As our collaborative series with Raumfeld draws to a close, we paid a visit to the home of photographer Dennis Branko—whose portfolio permits an intimate glance into his boisterous, party-filled life. Capturing portraits that ooze character, Dennis is on a constant journey to discover fresh faces with an even fresher attitude. As a portrait photographer he’s well known for his raw nightlife images with a gritty aesthetic, as well as his more stylized street photography. “I think it’s a little view into my life.”
You have established a very distinct style of street, portrait and nightlife photography. What is it about these categories that you find exciting?
The realness. I try to get a real shot and not just a posed shot, it has to show certain characteristics of the subject. I don’t like people giving me a duckface; I like attitude or a little edge. I just like chilling with people and shooting them on the street. It’s not that I want to make a beautiful portrait, I just hang around with them for a few hours; sometimes you get something and sometimes you don’t.
Is it necessary to have a bond with the person you’re shooting? How do you scout your models?
Yes, I think so. It’s really hard to just get a pretty face and shoot her or him. It tends to be people I have chosen because of their character; you can tell from the way they present themselves or how they dress. I find a lot of my models in Amsterdam’s nightlife or on Instagram.
When browsing through your analogue images you can really see a lifestyle come across. Would you say this is an accurate representation of your life?
I think it’s a little view into my life—the pictures are intimate views into places and moments. There have been plenty of opportunities to shoot more of that, but I was just too busy doing other work then. There have been so times when I thought: ‘Shit, I forgot the analogue camera’. I always bring it with me to parties because it’s a really good icebreaker and you can immediately detect if someone is afraid of a camera or not.
Are people nowadays more aware of someone having a camera at an event than ten years ago?
Yes! I started with nightlife photography ten years ago and there was no Facebook where people would share images. Maybe there were two party photographers in every city, so you really were ‘that guy’ who got all the jobs. I think people now are more aware of cameras and also less afraid of them because they’re already on social media. You get more respect when you shoot nightlife photography with an analogue camera. People don’t really respect party photographers but if you have a film camera, people are more interested.
Can you tell us a bit about the background of this beautiful house?
Well, I came to live here because my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were previously living on the third floor of a very old house and that just wasn’t suitable anymore because of her illness. So we got put on a list to get a new house and when I saw this one, I immediately loved it. My mum saw how I reacted to it and said: “I’ll take it for you because eventually I will pass away and I can see how much you love it…” I’ve been living here for eight years now.
You seem to travel a lot. Is that for fun or for work?
That’s for work. I’m usually really busy shooting digital, I often don’t have time to do analogue as well. I went on tour with Yellow Claw recently for a month-and-a-half to shoot a documentary series on them, which was very different to the usual nightlife photography.
You seem quite integrated into the hip-hop scene and have been commissioned for events like Appelsap. Is that the sort of music you’re into or do you just find the scene to be interesting subject mater?
Both! I really love the music and I find it a really interesting scene. The cool thing about hip-hop is the attitude; you can always capture attitude and they (Appelsap) have a great line-up that is ahead of its time. Appelsap always predict what artists are going to blow up, they’re the first ones who get the big names every year. It may look like a commercial festival now, but it wasn’t like that before. It’s definitely my favourite festival to shoot at because it’s familiar and you can really feel the Amsterdam flavour.
What are your plans for the future?
I really want to integrate in London. I was there last week working on some stuff and would really love to continue that. London is the hub of everything; everyone gets their influences from there and it definitely has great opportunities. I would love to move there as it would be great for both of our careers. I think I’ll have to party there. [Laughs]