Camera adventure

Meet an Israeli Adventure Photographer from Germany

Basti Hansen is a director, cinematographer and adventure photographer. Originally from Germany, Hansen put his music career on hold to test his photography skills for a year in Tel Aviv.

He succeeded and the rest is history.

When Hansen arrived in Tel Aviv, his Instagram account with around 800 followers featured his music. Now focused on his world-renowned photographic work, Hansen’s account has 15.5,000 followers.

ISRAEL21c caught up with Hansen to learn more about his journey as a Tel Aviv-based photographer and cinematographer. The interview has been condensed for clarity.

Where does your love for photography come from?

I started my career as a musician. I had a band, we were touring and releasing records in Germany. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, since I was a teenager. But as a young child, the cinema was my happy place.

What inspired me back then were old commercials from the 90s, fashion photography or Pepsi commercials with Cindy Crawford. I loved those early 90s visuals and aesthetics.

I realized the love I’ve always had for photography and cinema and that’s where the visual arts took over. I put the band on hold for a year to see if I could live off a camera and it took off.

How exactly did it take off?

I came to Tel Aviv after my studies about eight years ago. After my successful first year in Tel-Aviv, I decided to stay one more year. Four years later, I thought to myself, I think I live here now.

When I got here, I shot everything I could. I met people in cafes and asked to take their portraits.

I also saw the gay pride parade. I went out with my camera and made a video of the parade. The Tel Aviv Municipality saw the video and from there I was hired to do the official Pride Parade video for the next five years.

What is special about Tel Aviv for you?

I came to Tel Aviv originally because my girlfriend is Israeli. Before coming here, I had an engineering degree, but I didn’t want to be an engineer in Germany, so I took a chance and came to Tel Aviv. I fell in love. There is a beautiful energy here.

Every time I fly over the coast again, there is this beautiful moment of calm when I cross the threshold into Israel.

I travel a lot to different countries, which makes Tel-Aviv my home base. But I have this thing where every time I fly over the coast again, there’s this beautiful moment of calm when I cross the threshold into Israel. I have felt this for 8-10 years, every time I come home. I’m not a spiritual person but you can feel the energy of the city.

Tel Aviv is a cool city that offers you so much. During my first year here, Tel-Aviv allowed me to find jobs and people that I wanted to tour with or who wanted to tour with me. Everyone is so connected and easy to be friends with. It’s easy to say, “Hey, I’m a photographer!” then log in.

Tel-Aviv allowed me to do what I did in the beginning, to connect with as many people as possible.

What is your favorite place in Israel?

Always the beach. Since I’ve been here, it’s where I go when life gets rough or busy and I lose a sense of calm. The beach helps me breathe and sort everything out in my head.

What is your favorite thing to eat here?

Definitely Pizza Lila. It’s just pizza but it’s the best pizza in the world. Mmmmm! I get arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Sure, there’s Mediterranean food – I love that – but Pizza Lila is the obvious choice.

What do you like most about what you do?

I like that my life is not boring. I’ve had access to crazy things in the world because I’m a photographer and a cinematographer. One day I’m in Rome, one day I’m in Milan, another day I’m going up to Tel-Aviv. My job gives me a very exciting life, it’s the coolest thing.

My work is a tool to meet people, access things and understand the world. I learn so much about life because I’m constantly thrown into so many situations. At the start of my career in particular, I had to figure out a lot of things.

What type of photography do you focus on?

I work a lot with Mercedes in Europe. I’m doing a webseries with Mercedes AMG in a specific YouTube format. At the moment, episode 28 is in preparation.

I have made several videos with car brands that send me on an adventure with a few cars. We produce content and come back with an adventure video of this road trip.

I also did a 10,000 mile adventure trip to the US for a few weeks with Mercedes showing off one of their cars. These trips allow me to tell a personal story while telling the story of the brand.

When did your social media presence grow?

I came here in 2014, but in 2016 there was a huge spike in following because I was doing so many things. I was sent to Iceland for a project, the gay pride project happened – so many different things so there was so much to post.

My social media told the story of someone who wanted to be a photographer and then became a photographer. It was probably something very fun to follow.

What type of story or message do you want your photos to convey?

When I look back on my work, there are themes that I notice. I often see a melancholy longing for something more in my work and my images.

I want my work to be in your face and as brutal as possible. I don’t think my work is still there. There is always a disconnect between my work and this attitude, but I am becoming more aware. I have the feeling that I am on a path in this direction.

Do you remember the first photo you were really proud of?

I once flew to India and made a short video there. When it was over, I felt like it could go somewhere. But for my job, I’m never arrogant. It is a conviction that is deeply rooted in me. I have always paid attention to how I feel about my work. You need confidence in negotiations or when pitching a project to a big brand, but that shouldn’t be confused with arrogance.

What is the hardest part of your job?

How to deal with customers. Jobs in my field are everywhere. One day, an actor could ask me for portraits and the next day, a multinational could ask me to shoot a campaign in another country. It is important to understand how to talk to different people, approach different situations and get to know each other. Then you can guide people no matter what comes your way.

If you could only photograph one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It’s rough but probably fashionable. It’s something I always wanted but never really looked for.

Would you rather be able to take selfies but use professional cameras, or continue your work as normal but with an old iPhone camera?

An old iPhone camera, clearly!

If you couldn’t be a photographer, what would you do?

I have zero idea. I would probably be broke in the street.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t let the world scare you. When I was a student in my twenties, I was intimidated by the complexity of everything, the knowledge of people, and how I thought everyone knew what they were doing.

At some point, I learned that it was as much my world as anyone else’s. If I want, I can be part of it and I have become more confident. If I’m in Tel Aviv, it’s as much my city as anyone else’s.