our approach OLD

Smith & Köppen // Beholding dark beauty in portraiture

—Our Approach

Smith & Koppen behind the scenes with Marco Punk at Wasteland Voodoo fetish party November 2016

Smith & Köppen, portrait photographers of hidden subcultures and city tribes.

This photography duo do things differently, and with an artisanal approach. They bring their talent for exposing dark beauty, their expertise in portraiture, and dramatic lighting effects to the places they are photographing. There they can create iconic work-of-art portraiture outside of the studio environment.

As photographers who can achieve studio quality portraiture, even on the move, they create a third space apart from the studio or person’s home environment where the personal connection between the subject and photographer is clearly visible. Inspired by Irving Penn's Worlds in a Small Room, their mobility enables them to have a truly rare personal connection with their subjects, becoming part of that hidden city tribe or underworld subculture for a fleeting moment in time.

—Our Story

What started off as a passion: diving into unknown underground nightlife, exposing hidden dance music, style scenes, and cultures from all over the world, is now their life’s work. Smith and Köppen’s different expertise in portraiture has culminated in something really unique - an iconic photographic journey through the underworld of subculture.

From big brand beginnings and commercially relevant work, this duo currently photograph hidden personalities, dark personas and fleeting city tribes. Their craft unmasks and allows others to experience subcultures and worlds their way. We could say their portraits find a place in the juncture between art, fashion and portraiture. Smith and Köppen have been called experts in a uniquely dark and beautiful way of seeing the world, enabling those more usually hidden people to proudly display their true selves.

Darren Smith photographer Smith & Koppen


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.

Marcus Koppen photographer Smith & Koppen


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.