“I have come to the conclusion that it is just natural for an artist to always be searching for the ultimate image and to steadily improve. Along with that comes frustration sometimes. But I enjoy this as a creative journey.”

Let’s dive into this journey with Kai Hornung, internationally awarded German photographer.

kai hornung

PhotoClaim: How old were you when you had the camera in your hands for the very first time?

Kai Hornug: I took my first images as a kid with a film camera. But it wasn’t until my twenties when I got a small digital camera, that I found joy in photographing. Later it was documenting family trips and my kids. It was 2016 when I really started to get into photography and fell in love with landscape photography.

PC: Was it love at the first sight or… how did your relationship with a camera begin?

KH: Going back to 2016; I was on a business trip to Ireland and I had just started to learn about how to photograph during appropriate times of the day. So I went to the Irish coast to photograph a sunset. I was blown away by the experience. And this excitement has never gotten old to me. It is always pure joy. Although nowadays I do not solely focus on the golden hours and sunrise/sunset times anymore. In fact, good images can be taken during all times of the day.

PC: Just a hobby or a way of life? How and when did you realise that you want photography to become a part of your career?

KH: Photography is a passion and a side job for me. I still work full time as a HR consultant. But whenever I can I spend time being creative in the field or while post processing my images. It has slowly evolved to be more and more business with my photography. And especially after winning the International Landscape Photograph of the Year Award this year, I have seen a rise in demand. I am happy about it, but I also see that time is becoming very rare.

PC: The first photo that you were truly satisfied with?

Honestly, I do not remember. And truth be told, I always find something to improve when I open up an old image file. So for example when I get an image ready for a contest entry or for an article, I usually end up working a few sliders here and there and get even more nitpicky.

I have come to the conclusion that it is just natural for an artist to always be searching for the ultimate image and to steadily improve. Along with that comes frustration sometimes. But I enjoy this as a creative journey. And I truly hope I will never make the perfect image, because after that what would be left to explore in my art?

Kai Hornung

©Kai Hornung

PC: Your first steps in the photography industry? Where did you start?

The very first step was being asked to sell an image. I was truly dumbfounded at first. And then I ended up sending the full-res version to the person to have it printed himself. I later learned to never give away image files that easily. Making myself visible on Social Media truly helped to get my name around.

PC: Photography, art, tell us about your relation with these fields? 

To me photography is art. I am not interested in snapshooting or mere documentations of my environment. To me a photograph is a deliberate decision by the photographer. Therefore I am not keen on discussing what gear I am using. Because really my gear is a set of tools that I need to create and work within my vision. I know that those tools are important and I do embrace helping technology, but just to the extend that I can control the end result. Asking a photographer: „Oh what a beautiful image, what camera are you using?“ is like asking a chef: „Such a delicious meal, what oven are you using?“.

In my work I try to see things that either have a strong emotional connection and, or a visual impact that I find worth working on and showing to the world. This conscious approach in creating something that might find a new meaning in the eyes of the viewer is highly satisfying to me and something that I do call and consider as art.

PC: What is your drive for taking pictures? 

First of all, there is a drive to be out in nature. When I find something that excites me, I do photograph it. As mentioned before: this can be because of the emotional connection I have with what I am seeing and its visual impact. In the end, it is the love and lust for being creative. Something that is just of vital personal importance to me.

PC: Your favourite place on Earth to photograph? 

I do love photographing Iceland. I know this comes like a cliche location for landscape photographers. But its diversity, the beauty and vastness of the country has such a strong appeal to me, that I never get tired of travelling there. I am being at absolute peace with myself in that amazing country.

PC: When did you realize you can make money on your pictures? 

When I was asked if I would sell my images because somebody considered hanging it on their wall. Still to this day, it is the ultimate compliment: having someone wanting to look at an image of mine every single day. Sometimes I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that people do even care for my work.

PC: When and how did you find out that your photos are getting stolen?

It was probably on Instagram first, that people pointed out to me that some of my images were used without my consent.

PC: How did you find out about PhotoClaim?

A friend of mine who was more experienced in photography business than I was recommended checking out the homepage of PhotoClaim. So I did and gave it a try.

Fun fact, some time after already having signed up I found out that Nico Trinkhaus, whom I had been chatting with on and off before, is the founder of PhotoClaim. I had no idea until then. To me, he had just been a nice guy who was fun chatting with and who was so kind as to tell me that he liked my images.

Kai Hornung picture

©Kai Hornung

Kar Hornung

©Kai Hornung

PC: Do you take any other actions to fight against image theft? 

I wrote to the thieves. Asking them to take the images down. And I was angry when people used my work to promote their businesses. With both approaches, I did find that handing it over to the pros at PhotoClaim is the best thing to do.

PC: Do you feel the sense of community with other photographers fighting for their rights? 

Yes, I do. We all work hard for our photography. People tend to forget what is all necessary in order to take a great image. Most of us photographers do that with lots of passion and go to great lengths in order to create amazing images. And I feel a sense of community with other photographers that we do not want thieves to take advantage of that.

I am not talking about the teenager who wants to impress his or her peers by showing off an image and claiming it was him or her. That is wrong of course. But I do not judge these kids. I am a father of two myself and so I am forgiving. It is a different story though when people with businesses steal my work to generate income. That to me is a crime and makes me angry.

PC: What has been the most memorable moment, the real highlight in your career so far? You just won the International photograph of the year in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards, how does it feel? 

It sure feels great. And I still cannot believe that my image made it on top of all the images entered in this great prestigious contest. It is definitely a highlight of my career.

Then again I would consider every chance to travel and photograph in nature a highlight, just as being able to be creative. That in itself is the main motivation to me. And even if nobody cared for what I did, I would still go out and photograph. But frankly speaking, it sure feels nice when artists who I find truly inspiring reach out to me and give positive feedback on my images.

PC: What is your definition of success? 

That is a difficult question, really. I believe it comes in many different disguises. Success can mean being able to do what you love. It can be being able to have it generate income so that you can keep on doing what you love. It can mean many things. But most of all: being happy is a success in itself. Being happy about yourself and about what you are doing.

Kai Hornung

©Kai Hornung

PC: What’s next? 

I hope that the COVID-19 situation improves, that we will stay healthy and be able to travel again. I had planned to do my first gallery exhibition alongside a few workshops this year.  Unfortunately, it had to be cancelled. So I hope that I can do that in 2021. Another plan is to finish a book I am writing on.

PC: One dream you wish to come true?

Have my kids have a happy and healthy life.

Take care of your professional career.

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