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© Melanie Uhkötter, «Orange Days», Gstaad Palace, Gstaad 2021
Melanie Uhkötter. Melanie (37), who grew up in northern Germany, has been at home in Saanenland since 2015 and, in addition to developing hospitality concepts, works there as a photographer specialising in architecture, campaigns, conceptual photography and art prints.
Melanie has only been working full-time as a freelance photographer since this year. Before that, she completed a hotel management apprenticeship in Portugal, followed by an International Hospitality Management degree in The Hague. At the age of 27, she took over her first hotel management in Ireland. Later, she moved to Gstaad, where she led, among other things, one-week nature programmes for health promotion. She tells the SBF editorial team how hotel experience and photography can be wonderfully combined. You are a photography career changer and self-taught. Why did you get into the business? I received my first assignments in 2017, but without positioning myself as a photographer. Until then, it was just a big passion! It was fun to see how others enjoyed my photos. In the last few years, I've managed to build up a small client base on the side. Therefore, the hurdle of dedicating myself completely to photography from 2023 onwards became smaller. This year, I also started a master's degree in photography at Falmouth University (UK). Where do you focus your photography? Currently, my focus is on (interior) architecture, tourism campaigns for hotels and companies. I also always create space for conceptual work.
What was your biggest challenge when starting out in photography? It was a challenge to get information on pricing and rights of use from other photographers. I wanted to give clients prices that were in line with the market and knocked on various doors, but unfortunately they often remained closed. At this point, I would like to thank the photographers who opened their doors to me! Pricing guides provided by photography associations also prove helpful. They help to create a more homogeneous market for everyone in our industry. Can you benefit from your hotel industry experience in your photography? Absolutely! There I learned how crucial it is to understand what the customer wants, to read requests and thoughts - often between the lines - and to be able to communicate visual ideas clearly. In addition, I developed a sense for spaces in the hotel industry. I understood how a space has to be designed so that people feel comfortable in it, so that they don't just linger in a room, but become part of the atmosphere. I try to incorporate this understanding into my architectural photography.
How else can you benefit? In the hotel industry, I was involved with concept development - with the overall experience from the philosophy to the smallest detail. Our goal was to offer guests an experience that touches them and that they take something home from, far beyond an overnight stay or a holiday. In conceptual photography, we pursue exactly the same goal: to create an experience and tell a story that touches the viewer and triggers thoughts, emotions or reactions. Storytelling is important in the hotel industry, in photography it is of elementary importance. What are your long-term goals? There are quite a few, I've only just started! But first, also in view of my joining the SBF: collaboration! Because I live in the mountains, I often miss the exchange with people from the creative field. I would like to network with photographers, agencies and film designers and tackle one or two projects together. My goal is to find a good balance between commercial photography and my own photo projects.