reto mag

about the land and the people

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The principle of give and take: The german start-up project “Photocircle”

July 25th, 2013 by Julia · 7 questions - 7 answers, berlin, germany, photography

© Photocircle


1. The german magazine “Wirtschaftswoche” called you one of the most exciting start-up projects in germany (issue 26/2013). What is exciting about you?

Thomas: Apart from the great photos from our photographers, I guess it’s mainly our concept. We pay a lot of money for stuff that costs almost nothing in the making and the people that produce our sneaker and t-shirts get buried under their factory buildings. I think more and more people question the way our economy works. We and more and more other social businesses show a new way of consumption. Instead of spending our money on Google and Facebook ads we support social projects. Our products are produced 100% in Germany under fair conditions. Our photographers can choose themselves how much they they would like to donate and keep for themselves. We also do marketing for them and created a platform where they can present their works to a broader public. We are also a new fundraising channel for our partner ngos. As to us….if everything works out, we can hopefully live from the earnings as well one day. So we created a win-win-situation for all parties involved. Our customers get high quality art prints at fair prices and the opportunity to do something good.

2. You established this project last year – am I right? What happened to you and your project since 2012 becoming that famous

Thomas: When we went online we issued our first ever press release which actually wasn’t really that professionel. The same day we got calls from “Der Standard”, “Gigaom” and several other big newspapers and blogs. We could even read about us on the blog of the wall street journal the next day. I guess, if we were just a normal photo platform, no one would probably be interested in us. But our innovative concept helped us a lot and made people talk about us.

Then, however, when the first buzz was over, it’s just been a lot of hard work. We have a lot of competition with a lot more money to spend on marketing then we have. So we continously have to find new ways to get the attention. In the end what counts is a good product, though. And that’s what we have: we offer great quality at fair prices and give the people the opportunity to make the world just a little bit better by choosing us over our competitors.

Another thing that kept us going and motivated in the past year was the support of our community. We have many photographers and customers that help and promote us in so many ways. Even some kind words can be incredibly supportive. Sometimes you just have a bad and everything seems so hard. Then you get a nice email from a customer or photographer, and the sun shines again.  

© Julia Dreier (


3. How did you realise buying photos of strangers in foreign countries isn’t fair, if they don’t get money back. I mean, the photographer profit by selling pictures, but the people on these pictures not. What happened to you, you want to change it? Was it a special moment on your travels? Or a conversation with a foreigner/ friend/ family?

Thomas: I’ve always had a strange feeling when taking photos from other people feeling like an intruder or something like that. When I got back from my latest travels in South-East-Asia I brought a few nice photos with me. Some friends of mine said, I should try and sell them on one of the photo platforms. So I checked them all out. None of them really convinced me. Not only did they pay very little to the photographer and kept the rest for themselves. They also had a very poor user experience. Worst of all though was that it just didn’t seem right to offer my work for sale on these websites. If people would really buy my photos they would probably do it because of the pretty landscapes or the people on the photos not because of me. I would be the only one to get credit for them though. The money would go mainly to the gallery.

I have this one photo from a young muay thai in Bangkok and the expression on his face just wouldn’t leave me alone. I really wanted to give back somehting to him. So I started thinking of ways how to do it. The idea of Photocircle, to support social projects in the region the picture was taken in, is our opinion the only feasible way to do this on a big scale. Still we can support only a limited amount of projects but hopefully, if we manage to spread our vision, one day we’ll be able to help development projects in most regions of the world.


4. You’ve got a lot of impressive photographs and photographer in your project already. Are you proud?

Thomas: Of course we are very proud that we can represent these great photographers. We’re honoured that they put so much trust in us. We’ve talked to quiet a few phtographers who actually wouldn’t want to sell their work anywhere else, but just on Photocircle because they like the conept. Considering that we’ve just started that’s a great achievement..

© Eric Lafforgue (


5. Which picture do you have on your mind thinking of photocircle? For me it’s this portrait of the little boy, wearing a helmet and he’s completely surrounded by colorful colours. It’s very impressive and he seems so lucky and open-minded.

Thomas: This is one of my favorite photos as well. I think that it represents very well our concept. Another photo I love is “a colorful life” from Rada Akbar, a female Afghan photographer. We are really proud to have her on board and incredibly happy that even photographers from Afghanistan use our website. I also really like the photos from Jakob Berr. He portrayed some fisherman in Bangladesh working for the ngo Netz which has become our partner. So if we sell one of his photos, the money goes back directly to the community he has been living and working in back then. That is exactly what Photocircle is about.

© Rada Akbar (

6. One of these impressive photographer in your project is me. :) I have six of my photographs available on your platform since january- and i didn’t sell any. What will happen to these pictures in one year, if noone is interested in? Will I get an email of you, writing:  “Dear Julia, I’m so sorry, but we couldn’t sell any of your pictures. We kicked you out of the project. Greetings from Berlin, Thomas”

Thomas: We would never do that to you Julia :-) Of course we still have quiet a few photographers that have not sold anything up to now. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t interested in them though. We are still at the very beginning of our project. Since our launch we have continiuously increased our sales and visits. So we are confident that you’ll sell some futures maybe even faster than you would expect.


7. How does the future of Photocircle look like? How should it be?

Thomas: We think that for people who want to print their own photos or buy high quality art prints from great photographers there is no reason not buy from us. We are even cheaper than the XXLs of the market and we simply offer more.

Of course we have a problem if no one knows about us :-) So we have to work hard to spread the word. This is hard with a very small marketing budget, but we are still optimistic that we can make ourselves a name in the market. Establishing ourselves in Germany is our first goal. However, we would also love to find some partners in the US for example.


Thanks to Berlin, to Photocircle, to Thomas& his team, living this start-up project. Go for it and get new pictures for your beautiful home and support Photocircle, the photographers and the projects:

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3rd // seven questions – seven answers with alberto fernandez de agirre, photographer and artist based everywhere

March 26th, 2012 by sophie · 7 questions - 7 answers, art, photography, spain

alberto fernandez de agirre is one of the people, i met through the retomag project. some of albertos work is going to be published in the first issue. we are just starting an exchange about ideas and exhibitions.

1. you are traveling a lot… could you give us a quick listing of the countries you visited?
spain, portugal, france, germany, belgium, switzerland, czech republic, poland, italy, england, scotland, austria, turkey, jordan, egypt, mali, morocco, algeria, japan, india, laos, cambodia, thailand…. but my friends say that I live on mars.

2. it’s probably not an easy question, but is there a country you liked most?
i never believed that the time and space exist. only the combination of them. that’s which we call ”moments”. i could say i like the mountains of morocco, the streets of istanbul, osaka and bangkok, the cambodian jungle or the sun of the mediterranean … but in reality what i most appreciated are the moments. like that on a beach in kerala. swimming inthe middle of a moonsoon storm. water up and down. in the distance there was a girl doing the same. we didn’t know and we never met each other but i miss that connection weird. share the fact of belonging only to the ocean, and that nothing else mattered. and yet not know that that enjoyment was not possible without being in the middle of the sahara completely screwed. destroyed physically and emotionally defeated. there has never been one without the other. basically my desire to live in a place are sons of a crippled but very happy experience.

3. in wich way is your work mainly affected from traveling?
travel unsettles me. as you all. but when i’m more confused emotionally, i think the best of myself. and when i move in bursts, no one knows exactly how i walk but is when i reach a minimum of lucidity. so i love to travel, because everything upsets me. everything becomes brittle, and, against all odds, the supposed weakness makes me stronger. then i go to details and moments that are not recognized in other conditions. honestly, i don´t structure  logical discourse about what i do. i just feel. ”i feel, therefore i am”.

4. traveling and making art, that’s probably the dream of a lot of people. do you have a special advice for the people out there?
traveling is not an activity for everyone. i’m talking about the full meaning of the journey. not only visitors but to see and understand. this requires overcoming fears. we just threaten our own thoughts. life is a journey, and this applies to everything. one must know how to take a range of faith. in ourselves and others. the unknown attracts us and makes us uncomfortable. but we go there because knowledge lives there. and we expect to find the treasure is buried among thousands of people, places and customs. we must be patient. serene. flexible. friendly, because in general out there, same thing happens at home. we do not understand so much.

5. do you ever want to saddle down? where?
i know perfectly where i want to go. but there is a geographical demarcation. this is another “moment”. i do not want to be alone. i like to lose, but i do not want to miss completely. i want to stop now, but it is within my reach. it is not because they may not have reached the time. and it is not because this little eden particular is in constant motion. as ocean currents. as the transit of the sun.

6. who would you love to work for?
if someone reads this and it has any meaning for him or her … then i have found people who i would love to work.

7. what are your plans for the future? do you have any projects in mind? where are you planing to travel next?
my next destination is madrid to inaugurate my exhibition “buscando dragones” (searching dragons). after that i will do a trip to southern france for a story i love to show you soon. later … i do not know… i can hardly see beyond one month. i would like to see new zealand, indonesia, papua, ethiopia, the arctic … but the place i want to visit really  is that which i know nothing and yet about, i have it inside. in short, we just want to live.


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2nd // seven questions – seven answers with julia e. palmer, editor and motion designer based in paris

March 19th, 2012 by sophie · 7 questions - 7 answers, fashion, film, france, new zealand

1. julia, you did your master studies in new zealand. was there a special reason why you decided to study in this country?
once I finished my fashion diploma in paris, i decided to compliment it with a master in multimedia and graphic design overseas. half of my family is from new zealand so i felt it was time to take advantage of my double-nationality!

2. what was the biggest difference between the life you had in paris compared to your life in new zealand?
coming from paris to auckland was a bit of a shock at first… it’s hard to get used to the chilled kiwi rythm. although the quality of life is unique over there. i discovered what it was like to have a garden, to walk from town to the beach, to have ten coffees a day in one of those uber trendy cool cafés you find only in NZ,…

3. would you say the country is reflected in the work you did during your stay?
definitly but not in a literal way. you will never see kiwi birds or my ancester’s maori tatoos in my work! new zealand was the first time in my “career” when i felt free to experiment anything. in france, if you study fashion, you are trained to create and sell a collection. in new zealand design is seen as a panel of technics you can blend together. when i present my work to people, sometimes it can be difficult to explain that it’s possible to mix cinema, graphics and fashion.

4. how was the creative exchange with the people at your school?
i was pretty lucky with my mentors and got to push myself thanks to them. unfortunately, each of us students had different schedules and no class time so actually seeing another postgrad student was rare…

5. would you say, that the style of your work changed a lot during your time in NZ?
my work is strongly influenced by european fashion and creative media. when i changed fields from fashion to motion graphics, i was able to reinterpret my influences and my own ideas in a way that i had never expressed before, and that broke down a lot of barriers that i didn’t know i had, allowing me to look in new directions. my style didn’t change but i believe that the relaxed attitude in new zealand towards the creative sector allowed me to reinvent my work.

6. how does it feel to be back in paris?
i love it! it’s challenging but very inspiring at the same time! time goes faster but ideas get bigger…

7. what are your plans for the future? what do you expect from your work life?
my plan at the moment is to get more work experience in europe. i expect a lot of work, traveling and surprises. or at least one out of the three…

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1st // seven questions – seven answers with robert zimmermann, illustrator based in germany

February 29th, 2012 by sophie · 7 questions - 7 answers, illustration, sweden

1. you lived in sweden for a while. how long did you live there and how intense was your contact with the swedish population?
i lived in the small town of tranås for five months – from late summer 2011 during the long and dark winter months until early 2012. this in fact affected my contact with the residents since the winter is pretty intense up there and you don’t leave the house unless you absolutely have to.
one funny thing i noticed about the swedes is that most of them are not very extroverted if they don’t know you at all. they are kind and caring people, it just takes some time for them to open up. but as soon as you know one a little better, his or her friends open up to you, too and they make you feel as welcome as you have been “one of them” all your life. of course there are exceptions, but one local friend also acknowledged that. so this seems to be not only some subjective phenomenon noticed by a foreigner, haha.

2. did you get the possibility for an exchange with swedish illustrators?
sadly no. the town i lived in is located in the center of southern sweden, while most of the bigger cities are at the seaside. i visited the country’s three main cities (stockholm, gothenburg and malmö) – but only as some sort of tourist.

3. is there a special style or influence you found in the work of swedish illustrators?
i’m afraid I don’t have much to say about that. i am far from being uninterested in looking at other people’s illustrations but I focus more on the work itself, not on the people who created it. now that i think about it, there’s only a handful of artists whose work I can identify by their unique style.

4. would you say that the style of your illustration changed while your time in sweden? how?
i think my particular style did not change much, but because of the indoor-winter-months i had some time to try something new. i think i widened my field with drawing a little more abstract and simple or using new brushing techniques in photoshop. i also think that i work more effective now, leaving out some of those crazy nano-details i used to integrate in my illustrations. you know what i mean? this wow-effect when the viewer realizes that there is a cat hunting mice in the bird’s-eye view picture of a medieval village.
of course it is amazing to tell little stories such as this which have nothing to do with the main intention of the illustration, but you have to know when you need it and when you don’t. and when you waste your time because no one will ever see all these things if it’s only going to be printed on a stamp.

5. who are you mainly working for?
i do a lot of information graphics and article illustrations about current affairs for german regional newspapers like main-post (würzburg) and saarbrücker zeitung (saarbrücken). besides that i also draw CD covers and logos for music bands.

6. who would you love to work for?
i have no special names to drop here but over all i can say that i would like to work for anyone who gives me challenging tasks and treats me fair. okay, maybe not everyone. i would say no to jobs from right-wingers, fanatic extremists or people and groups i don’t agree with.

7. what is the next step? where do you want to go and what do you expect from your life as an illustrator?
i don’t expect to get rich or something. but if i can live off my drawings without having to wonder if i can pay the rent next month and finance my other activities like playing drums, i am happy. i certainly hope that being an illustrator will never turn into a regular assembly line attitude job for me some day.
currently i am looking for an apartment in berlin where i think creative people can soak up inspiration from every street corner day by day. i intend to stay there for at least some years and then… we’ll see, maybe sweden again? you never know what’s coming.
thank you for the interview and all the best for you and RetoMag!

thanks to robert zimmermann for our first seven questions – seven answers interview!

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seven questions – seven answers, interview series coming soon

February 29th, 2012 by sophie · 7 questions - 7 answers, retomag

seven questions – seven answers, that’s the name of our upcoming interview series. we will be interviewing creatives from all over the world about traveling, the past and the future and on top of it, we will present some of their work as well… it will all get published on our blog.

the first interview is already in process… stay tuned!


your passion is in the creative field? you got a story to tell? you think you would be a great person for an interview? perfect. get in touch! ->

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