Tamina-Florentine Zuch: For a better life
In 2016 Tamina-Florentine Zuch impressed the jurors of the ZEISS Photography Award enough to win the competition’s first prize, including ZEISS lenses worth EUR 15,000. In this article she talks about her new project “Stay, I don’t need anything”, how she found great images by milking cows, and how switching to manual focusing has influenced her work.
For my project “Stay, I don’t need anything”, I portraited the families of migrant workers – so the partners and children who stayed home and received money and gifts, but rarely saw their father or mother. To do that, I first met the guest workers, and then drove to meet their families in Romania, Moldava and Serbia. It was really interesting to learn about their different reasons for taking this route, and to see how well or poorly these arrangements worked out. Of course, the main motivation for them was to make money, but in the background there were also very individual dreams and hard-luck stories, which in some cases really moved me. The family members who are separated from each other pay a high price for the dream of a better life.
In order to get a glimpse behind the facade, I lived with each family for at least two weeks and tried to participate in their daily lives as best I could. In Romania I helped around the house, babysat the children and milked the cow. That means you might miss certain situations, but you also create a closer bond which ultimately leads to better pictures. Sometimes I was really surprised how close – also in an emotional sense – some people allowed me to get.
I shot almost the entire project with the ZEISS Milvus 2/35, one of the lens I received for winning the ZEISS Photography Award 2016. I originally had some second thoughts about working with manual focus, but switching over to it soon turned out to be very positive. You start to take pictures differently, more calmly, with more thought. This transfers over to the person being portraited and helps overcome their initial skepticism. I noticed that in my project, and think you can see that in the images too. I now work exclusively with manual ZEISS lenses on my Nikon D800.
In his capacity as contact person and advisor from ZEISS, Bertram Hönlinger supported Tamina after she won the ZEISS Photography Award 2016. He remembers their first meeting:
Tamina hadn’t had any experience with ZEISS lenses before she won the contest, and no experience with manual focusing in general. So in the beginning there was a small workshop. We talked about basic theoretical knowledge, but also practical topics like focusing screens, ocular enlargement overlays and the live view mode. A related tutorial called “manual focusing with AF camera systems“ was made available on ZEISS’s website. In addition, we gave a lot of thought to which ZEISS lenses would match her type of photography. It’s something, by the way, that I recommend every photographer give some thought to.
In her series “Indian Train Journey”, Tamina-Florentine Zuch had already photographed an impressive series of pictures in 2015 which won her the ZEISS Photography Award 2016.
The photos for “Indian Train Journey” were created during a semester I spent there. On returning to Germany, I sent the photos to various editorial departments. They expressed a lot of interest and published some of the images in double spreads in their magazines.
That positive feedback made me submit the picture series for the ZEISS Photography Award. The fact that I was able to convince a professional jury and win first place made me so happy. And of course it pleased me to see there was interest in my work. I got numerous requests from magazines, gave lots of interviews and even made a live television appearance with BBC World News. That was definitely one of the highlights of the last year.
You’ll find more articles about Tamina-Florentine Zuch and the ZEISS Photography Award 2016 here:
About Tamina-Florentine Zuch
The 26-year-old Zuch was born in Stuttgart but frequently moved houses with her parents (father is an architect; mother a graphic designer). She finished high school in 2007 in Leipzig, then spent a year in Ghana where she taught at a village school and began making her first photo series. She has been studying at the College for Photojournalism and Documentary Photography in Hannover since 2011. During a semester abroad in India, she took the pictures that won the ZEISS Photography Award 2016. Tamina-Florentine hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree in spring 2017 and then travel to Iran for a new project.