Born and raised in Vienna, photographer Hanna Putz had a healthy creative head-start in life surrounded by the artistic environment of her family. Having spent her teenage years listening to hip-hop and skateboarding, she became known for hosting a children’s television program before embarking on a successful modeling career that took her around the globe.
An autodidact, Hanna’s outstanding talent and photographic eye have established her as a name in the field of contemporary art. Producing figurative portraits, she works her subjects like sculptures and explores the notion of authenticity and what it means to be yourself through her images.
Where are you from? Did you grow up in a creative environment?
Hanna: I was born and raised in Vienna. I used to travel a lot with my Mother, who would take me as a child to the Venice Biennale and Documenta in Kassel, or the stagings of Schlingensief at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Initially, I used to go to a Waldorf school outside Vienna, but then transferred to a Gymnasium within the city. During that time skating and hip-hop were the only things that mattered. I also presented a children's show on ORF early on - my brother would sometimes do it with me. That was basically my first job.
When did you start modeling?
I finished school at the age of 17, a time during which I got scouted by an agency on the street in Vienna. I was sent to Paris where I signed a contract with an agency. That's how everything began. I lived between Paris and London. I also stayed in Tokyo for a short while and lived in New York for two years. I have been living in London for the past couple of years now.
Within your photography you give femininity a new and sophisticated expression. What matters to you in regards to the women you photograph and their roles?
There is always a formal approach when I photograph a woman who is naked. Lascivious, confused-looking 'sex objects' don't interest me. Colours and compositions play a very important role within my work. Bodies become forms and intermingle with each other. I look at the body as a similar expanse of skin-colour, something that I can utilize in a picture whenever I feel like it. I am thinking more of painting than photography.
What is most important for you in order to make the perfect picture? Is there a specific process that you follow?
During photographing I can already presuppose how far I have transformed my idea, but I can never be completely sure as I work with an analog camera. During editing I naturally know where I am, but that usually takes a very long time. Besides this, I always need a phase in which I don't look at a series. Later on I come back to it and make my final selection. That has always worked for me. Make a series, put it away, look at it again, put it away, and so on.
The models in your pictures have a lot of space surrounding them, often disregarding the camera and your presence. Do you give concrete directions?
This feeling of having a lot of space comes with the fact that, regardless of my ideas, I try to keep a certain distance and space. It is about creating a picture without needing to say "Look, I did a very good job with staging this.”
What do you think about the creative scene in Vienna? Most of your work is seen in international publications now.
Vienna is a very cultured city shaped by museums and galleries. The young art scene is very interesting and independent. However, all of them tend to stay in Vienna. The internationality of my work is there because I haven't lived in Vienna for the past seven years. The magazine world is very small in Vienna. There is only one interesting, young art magazine, called Eine. I have exhibited my work in London within the past two years, and most things seem to be happening here right now.
Which films have inspired you in the recent years?
I appreciate the films of Aki Kaurismäki. Especially "Le Havre." "I am Love" with Tilda Swinton is also an amazing film. My Dad recently gave me Chris Marker's "Sans Soleil," which is simply beautiful. It used to be my parents' favorite film.
Where do you spend most of your time if you are not working?
I take many walks with my Father, alone, or with friends. That is especially nice in Vienna. Otherwise, I visit museums and galleries and check out exhibitions. I listen a lot to music. Not many things make me as happy as discovering a good song.