Meet Tina Willim, the German Photographer Addicted to the Thrill of Capturing Fleeting Moments

We asked her about her love for analogue and balancing art direction with photography.

Tina Willim, by Henrik Biemer

With a vibrant and nonchalant analogue style, it’s clear why Berlin photographer Tina Willim appeals to both brands and cultural publications. Her photos feel real, but curated; impulsive, but put together just right. All of this amounts to work that can feel both effortlessly stylized and culturally on point at once—hence her work for clients including adidas Originals, Monopol Magazine, Berlin Art Week, Nikita Clothing and many more.

We got to know Tina as a photographer over the past summer since she documented everything to do with adidas Originals x Laura Kaczmarek and her crew of besties—but we’ve never gotten to hear about her other sides. Apart from photography, Tina’s made a name for herself in art direction and graphic design. With that in mind, we decided to ask her about keeping her creative balance, dealing with ‘off’ days and cats.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Tina! We mostly know you from your photography, but your 9-5 is as an art director. Fill us in on what you’re up to.

Tina Willim: Yeah, true. Most of my time goes to working as a freelance Graphic Designer or Art Director. Sometimes for different agencies, publishers and companies and sometimes just for individuals. It’s everything from visual identities to books, magazines, catalogues… you see, mostly printed objects.

Throughout the last year, I did Art Direction for a German art magazine called Monopol. That was real fun and exciting and also a very different job for me, because it was very consistent. Every month in the same office, with a proper office staff, with the smell of coffee in the hallway, with carpet on the floor. Everything was very well-arranged. For a lot of people that’s a pretty normal work situation, I guess, but not for me. My life is normally not that organized… I like to go from one job to another, taking a break in between. That gives me a certain freedom. The last year was so intense with my job at the magazine and additional jobs I did on top of that; as a result, I decided to concentrate more on my photography from the beginning of next year and travel a little bit.

What came first?

Definitely photography! My parents bought me this very fatty, weird-looking, Minolta point-and-shoot camera when I was 12 years old. After that, I took it everywhere. It actually got broken only about 4 years ago at a concert here in Berlin; a very trusty companion.

After high school I started studying fashion design and after my first internship in Berlin, I realized that I definitely don’t feel comfortable in that business. So I turned to Graphic Design. I’d always tried to combine typography with photography, so this was when the two started to mix.

You’re mostly shooting 35mm. What’s your attraction to film?

I love everything about analogue photography. I love the mystery of magic in the whole process of taking the picture and not being able to see immediately what the picture will look like. All I can hope for is that I am at least able to catch that fleeting moment visually. Film creates a very unique feeling for me. I also love the happy accidents, light leaks, grain, colours and little thrills when you pick up a roll from the lab, hoping you captured what you felt and saw at that moment — and of course hoping your camera worked.

For me there’s a certain nostalgia to these photos: when I was going through the ones from our project the other day, I had a sense of great times gone by with good friends. How did you do that?

(chuckles) I don’t know! Maybe because we had a great time and ended up becoming friends, which is pretty great and special. When I first met the Heckmecks in their hometown for a photoshoot, I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t know any of them. But right after they picked me up at the Hotel and we drove to the first spot, I realized they are the funniest and nicest ladies ever. It clicked immediately. So I think that to catch these moments at the right time, you need to feel some good vibes.

You’re from a beautiful place surrounded by nature and now live in Berlin. How have these contrasting environments shaped you?

Probably a lot. I love the place where I grew up. It has a little island where I went to school, in a huge lake surrounded by Mountains. It’s amazing and very sheltered. We spent our entire summers at the lake, swimming. But there was always an urge in me to explore more of the world. One summer in High School, I went to Switzerland for an internship and then moved to Stuttgart to study Fashion Design. After that, I went to Italy for two months and then moved to Berlin. In Berlin, for the first time I had that feeling that this could be my new home. After two years in Berlin, I moved to Cologne to study Design. I never felt really home there, so I traveled to a lot of places in Europe and to Montreal, Toronto and New York. After receiving my Diploma, I ran back to Berlin immediately. Since then, I’ve never stopped traveling and never stopped loving coming home to Berlin.

Your photography has a very unique and special aesthetic. Does it limit the type of work you are commissioned for?

Maybe, but I wouldn’t change it, anyway. Most of my clients book me because of my previous work, so they know what I’m doing. Everything else would feel artificial.

Given your organic, off-the-hip style, does most commercial photography make you want to vomit?

(chuckles) Sometimes. But I also think it’s good that people have different kinds of aesthetic tastes than I do. Otherwise everything would look the same and there wouldn’t be a challenge in being different.

If you did vomit, would it be rainbow coloured and sparkly?

…with some unicorns and pastel, candy crumpets on top!

How did you get involved in the adidas Originals x Girls Are Awesome project?

One afternoon in March this year, I received a very loud and funny phone call from a dear friend of ours, Miss Kathi! She asked me if I would like to take pictures of a girl skate crew somewhere in west Germany. This was the first project adidas Originals did with Laura Kaczmarek and her gang. A couple of weeks later, Laura and adidas asked me again if I wanted to join them for another project, which was the Girls Are Awesome trip to Zürich and Innsbruck. I didn’t think twice about it and said yes! After these four days with you guys I was very exhausted, had an abdominal muscle hangover from laughing so hard (pointing my eyeballs at you, Alice and Nick) and also had a very warm feeling in my heart.

What does a day off look like for you? (Do you get those, even?)

It’s a very rare species these days. But if it happens, I love sleeping in, coffee in bed, food, more food, and a TV show or movie while snacking and then sleep. A perfect day—just like Lou Reed would have sang about.

How do you deal with that?

With what? How perfect my off-day is?


What advice would you give to young photographers trying to make a name for themselves amongst the visual noise of 2017?

Always be excellent to each other and stay humble.

What’s kewl about cats?

Cats are just the kewlest. They have their own heads and are just doing what they want to do and get accepted for it by society.

Can we hangout and travel some nice places together again soon?

YASSSS please! I’m ready when you are.

See ya and thanks!