Photography by Ursula Sprecher and Andi Cortellini
Q&A by Kate Erbland
It’s only appropriate that “Hobby Buddies,” a superfun photo series that captures some of the quirkiest clubs and subcultures, was created by a pair of “hobby buddies,” the professional duo of Ursula Sprecher and Andi Cortellini. From kites to chess, plants to poodles, the Swiss photographers lovingly render enthusiast groups into smart tableaus, proving that no matter how niche your pastime, you're never truly alone. We managed to snag the pair and ask them some questions about their craft:
What sort of professional training have you had?
We both did an apprenticeship as photographers in Basel, Switzerland. Over four years, we worked two to three days a week in a studio for professional photography. We mainly concentrated on fashion, advertising, food, and people for our shoots. During the four years, the other one to two days a week we went to school for art, in the department of photography.
Santa Claus Group.These aren’t new! The first jolly group, the Benevolent Order of Santa Claus, was organized in 1937.
What other artists or styles of art inspire you?
There are so many great works out there. We love a good idea and a good realization! Whether it's photography, painting, sculpture, music. A few examples? Liu Bollin and his photographed drawings, Charles Fréger and his series “Wilder Mann,” Lori Nix with her photographed settings, Kathrin Freisager, the “Strandbeest” of Theo Jansen, Kristof Kintera, and William Kentridge.
Orchid Club.Incidentally, the word orchid derives from the Greek orchis, or “testicle.” In the 1300s, English speakers called it a “ballockwort” for, well, similar reasons.
How did you two decide to work together? What are your favorite parts about having a partner?
Since 2007, we have shared a studio together, so we spend a lot of time together. Both of us work on our own projects. While sharing a studio together, you can support each other and—very important—you don't have to drink your coffee by yourself.
Children’s Chess Club.You know who was also a chess club member? Thomas Jefferson. He often played against James Madison.
How did you come up with the idea to photograph clubs? Which club was the hardest to track down?
One day, Andi asked me if I would like to work with him on a free photography-story for a newspaper. The idea of staged group photography was something I already had in my mind for quite a while. For the newspaper, I adapted and completed this concept for that specific series. At the beginning, we started with a series of eight photographs, then we did another eight, and so on ... now the series contains over 60 photographs.
The poodle club was quite a challenge. The room we needed for our setting couldn’t be too big for this specific idea. We found the perfect place, the size was perfect, the rear wall as background was ideal, and the rest of the room was big enough for our setting and all our studio lights, but with all the owners of the dogs, it finally was quite full. The dogs were perfectly behaved, but we still could take just about three shots.
Poodle Club.Not pictured: Babe Ruth, whose 1921 mascot was a French miniature poodle.
What’s been your favorite project to photograph?
A great thing about a photographic project in general is the concentration on a idea, for a specific period you focus on something. The “Hobby Buddies” were really great to work on. We get in contact with so many people through the societies and the different interests.
Hat Club.Established in 1750, America’s first secret collegiate society was called the Flat Hat Club.
What would you like to photograph that you haven’t yet?
The best ideas are not realized yet.
Kite Club.The kite originated in China around 400 BCE. Legend has it that Han Dynasty Generals would fly them over the walls of a city to measure how far an army would have to tunnel to get past the defenses.
Hobbie Buddies (Kehrer Verlag) by Ursula Sprecher and Andi Cortellini is now available.