Exclusive Interview: Fantasy Photographer Tanja Westphal Takes Over OTS Magazine's March 2023 Cover Story.

by - 12:17:00

Tanja Westphal is a fantasy photographer otherwise known as "Manufakturwest" who specializes in creating epic photographs that frequently explore both real and made-up realms. Let's listen to Tanja describe her history, and passion for photography, graphic design, and art. 
We can best describe Tanja as a world-builder. She builds worlds, She inhabits them with characters and tries to make them alive, to tell her stories.

It might be challenging to get a break in the field of creativity at times. People usually tell you, "It's who you know, not what you know," but that doesn't imply you have to be linked to a well-known star or personality. Tanja Westphal, a living, breathing fantasy photographer and graphic artist, demonstrated that it isn't about where you come from but rather how you move forward from there. By telling lovely stories through her photography and art, she demonstrated the power of believing in your work and putting yourself out there is greater and bigger than you think.

Keep reading to learn more and discover her work.
Tanja, Please fully tell us about yourself and your personal background.
Thanks for having me. I'm Tanja and I do staged fantasy photography. I was born in Germany but for the last 15 years, Austria and especially Vienna have been my home. I have learned a lot. From working as an Automobile saleswoman to a waitress and graphic designer. The latter is my real job. Basically, photography was part of my education at the Media Design University in Munich. Since I have always been at home in the realm of fantasy and I enjoy photography as a balance to my otherwise very digital work, it was clear what I would do. Today I turn my dreams into real pictures.
How and when did you discover you had a passion for photography?
Definitely through my education in Munich. It was there that I first had the time and the equipment to deal more closely with the subject of photography. Unfortunately, I can't draw very well, so I used my basic knowledge from my education to get my ideas out of my head and into the real world. Often everything looks like chaos but in the end, it usually comes out the way I envisioned it to be and it conveys the message I wanted to show everyone from the beginning. That is exactly what drives me. To make dreams become real, to evoke the feeling of magic in people when they see my work.
In your own words please describe your style as a photographer? 
Realistically dreamy. An image of reality that doesn't exist.
Do you remember your first experience with the Camera?
Sure. It wasn't as magical as one would like to believe. It was simply part of my education.
Exclusive Interview: Fantasy Photographer Tanja Westphal Takes Over OTS Magazine's March 2023 Cover Story.
How big a role does photography play in your life?
A big one but not big enough. Whenever I can, I implement my projects with a lot of commitment and passion. But since I'm a graphic designer first and foremost, this job comes first. Photography will always be a part of my life. Sometimes it is more and unfortunately sometimes less. At the moment it's more again in any case. Also being in front of the camera. That's completely new for me now.
Personally, I love photography and creating unusual concepts, I see it as an escape, a way to express what and how I am feeling at that very time. So, in a few words, what does photography mean to you?
It means being free for me. Together with my friends, I create worlds free from everyday pressures and worries. For a few hours, everything is perfect. And I keep the memory of it forever in a photo.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers out there?
Don't compare yourself with others. Because you don't want to be a copy, you want to be yourself.
If you could change one thing about the photography industry, what would it be? What would you improve?
To be able to really say something here. I would have to work much more commercially. My photography is a niche and always will be. I am glad that diversity and openness are not a problem in my bubble.
What is the most challenging part of being a photographer?
I think the most challenging thing is certainly understanding from the outside. All these productions often need weeks of preparation. People who only see a "photo" usually can't understand the value of this work and you quickly end up in a seedy nerd section. But I think you have to rise above it and never forget that we are all different and that's a good thing.  
What are some of the biggest hurdles you have faced as a photographer and how did you overcome them?
I don't believe any artist is immune to self-doubt. Occasionally, the ideas sneak up on you and fill you with dread for the entire circus. It might be challenging to break such creative blocks on your own. I'm grateful that I have a vibrant, caring bubble around me that, no matter what, always encourages me. True happiness comes from real friends.
Apart from photography, tell me about your hobbies and interests.
My interest is photography. I am a gamer too, I enjoy playing "Warhammer and Magic: The Gathering". If a game has me entirely engrossed, I can easily spend weekends lying motionless on the couch. My desire to escape reality thus is not a new one.
Exclusive Interview: Fantasy Photographer Tanja Westphal Takes Over OTS Magazine's March 2023 Cover Story.
What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually?
I think the biggest strength is that I portray what life could be like in another reality. Regardless of who we are. I find that there is fantasy in everyone.
How do you differentiate your works from that of other photographers?
I have been asking myself this question for 10 years. I do what I like and hope that others like it too. That is enough for me.
Do you have one series or project you are particularly proud of?
Difficult decision. But I think I love the pictures where I tried something new, like fire. One of my current favorites is a photo we took in the middle of the night. It shows my friend Sasha as a passionate knight. The staging just has it all. Something mystical, an exciting element of fire, a model with expression, and most importantly a story.
Exclusive Interview: Fantasy Photographer Tanja Westphal Takes Over OTS Magazine's March 2023 Cover Story.
If you could change one thing about the photography industry, what would it be? What would you improve?
I think that since I am not really financially dependent on what I do as a photographer, I just can't say anything about it. I personally don't see myself as part of this industry.
What was the first ever photography gear you used when it comes to photo shoots and What is your current favorite photography gear, what do you always have in your photography Bag/Kit?
My first camera was a Canon 500d with the standard kit lens. Currently, I use the Canon EOS R with a 24-70mm 2.8 the most. It's an "always on" lens. But I am also a friend of fixed focal lengths like 50mm or 85mm. What I never miss is my mini Sun-bouncer. I love that thing.
Exclusive Interview: Fantasy Photographer Tanja Westphal Takes Over OTS Magazine's March 2023 Cover Story.
What has been the highlight of your career as a photographer to date?
I don't really feel that my career as a photographer is a career because I'm not financially dependent on it. But still, there have been a few experiences that I don't want to m. Once a year I go to the Vienna ComicCon with my friend Sophie from Cinnamon Panther and I'm always incredibly surprised who knows all my pictures. The feeling of inspiring others with photos in real life, away from social media, is really incredible. Also, the moment when the whole plan finally comes together and you see the finished picture on the camera. Simply great. You know what all the stress is for.
This is a question I always love to ask my Queens during interviews what does the word “Women Empowerment “mean to you? 
For me, it's critical that each of my models convey a single message to the public. Strength. Regardless of how they seem in my pictures. These ideas, among others, are what inspire me to represent strong women. Yet, I also like staging fantasy boudoir picture shoots. I adore presenting my models as fierce and self-confident in their femininity. Because the world needs that kind of image. Women who are powerful, independent, and self-assured in anything and everything they do.
When it comes to post-production what tools do you use, and what would you recommend to upcoming photographers/graphic designers?
Since I am mainly a graphic designer, I have been working with Adobe Photoshop longer than I have been taking photographs. So it is logical that I also use these skills to finish my pictures. Many people find it easier to start with Lightroom. But I have found that if you know Photoshop well, the other Adobe programs are much easier to learn. Even if Photoshop seems so overwhelming at the beginning. It's like any magic that is powerful. You have to learn it before you can use it.
What are your latest and upcoming projects?
My last project was very personal. I went through a major physical change last year and at the beginning of this year, it finally happened. I want to be a fantasy model as well as a photographer and I also want to be in front of other cameras. My wardrobe is so big and I can use it twice this way. The wonderful Elerie photographed me as an elven warrior and winter elf. I am so happy with this decision.
So I am currently planning twice for the coming flower season. Shootings for me and shootings with others.
What was the most surreal moment you ever experienced during a photography shoot?
I don't know if you can call it surreal. But there was this one moment that was just incredibly brazen. 
I was shooting in a magnolia bush with a model who was wearing a beautiful floral dress. It was a little spontaneous shoot. There were only three of us. Suddenly I feel someone's breath on my shoulder and the model looks strange. When I turn around, a stranger is right behind me with his mobile phone taking pictures of my model. I turn around and ask him if he could have asked before. His answer was "Then she could have said no" This was so unexpectedly disgusting that I was glad when he quickly trotted away. I think we were all a little perplexed by the experience. 
I mean, especially when you take a lot of pictures outside, you always have onlookers. This one was just particularly brazen and it never happened again.
Exclusive Interview: Fantasy Photographer Tanja Westphal Takes Over OTS Magazine's March 2023 Cover Story.
What are you doing when you are not working? 
I like to play video games. Or meet up with my friends to play Warhammer or just chat. I just like it quiet and cozy, surrounded by positive vibes and energy.
Any last words for your fans and dreamers out there?
Do epic shit! A motto that my dear friend Hajnalka recently showed me. And she is simply right. Time is too short for boredom.

See more of Tanja Westphal's work via her social media platform.

These are some of her excellent works:

You May Also Like