The pandemic has hit all of us in different ways, affecting us both as individuals and as society. This means restrictions on daily life while governments work to decrease case numbers and protect our most vulnerable of citizens. In-person events have been cancelled and group mixing is no longer allowed. This makes it extremely difficult for some professions to carry out their work, such as photographers. We spoke to Nicole Fischer, who trained and worked as a freelance photographer before joining Design & Data (D&D), about her career and how she has adapted to life as a photographer during the pandemic.
Nicole has had a strong interest in photography since she was very young. She bought her first professional camera when she was 22 and over time felt she wanted to really be able to call herself a photographer. She learned from a star photographer in Bergisch Gladbach: Manfred Esser and took up an apprenticeship in 2016. In 2019, she passed the journeyman’s examination (Gesellenprüfung) – an examination for tradespeople. In September of that year, Nicole joined D&D part-time as a Personal Assistant so that she could work as a freelance photographer on the side to realise her own projects. Little did anyone expect the pandemic to follow in 2020, as events were cancelled due to the pandemic, leaving many photographers struggling in their daily work.
“I could hardly have survived as a purely freelance photographer [during the pandemic]. In the beginning it might have been possible with the social distancing rules. But then after all events and celebrations were banned, many venues were no longer allowed to be used. Portrait photography work came to a standstill and with it, private assignments,” said Nicole.
In her role as Personal Assistant at D&D, she supports the management in filing, accounting, and administration. She has developed an insight into accounting, as well as how the company is structured and how it operates. Her strong interest and key eye for photography was quickly noticed and it was discussed whether she could also do this on occasion for the company. She started taking professional images of colleagues and business portraits as a gift for internships in support of their job applications. She also took her first product photographs.
“There is so much that excites me about photography. I can let my creativity run free in many moments and that is very important for me. When I am taking pictures, I forget everything around me. Then I am completely myself and that feels really good,” expressed Nicole.
“Photography allows me to freeze moments for the future. You are a kind of voyeur, but invited to it, a free pass to an intimate moment. You are for a short moment part of a family, a company, you are close to someone and learn about their work,” she added.
Recently she received a fantastic opportunity to manage her first official photography project on behalf of D&D. She was tasked to capture official portrait photographs of astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Matthias Maurer at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne. Matthias Maurer, the next German astronaut in the astronaut corps of the European Space Agency (ESA), will take off for the International Space Station (ISS) in autumn 2021. This was confirmed on December 14, 2020 at an international conference of the space agencies: NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), ESA, Roscosmos (Russian space agency) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), to confirm his mission called ‘Cosmic Kiss’. Meanwhile, Thomas Pesquet is set to be the first European to fly aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule as part of his Alpha mission later in the Spring of 2021.
Following his last mission, Proxima, Pesquet was asked by Stade Toulousain (Toulouse rugby club) to design their Champions Cup jersey. It was Nicole’s task to capture Thomas and the features of this jersey in the best light.
“We added many details and graphical elements that refer to my first mission Proxima as well as the shared values rugby and spaceflight hold. With this jersey Toulouse is ready to conquer the stars and become European champion!” shared Thomas Pesquet on Instagram.
Nicole was required to take wide shots as often as possible so they could later be cropped according to different formats for social media. The photos would be taken in both colour and black & white in the training hall of the EAC, which contains a full-sized model of the Columbus Laboratory Module.
“This was my first really big photo project for Design & Data, and it was important to me to make a good impression and of course to deliver particularly good results. It was an enormous pleasure for me to meet Thomas Pesquet and Matthias Maurer personally, two incredibly likeable and focused astronauts who love their profession just as much as I do. I wish them both the best of luck and success for their upcoming ISS missions,” said Nicole.
The photoshoots, however, were not without their challenges due to the pandemic. In our daily work, everyone has had to adapt their working practices to a new normal. It was difficult for Nicole, as a photographer, to get up close and personal in the usual way for her to capture the moment.
“I worked in the social sector for many years where people were always in focus. I learned early on how to adapt to and sense people’s needs, and how to engage with them. These are attributes that are also helpful in photography because they enable me to adapt to very different clientele,” said Nicole.
“Getting to know these two people was really a great experience and even more so because they made it so easy for me to work with them.”
Regarding the pandemic, Nicole expressed “I miss being able to approach people light-heartedly, the facial expressions, the creative work as a photographer in connection with people. But the optimist in me is sure that there will be better times again and I am looking forward to that!”