“Creatives during the pandemic” is a personal project to give creators space to fully show their experience and struggles during the Covid pandemic. It consists of a series of interviews from Berlin’s creative scene.
Geraldine Nirschl is a photographer and videographer in Berlin, who started her business in October this year. In this interview, we talked about why having a safety cushion as a creative worker is so important and her take on the current situation.
Hello, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I wouldn’t describe myself as a normal artist, I don’t know. But, yeah it’s nice to say it. I’m Geraldine, I am 27 and live in Berlin at the moment. I work 50 % at a start-up in the creative department, which means mostly marketing and PR work. I am involved in the design processes but also do project management. On the other side, I started to build a photography and film business. I studied journalism and film. I do my own projects, but also work for companies.
Do you want to do the jump to full-time in the future?
I am actually not sure yet. At the moment I really enjoy it, because I can do creative projects in my own way. If I want, I can also do non-profit work. For now, I enjoy my job. I love project management and having a team and going to the office 2-3 days a week. On the other hand, I like being at home alone, working on my computer or connecting with people at events. But later on… I am not sure how I want to do it. I haven’t decided it yet, but I am content with how things are at the moment.
You have a safety cushion then. As someone, who still has connections with the artistic scene here in Berlin, what do you think are the bigger challenges for full time creatives?
I actually talked with a lot of artists in the last months, because I wanted to connect with as many as I can. I think many of them are mainly struggling with money, and the difference between creating art and creating services. For what services can you charge how much, for example. Usually, I feel that providing services for companies brings a lot of financial recompensation. Doing advertisement for a company, creating YouTube videos etcetera, gives you the money, but the „artsy“ things – working with other creatives, writing music, filming videos – do not sell as well. I think many people in the scene do advertisement because they have to to pay the bills and then create what they want in their free time. And, of course, it is not the way a lot of artists want to create.
Because I have my part-time job, I don’t feel the need to balance those things too much. I have my basic income and the other half is just a cherry on top, so to speak.
And what do you think could be the solutions to those issues? Maybe give some basic funding or some pricing policies?
That’s actually a really interesting question.
In general, the way which people think of artists is very different from how they actually are. Like they are not a necessity in current society. But when you look at the situation now – when cinemas are closed, theatres are closed – all those spaces are created by artists, right? I would say that now we can realize how important those people are for our city. So I think, that first of all, we have to change our current mindset to see the value in art again. If the mindset would change, people will be willing to give more funding and pay more money for their services and let them create.
If more money would flow in, the whole issue would possibly solve itself. But surely, it is also important that the government takes care of them as well. Musicians, festivals, videographers etc are taking a big blow financially at the moment, so the state has to support them.
It is kinda sad, you know? When you look at the media coverage nobody seems to care, really.
It is absolutely horrible, what is happening at the moment.
Did the lockdown change or restrict you in any way, when it comes to your creative work?
I am someone, who loves to meet and connect with people, go to festivals and movies, doing workshops. For example, meeting new people and drawing together is something, that I always loved to do. Even if it’s not connected directly to photography, that connection was always part of my work and my being. Obviously, I couldn’t do any of these things the whole year. I was also new to Berlin, I did not have any creative connections here, so I felt lonely and a little bit lost.
Another point is that everything started to be 100 % digital. Of course, the majority of my photography work is digital. But shooting, connecting, events usually aren’t. At the moment, I am constantly on my computer, which is new to me. I feel disconnected.
What do you wish would change about the current situation?
I completely understand the politicians. It is a hard time – I would not want to be in their shoes at the moment. Everybody is talking at you. Everyone wants different things. You have to combine 1000s of wishes. Of course, I understand, that they have trouble always making the right decisions. Every expert seems to have a different opinion, too. So I can sympathize with their struggle, for sure.
But small yoga studios or cafe shops tried really hard to adapt and obey by the regulations, so don’t shut them completely. I don’t think it’s the solution and it makes me sad thinking about it. Even if there are only 3 people at the studio, it still helps. Also, this week, I was at Ikea and I never saw so many people there? Its madness. Why can Ikea have so many people in there and a small studio cannot have even 4 people attend their classes? It seems very unfair because the smaller the company the faster they can adapt, right? Smaller companies are usually quite flexible. If they got some financial support, I think there would be no problems with changing a little. Many places showed us, that they can adapt and follow the rules. But on the other hand, I am not a specialist. There must be some strategy behind the lockdown and what stays open, but nevertheless, I find it a little unfair.
To change to topic to something less depressing: what are your current projects?
It’s not a lot, as I have started my business in October. I am at the stage, where I have to finish my website, figure out my perfect clients – all these basics. Currently, I am doing YouTube videos for a company and also shoot some weddings. I also have a planned project for donations, where I want to design some products and all profit from sales would be donated for a good cause.
Time is hard for everybody, especially for people trying to break into other niches and businesses. Can you share as some tips, with the knowledge that you have now, to start a full-time photography business in these circumstances?
First of all, you don’t have to do it full-time (laughs).
That’s my first tip. Even if it’s one or two days working at a cafe, connecting or some digital work. It just takes out your pressure. If I would have money pressure, I would be stressed just about the bills and my head would be full of it. You don’t have to do only one thing – you can be many things at the same time. You just have to decide how much variety you want and how much you can handle at the same time. Figure out what makes you feel creative. Does this kind of financial pressure stop you or maybe even motivate you in the first place?
Secondly, connect as much as possible. I feel it is a challenge to do digitally, but there are so many platforms, that you can reach out to people on. Even on Bumble, I actually met some artists through it.
And lastly, take it slow. Everybody struggles right now. Take out the pressure, get another job to slow down and prepare other things. Now, you have the time to figure out your website, your business model and to create a schedule. Don’t rush into something, especially now.
So, take it slow then?
Exactly. The job that I do now, gives me the leisure to do so. Of course, it would be great to finish the website in one week, but I can also finish it in 3 months. If it’s ready, it is ready. There is no need to rush. But yes, it is an exceptionally hard time, now. I am glad, I took my time and did not rush into my business full-time.
Disclaimer: The opinions shared in the interview are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the position of the author. All images belong to Geraldine Nirschl.