown. This interest led him into a career of photographing what his passion of traveling the world offered: exploring underground night-life in each spare moment.
Köppen’s story, his career, began as a party photographer in Ibiza in 1997.
«In 1995, I went to Ibiza for about one month and started working for a photo laboratory shop in San Antonio, as a club photographer. That was pretty crazy! First night of my job was a Monday night and I had to go to the mega club Amnesia. The boss of the lab told me to be at the club at 1AM in the morning. When I got there I found out it was a hardcore SM/Bondage party.. Shocking for a little village boy like me, but fun, and the camera gave you special permission and distance from the action — free entrance — free drinks — 30 rolls of 35mm film, Rock ‘n Roll. My fee was next to nothing but the experience will stay forever.
Still fascinated by beats and night-life, the glow of electronica is still reflected in Köppen’s photographs to this day.