Fine Art Street Photographer
21 International Awards (EXCERPT)
URBAN PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2014
FEP STUDENT AND YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHERS SILVER CAMERA 2014
FLICKR & YAHOO STREET PHOTOGRAPHY EUROPE CONTEST WINNER 2014
DIGITALPHOTO PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2014
Thomas Cook "Explore The Elements" Winner 2015
Major International SHORTLISTS (EXCERPT)
WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS ARTS & CULTURE TOP 10 2015
WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS PEOPLE TOP 10 2016
EXHIBITIONS Around the world (EXCERPT)
NEW YORK, LONDON, PARIS,
TOKYO, DUBAI, MOSCOW,
BEIJING, RIO, München,
MELBOURNE, BRUSSELS, SICILY,
LILLE, COLOGNE, DÜSSELDORF,
LIVERPOOL, MARRAKESH, MILAN
Global Press coverage (EXCERPT)
FAZ - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
From Hobbyist to Professional Fine Art street photographer
"Are you crazy, Marius?! Nobody does street photography for a living!"
LAte 2012: How i almost gave up before it all started
In 2012, I was crunching numbers in a cubicle farm. The good old 9-to-5 grind we all know too well! As "comfortable" as my life was, my job sucked the soul out of me.
Thank god I had photography as a hobby since 2010. It really helped me unwind and express myself after yet another grey day in the office.
However, I just didn't feel my photos! They just didn't feel like they were my photos. It frustrated me so much that I wanted to throw in the towel at the end of 2012.
On New Year's 2012/2013 I had only one resolution:
"Let's give photography one last try. If I quit my biggest passion, at least I want to go out with a bang!"
To force myself to improve, I started a "365 Days, 365 Photos" project on January the 1st 2013. This is what it says under my first uploaded photo ever:
During the first months of the project, something incredible happened...
Surviving self-doubt and haters
"Your street photos are generic shitty-ass tumblr shots, Post-processed to death and You don't even show faces man?! You suck ass!"
Early 2013: Struggling to fit in
I realized early on in the project that I liked shooting silhouettes on the street. This is what my first street photo looked like:
I googled whether there was a genre for that. With Google's help, I figured out that it was called street photography. However, my research made me feel tremendously insecure all of a sudden.
Apparently, I broke every "golden rule" in the book: I didn't show any emotions, faces, gestures, unique characters, stories, humor or anything. To make it worse, I loved colors so much that black and white street photography barely worked for me. When I read that street photos shouldn't be processed much either, I almost quit again.
Does it matter what others shoot and preach? No, but boy can it make you insecure. I tried over and over again to fit in and do street photography the "right way". This is what it looked like:
As much as I tried, I never really felt those shots. They felt more like a remix of someone else than my original. All this left me so insecure about my street photography style that I didn't look up, mix or connect with any other street photographers.
I struggled so much with my "street identity crisis" that I became rather introverted at the time.
As soon as I came out of the office, I spent all night on the streets. One ice-cold winter night in February changed it all. That night Düsseldorf was struck by a rather severe snow storm. I remember how my eyes were so drawn to the powerful snow fall. My guts told me that something golden was about to happen. I followed my heart and waited in the biting cold for 1.5 hours.
All of a sudden, my inner child started screaming: "MAAARIUS, gold, gold, gold, goooooo!" All the colors in my soul exploded and I hit the shutter with my cold, dead hands:
That was the night, when I unleashed my eye, heart and soul for the first time!
"Urban Lights" was the first street photo that convinced me that I am a street photographer - whether my style is odd or not.
The following months I focused on two things: improving my "human element in an urban world" signature and proving to myself that I'm not a one-hit-wonder!
It took me 9 months of daily shooting to prove to myself, that I could reach that level again. However, I just couldn't repeat what I did. That's why I wanted to interpret the genre as surreal as I could.
Countless days I looked for real, but surreal moments - till one night I bursted with joy. Apparently, the steam machine of an artist's installation had a malfunction and filled the whole hallway with steam.
I couldn't believe it, I felt myself in my street photos again: "Oh my god, that's the stranger in me!"
And that stranger changed me forever...
Quitting my job for my dream
"You're literally gonna end up on the street. You're crazy, Marius!"
Late 2013: The leap of faith
One night after hours of shooting and editing, I stumbled upon an international photography contest online. I submitted "Urban Lights" for fun...and ended up 1st worldwide.
It made me cry for joy since I doubted myself so much and I still felt like the odd one out.
I submitted my photos to all sorts of street photography and fine art photography contests afterwards. Since my rather reduced, colorful, abstract and contrasty fine art street photography style was so rare and different at the time, I won 11 awards in 2013.
My clinical depression and anxiety that I dealt with ever since I was a teenager lifted with every award and photo. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of achievement and purpose!
You could've offered me millions, but I would've never traded that feeling for anything in the world!
To spice up my 365 project and break out of my cubicle for 2 weeks, I flew to Seoul in South-Korea.
After shooting the streets of Seoul day in and day out, I experienced my moment of truth. With my camera in my hand, I looked down the street and said to myself: "I'm doing market research for a living, but I'm living for street photography! I want to shoot street photos for a living! God knows how, but I will find a way!"
In order to remember this moment, I created "Time Is Running Out". This self-portrait shows an hour glass with me in the middle running into my dream future.
I flew back to Germany a few days later. I arrived back in the office, but I couldn't take it anymore. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I had the feeling I was lying to myself.
It blows my mind how vivid these memories still are to me. One morning, I looked outside from my desk. It was ice cold outside, rain was pouring down and the sky was dark grey. I asked myself:
"Would you rather stay here in the warm office or shoot all on your own on the rainy streets?"
I quit one hour later...
Facing The art world
"Oh, I see you didn't study photography? I'm sorry, but we can't accept you, MR. VIeth."
Early 2014: Street Hustling
Remember how it felt when you left school for summer break? That's exactly how I felt when I walked out of the office on my last day.
However, when I woke up the next morning, reality set in and I thought to myself: "Damn, you really have to live off your artworks now!"
The street hustle began!
I approached countless galleries and art dealers. Some told me that (street) photography as an art form wasn't artistic enough. Others offered to represent me, but under the worst conditions ever. You know what the world's biggest fine art photography gallery told me?
"You didn't study photography. We can't accept you!"
I couldn't believe it! I remember how I walked into a fine art gallery with my aunt and said to her:
"Why the hell is that photograph allowed on the wall and mine aren't even taken into consideration?! Trust me, Andrea, one day my street photos will hang there as well - I will find a way!"
Ever since that day I decided to stay independent - although it's a million times harder! In order to sell my acrylic glass prints, I literally sold them door-to-door.
I didn't care. I walked into every bar, shop, restaurant and hotel to introduce myself and my fine art street photography. As you can imagine, it literally felt like a street hustle to me.
You face rejection after rejection every day. I remember how I once presented my art to a manager in her office - and she trash talked better than Mohammed Ali ever could...while having the worst photographs in the world on the wall behind her.
During my 365 project I got to know Martin Dietrich, an incredible fine art photographer from Frankfurt. We immediately hit it off and developed the first fine art photography label in the world called NEOPRIME Fine Arts.
That way we could market and distribute our signed and limited prints to art buyers worldwide, but also help others to the same. I invested all the money that I made from print sales, awards and my old job into the label.
For months on end I spent day and day out hustling the street, establishing the label and somehow finding the time to still shoot.
I remember the first time I sold "Retina" as an acrylic glass print to a lawyer in Düsseldorf. The feeling was more incredible than any award I've ever won!
In order to increase print sales and exposure, I held an exhibition in one of Hamburg's most renowned designer eyeglasses stores. It was right in the heart of the luxury shopping area.
Living for my fine art street photography was the best and hardest thing I had ever experienced at the time.
It felt like I burned the candles at both ends and in the middle. Although I sold my fine art street photos to local and international art buyers, my street hustle took a huge toll on me mentally and financially!
I always said:
"I'd rather burn away to nothing with my art than to coast away without fire in my heart!"
...which I unfortunately did.
Sinking to the bottom of the ocean
"I Know I always said I would die for my street photography - but not like this."
late 2014: Fighting for my life
After fighting 24/7 for my dream for months on end, I burned out in summer 2014. Within the course of a few weeks I became mentally ill with severe clinical depression, psychomotor retardation, (social) anxiety and panic attacks.
My whole life and dream shattered in a million bits and pieces.
I was unable to take care of the label, sustain myself - let alone take one single street photo. Besides that, my long-term relationship fell apart as well.
To not end up on the street, my parents took me in again. In debt, heartbroken, mentally ill and with no perspective I spent the next half year bed-ridden in the tiny village where I was raised.
If you've never experienced clinical depression, bless you! It's almost impossible to imagine. I guess a nightmare is a close as it gets. You are going through hell in your sleep, but then you finally wake up and it's over.
With depression, you wake up into that nightmare in the morning. Everyday life feels like torture. Everything's grey, negative and dark no matter how much you used to love it.
That's why I call it soul cancer. It eats away your love for anything you ever loved from the bottom of your soul.
It was the second time in my life that this happened. In my early twenties, I had the dream to work in advertising. I made it to one of the top agencies in Germany, but burned out after two months since I had a side job next to my 10-hour agency days.
Ever since I was 18 years old, I was financially on my own due to the loss of our family business. I worked 40 hours a week in college to afford it. Not that I had any time to study, but I was too poor to afford the books. That's why I had to copy half of them and the rest I learned by reading my friend's summaries.
I captured the photo above in 2014 to illustrate how depression feels like. You see the light, love and warmth, but you can't feel it.
Although I was too sick to pursue my dream, I submitted my street photos to a few awards. In October 2014, I not only won a local contest, but was crowned as the Urban Photographer of The Year 2014.
To be honest, it put a brief smile on my face and then I sunk to the bottom of the ocean again. The smile you see in the photo below - yeah, I practiced that for days on end for the ceremony...
Every day I fought for my life. Due to my fatigue and psychomotor retardation, I could barely lift a pen. I considered it a huge mile stone when I got out of bed at 3:50PM instead of 4PM.
Tiny victories led to bigger ones. I couldn't believe it when I gained the courage and energy to leave the house for the first time in months.
I fought the devil in me for more than 200 days in a row - day in and day out...
...till I finally knocked him the fuck out with tears, sweat and blood on my hands!
Rising from the dead
"Oh my god, I'm alive!"
Early 2015: Rising from the dead
To remember winning this deadly fight, I captured one last self-portrait in my deep, dark inner winter. After half a year of fighting for my life, I was ready to fight for my dream again.
But first, I needed to get my feet back on the ground with a safe and secure office job.
An old college friend of mine reached out to me from Amsterdam. Her online marketing company needed a trilingual online marketeer. I accepted their offer right away since I loved the Netherlands ever since I moved there when I was 18 years old.
I was so psyched before I left that I produced my first set in a year called "The Road Not Taken":
I packed the few things I hadn't sold and hopped on the next train. The second I walked outside Amsterdam's central station, my inner child screamed:
Before, I used to live in the East of the country. At that point, I had lived in a range of places, but nothing ever felt like a "home sweet home".
To me, Amsterdam was love on first sight!
In order to remember this feeling forever, I captured the golden moment below. Before, I had lost the love for life, myself and my street photography - and finally, I won it back!
Amsterdam gave me everything I ever wanted: the ultimate artistic freedom, a million tremendously open-minded, unique and laid back people with 185 nationalities and a home that feels like a painting.
To me, it's the most inspiring place in the world!
For some odd reason, I didn't even mind working in an office again. The stability it offered really helped me focus on my dream again.
If I wasn't out with friends, I literally spent every free minute I had to improve and sell my fine art street photo prints again.
My life and dream was back on track again! I felt alive and kicking after such a brutal hell ride 2014...
...till I got laid off after only 2 months due to corporate downsizing.
Now more than ever
"Wait, Is that your artwork on the entry ticket?"
Mid/Late 2015: Hustling around the world
BAM! Wait, why I am standing down here on the street again?
"Dad, I just got laid off. But don't worry, my boxing gloves still fit and I'm ready to fight again! I'm not going under."
The next morning, I started chasing my dream the second I woke up. I had learned so much about life and fine art street photography in the last years, that I decided to become an author as well.
In the course of the next months I spent all day promoting my artworks, sharpening my fine art street photography signature and writing my books and editorial articles for photography magazines.
I hustled day in and day out to make it and it paid off! I not only ended up in the Top 10 Arts & Culture of 100.000 submission at the World Photography Awards - they loved my artwork so much that they advertised with it for the exhibition all over London City!
After countless months of fighting for my fine art street photography, I finally got the recognition I always worked for.
At another contest in Dubai, they also fell in love with my artwork MAXIMINIMAL. They even hired a painter to honor it. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it:
As much as I love Amsterdam, it's a rather expensive place to live. In order to save money and produce fine art street photos, I had to leave Amsterdam.
Since I didn't own anything besides a carry-on and a camera backpack, I was free as a bird.
But before I took off, I met Steve Mc Curry in Amsterdam that year!
In 2015 I hustled around the world as a nomad between Amsterdam, Portugal, Turkey, England, Germany and South-East Asia. To push my fine art street photography further and keep expenses low, I spent almost two months in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Although I was really struggling to get by, I felt like I was on top of the world. On a sightseeing tour in Amsterdam, I skyrocketed to heaven when I met my American muse Saskia. She was from Miami and just spent a few days in Amsterdam for business.
As crazy as the distance between Miami and Amsterdam was, we just fell for each other! In order to be with her, I spent as much time as possible with her in Miami. She inspired and pushed me like no other!
I always loved the United States for their incredibly positive mindset when it comes to believing in yourself and chasing your dream.
That's why to this day, the US feels like my second home!
In 2015, I also published the first limited issue of my very own fine art photography magazine. We spent months curating the best fine art photographers around the world, designing the layout and optimizing the print quality.
I couldn't believe it, when we sold out the first issue to art collector's and fine art lovers from all over the world. Design giant Adobe called it a "World-Class Fine Art Photography Magazine"!
As exciting as it sounds to constantly travel around the world, it really takes a toll on you after a while.
I experienced so many different things that I didn't see the forest for the trees anymore at the end of the year.
Working 24/7 to push my fine art street photography exhausted me endlessly. The constant jet lag and lack of routine flared up my anxiety and depression again.
When Saskia and I decided to break up (eventually we became best friends) at the end of the year, I drowned again. At the time, the world was literally my home - till it caved in...
Drowning to the bottom of the ocean
"Oh No. No, No, no. Not Again. Please not. Dear god, please not!"
Early 2016: Fighting for my life again
I returned back from sunny Miami to a biting cold and dark winter in Amsterdam. My moderate clinical depression and anxiety massively flared up again. In the course of 4 weeks, the gates of hell from 2010 and 2014 opened up again - but now more than ever.
I lost it all again:
In January 2016, I was mentally ill, lost my muse and partner, had barely any friends left due to my travels, had massive debts and I was unable to take up a job let alone chase my dream.
This time, I needed to survive without going back to my childhood room. To not end up on the street, I slept on a sofa-sleeper in the washing room at a former coworker's place for a few months. Day in and day out I went through absolute hell again.
During the first half of 2016, I couldn't produce any fine art street photos since I could barely walk to the kitchen. One night, I braced all my energies to pick up my camera. Who says you have to go out to shoot fine art street photos? I captured this moment with my cold, dead hands:
I had achieved so much at the point, but it felt like nothing. In my eyes, I was the biggest failure in the world. I was not meant to be a fine art street photographer let alone run a label or coach others.
Only a year later I realized that my tough journey gave me the fire and depth to actually fill out these roles.
Although I didn't end up in Access Hollywood or TMZ, it's not like I live a rather private life. Friends, former coworkers and family ask about my dream a lot - since I also talk about it all the time. That is yet another hell you go through when you hit rock bottom.
In order to cure my clinical depression, I received all types of antidepressants. Therapy wasn't enough for me, because my brain chemistry was imbalanced. I slouched, mumbled and it felt like the force of gravity doubled all of a sudden.
Nothing helped for months on end. At a certain point, you just can't take it anymore. Nobody sees your soul cancer, nobody feels your inner daemons and no one can imagine how deadly depression is.
I was so scared of people at the time that I didn't even dare to shoot strangers. However, the human element that I loved so much only died 99.9%. In order to feel myself somehow, I captured the stranger in me one night:
If you have anyone in your life that suffers from mental health issues, don't play it down. Give them all the support they need!
On the verge of becoming homeless, I met a Syrian immigrant one night and he offered me food and shelter for the months to come...
...which gave me the stability to fight my way back to life!
beating my depression
"oh my god, i can feel my eye, heart and soul again?!"
Late 2016: Fighting for my Dream again
When I lived with Alex, I didn't talk about my fine art street photography once...for months. Depression takes away everything you love. It's atrocious, really.
Being a fine art street photographer for a living is impossible with no emotions. My art is driven by my passion for life and photography.
In order to get my feet back on the ground, I taught English to Chinese professionals and students online. Even though it was far from doing what I love most, it was great! I connected with hundreds of sweet people and quickly become one of the top tutors on the platform.
In order to pay off my debt that piled up during my depression, I needed to make more money. However, since I didn't feel my art at all, it's hard to live and promote it. Sales were at an all time low.
I worked as an image editor for a global corporation since the summer. Even though it was rather monotonous cubicle work, I didn't mind it at all. All I cared about was stabilizing my finances and mental health!
I'll never forget the moment when I felt and captured my eye, heart and soul again for the first time:
My life felt like I was in a boxing ring with the devil. As weak and worn out as I was, I hit as hard as I could.
Although I lost my inner child and muse in January 2016, I fought like a maniac day in and day out to win them back.
Every day, I captured my commute in the little spare time I had left. With every little shot I fought against my inner devil! He tried to get to me by telling me over and over again that my dream is just an illusion:
"You'll never live life as a fine art street photographer, Marius! Look, you failed over and over again. I dragged you down to hell two times already. Don't you think it's time to finally give up?"
Somehow, the more he tried to drag me down, the harder I punched back. Every morning I woke up to fight for my dream. I took one shot after another till I landed my first brutal blow with an umbrella:
Although I started marketing my fine art street photos again, I didn't even care much about living off it. To me it was all about fighting for my inner child and fine art dream!
It felt fantastic to regain more and more of my creative power after such a long "injury lay-off".
One morning, I felt such a surreal and eerie atmosphere on my commute. I took a detour to capture it and see what I was made of!
I spent the next hour capturing golden moments around me that where dipped in deadly grey. There was so much beauty in this haunting winter morning!
As you can see, my hair was slightly frozen, my clothes were wet - but it all didn't matter, because my heart was on fire again!
For one year, the devil beat me up almost every day. He took away everything I loved, crushed my dreams and almost killed me...
...till I beat the living hell out of him that cold and misty December morning!
That morning, I produced my first album after one year! (I'm currently polishing the final touches)
Ever since that day, I've been more creative than ever. I unleashed even more of my eye, heart and soul!
My depression and anxiety disappeared almost completely towards the end of the year. I was healthy again after such a long battle in the ring of life.
That battle with my inner devil showed me how strong we are as human beings. No matter how hard life hits us, we are able to hit back even stronger!
It doesn't matter whether you lose it all - as long as you don't lose your faith to win it all back again!
Taking you to the next level
"I went through hell and back for fine art street photography - so you don't have to!"
2017: Fighting for You
2016 was no doubt one hell of a year. It's true what they say: Before it gets good, it has to become really bad first.
Surviving yet another gut-wrenching fight for life has one major advantage:
What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.
To put my values to the test, life hit me once again. I got fired from my temporary cubicle job for communicating an unethical labor law breach to human resources in confidentiality. Management didn't like what I knew and kicked me out despite my excellent job performance.
I'm convinced that it was the Universe's way of telling me to never look back and follow my eye, heart and soul forever!
During my last fight, I spent months getting to the bottom of my recurring clinical depression. For all my life and especially the last 7 years I had been battling with it on and off.
Each and every one of my psychiatrist and psychologists misdiagnosed and mistreated me. Since I studied clinical psychology myself, I did my own research with the help of medical journals and studies.
One day it hit me like a brick when I told a coworker that coffee and Red Bull calms me down for some reason. Since he has ADD himself, he advised me to look up ADHD.
Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder is a mental disorder that causes limited attention, high levels of energy and low levels of self-control in certain settings.
Let me explain real quick how it feels to me:
First of all, you can't focus on things that don't interest nor stimulate you. Literally after 2 seconds you do something that excites you more.
Second, your emotional and sensual range is much broader. You can enjoy life on top of the world, but you can easily fall in the depths of despair.
Thirdly, your brain needs constant stimulation. Preferably new knowledge and skills that are as challenging as it gets.
Last but not least, if you have hyperactivity, you have twice as much energy at your disposal - but you need to know how to use it in a constructive way or it becomes destructive.
If any of the above mentioned are not well managed, ADHD turns into a ride down to depression hell.
To confirm my hypothesis, I consulted with yet another professional and she confirmed my self-diagnosis.
It made me so happy and changed my life forever. All of a sudden, this crazy roller coaster of a life made so much sense.
I wasn't just being dumb, I played the game of life with a broken controller.
Since I have rather severe ADHD, lifestyle changes alone don't cut it. When I took Ritalin for the first time, I was absolutely blown away.
"Oh this is how life normally feels? Wait, it's possible to focus on one thing at a time? What?!"
Even though I'm insanely critical of the pharmaceutical industry, Ritalin literally changed my life for the better! My mind simply doesn't run with 500 miles an hour.
It's funny to see how I would've been without ADHD. However, since I was unmedicated all my life, I truly embraced and grew to love my unique view on life.
Especially in my early years as an artist in Germany, my ADHD driven choices felt like one sin after another after another. Not only to others, but especially to me:
I left my own country, quit my job against all odds and advice, chose a career that is considered pointless, traveled around the world without a home and invested everything I ever earned into my "fine art fantasy".
My ADHD is my biggest strength, but also my biggest vice! It's the root of the worst and best experiences of my life. It's my rainbow, but also my rain.
To honor and embrace my double-edged ADHD sword, inner child and Amsterdam's influence for the rest of my life, I decided to officially go by the artist name Vijce. If you pronounce it in German, it's also my nickname as a child.
Whether my artistic journey made me lose it all, mentally ill, ate up all my savings, left me homeless, piled up debt or burned me out, really doesn't mean anything to me in the end...