Well I am feeling very pleased with myself today. And that is because I get to welcome on board our brand new columnist, the Art Buyer, (and I might add one time Bond Movie prop stylist !), Sophie Hector, who has been commissioning photography and illustration for the best part of two decades.
In her first column for the site Sophie meets up with still life photographer Beate Sonnenberg and takes us through the wonderful world of Beate’s photography, from her time assisting fashion photographer Javier Vallhonrat, her six year stint in Mexico, the beautiful Secret Garden series she has printed onto silk scarves and her most recent project with Havas Paris which took her all the way to Arles Photo Festival.

How did your passion for photography begin?
Since I can remember I always felt the need to express myself visually either through drawing, collage, handcrafting (I could go on .. ). While attending an art school in Germany, I became inspired to pursue photography. So I began a three year photography apprenticeship and during this time I discovered my love for still life. After graduation, things fell into place and I found myself leading the photography studio of a big retail company, which was a great training ground and allowed me to polish my photography skills.


After a few years I felt it was time to move on to more creative explorations. A scholarship then allowed me to study photography at the Bournemouth College of Art & Design. During this time I had the great honour to intern with fashion photographer Javier Vallhonrat. It was an exquisite experience to see up close what a master of light he is and how he creates a magical feeling in his images. Then life took me to Mexico. A good friend had introduced me to Mexico while studying in Bournemouth. I thought it would be a good experience for a year before trying my luck in London. One year became six...!

How did moving to Mexico influence your work?
I had explored Mexico on holidays during college and had fallen in love with its colours, the magic of the light and the complete adventure. I was captivated, it was all unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced. So why not move to Mexico City for a while and live amongst the people ?


I set myself up as an advertising photographer. Due to the nature of the industry, I was forced to broaden my professional horizons and step out of a purely still-life approach, to work within different photography disciplines like fashion, portrait and food. It strengthened my confidence and helped me to trust my intuition.

My first shoot was a fashion shoot on location for Vogue Mexico. Totally out of my comfort zone but a great success! These kind of experiences have made me more comfortable with being experimental… Also the presence of all the amazing bright colours inspired me a lot, maybe this comes through in some of my work.

Living in Mexico, experiencing their culture and temperament had a huge influence on me and is reflected in all aspects of me and my work. Here is also were I met my husband Roberto Rubalcava also a photographer - a wonderful photographer!

What photographer do you most admire?
There is so much amazing talent out there. There are a few who continue to have a strong influence on my photography career. In Paolo Roversi's work I like the marriage of graphic simplicity and sensitivity his images portray, an almost supernatural, ethereal beauty. I admire the elegant, almost abstract quality of Sarah Moon's images. I feel she gives a new view to the banal and the incidental.


I am very fascinated with the still-live work of Irving Penn. In particular I like the personal work he produced in his later years, for me the strength of it is the simplicity, wit and edginess. This work keeps inspiring me to keep exploring and to use simple materials. I am deeply touched by William Eggleston images, with the cinematic quality to the seemingly mundane subjects. I admire his determination and focus on ordinary people and their landscapes, structures, and other materials.

What camera do you most love to use?
It has to be the Hasselblad classic with a 80mm lens. I started my photography with this camera and I keep still using it today. You could say, it became like a natural extension of my arm (or eyes).
What is your favourite image from your current portfolio and why?
Difficult to say, it probably changes every week. One of my favorite images at the moment is on of my last series ‘Stripes and Dots’, the one with the mirror and orange dots. I liked playing with perspective, illusion and graphical elements. Within the still-life practice it is particularly the relationship between spaces and objects that awakens my curiosity.
What would you say is your most interesting trait?
My curiosity to explore new ideas never ceases, so I guess it is creativity, which I always love to apply to new photographic explorations. On a recent adventure I ended up transferring my personal secret garden project onto silk scarves. The diversity of image making and its outlets is something truly fascinating to me and keeps me both excited and inspired.
Can you tell us a bit about the recent project you did for Arles Photography Festival ?
Paris based Agency Havas invited me to contribute to their self initiated project ‘Marque-Page’ which pairs books with brands. It is a project close to the heart of the creative director Christophe Coffre. My 4 pairs are ‘Laws of Attraction’/ Disneyland, ‘Les Miserables’/ Lehman Brothers, ‘Gone with the Wind’/ Babyliss and ‘Life a User’s Manual’ /Ikea.


It was an absolute pleasure for me to execute the four images with complete creative freedom. And a good challenge because it was important to create a link between the brand and the content of each book's story.

Who is your favorite artist?
At the moment it is Yayoi Kusama, she is just such an amazing character full of strength and vulnerability at the same time. Her ability to create and open new universes for everyone is mesmerizing.
Finally what super power would you most like to possess ?!
So many to choose… but I would settle for flying. Seeing everything from a birds perspective seems like such a treat, let alone being able to skip rush hour…
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