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CHAT ROOM | Achim Lippoth

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Fifteen years ago, Achim Lippoth, the world-renowned German photographer and filmmaker, founded kid’s wear magazine, a groundbreaking bi-annual children’s fashion magazine. Originally conceptualized as a fair trade publication, the award-winning glossy is available in German, English and Italian, and features collaborations with top photographers, writers and artists. “In 1995, there was no platform for children’s fashion brands to present their collections,” Achim says. “It was an incentive to start this project.”

Currently living in Cologne, Achim has specialized almost exclusively in child photography for 18 years, shooting both editorial and advertising campaigns for an impressive roster of clients, including McDonald’s, Lego and Lexus. His work has been published in New York Times Magazine, Vogue and Details. In May 2010, he partnered with New York-based designer Kenneth Cole for a children’s shoot for Cole’s F/W campaign. In true Achim-style, the set featured a collection of homemade cardboard toys, masks and headphones. With music blaring, Achim encouraged the children to let loose and just play. Other recent works include “Puppet Series”, in which Achim photographs dolls as children’s twin brothers or sisters, to highlight the love a child has for a doll, and “Wrong Right Wrong”, a photo series of children and parents reversing roles. Achim spoke with Stylesight about the key to photographing children, his career in children’s photography and working for American brands.

In the magazine’s 15 years, which shoots and collaborations are most memorable?

Every issue speaks for itself and presents a new challenge for me to create something special. But of course there are some shoots that stick out more than others. The “Promised Land” shoot, from kid’s wear vol. 30, featured an outstanding set construction. I was working with more than twenty-five kids at the same time; they all did a great job and the computer-generated graphics made the whole shoot just perfect.

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Which photographers have you enjoyed working with the most at kid’s wear?

Working with so many fantastic artists from all over the world is amazing. For six years, we have worked with Nan Goldin and Bruce Weber—a big honor for us.

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How did your photography career begin? What attracted you to the medium?

I was about twenty-two when I discovered my strong interest for photography. I started to study art at the University of Cologne, and soon photography became my greatest passion.

You are known as the world’s eminent children’s photographer. I know you don’t only photograph children, but how did childhood become your main subject?

There is no period in life that is more important than childhood, for everyone, everywhere. Children’s experiences affect the way they think and make them who they are.

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You are known for capturing children’s precociousness, doing away with old-fashioned photo shoot styles of picture-perfect children. What are you trying to capture in your photos?

Often people think children act like typical models; it’s not true. Children are always children and behave that way. Every day they show me a new perspective on life, which I try to hone into, through my pictures.

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Working with kids can be unpredictable to say the least. What are some of your tricks for capturing their emotions and actions? Any memorable or funny stories come to mind?

I’m still a child inside, so I know how to handle them. We always have a great time during shoots. Most of the time, I feel like I’m working on a huge playground. To be completely honest, either you have it or you don’t. I’m good at finding the key to children’s multiple personalities. On set, kids can often do things they are normally not allowed to, from eating tons of chocolate to going crazy with loud music. Children come from the same world; they all have the same way of thinking, no matter where they physically hail from.

Kenneth Cole and American Eagle are clients of yours; it seems that the American market is catching on to the European market’s fashion aesthetic. What is your insight into the evolving children’s fashion market?

Companies are looking for new ways to find their own aesthetic. American Eagle, for example, wants campaigns that feature people who have their own way of thinking, presented in a different way than what Americans currently expect.

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