Thomas is a street photographer who not only has an interesting story, but has also created some great bags, with street photographers in mind, and a very unique strap. We have partnered up and wanted to know more about him and his work.
Thomas, please tell us about yourself
I was born in 1968 in a small village in Germany, I grew up very sheltered, watching Sesame Street and playing soccer with my friends. In the eighties I became an AC/DC and Motörhead guy and started to work as a mechanic. In the nineties I joined the German Navy and served on a submarine. This was the time when I had my first glimpses of a world that was larger than my small village. I discovered i had a talent for graphic design and slipped into working as a graphic designer. In 2002 I made a break from my advertising agency for two years to work as a development aid worker in Togo.
After that I founded another advertising agency and studied marketing. In 2010 my next break came along and I followed my wife to Burundi, where she was working for the civil peace service. And now I'm back in Germany trying to shift my passion for photography into a profession. A you can see my life was not straight in some regards, but I always tried to be true to myself. And many things are continuously present, for example I still like AC/DC and Motörhead 🙂
What inspired you to become a photographer?
I came to photography when I went to Togo in 2002. Life on the streets in the small African country was so incrediblly different than I was used to. So I wanted to capture this and started doing street photography. It took me some years and I would say that maybe in 2008 my photos were on a level that I like.
Do you feel photography enhances your life. If so, how?
Yes, definitely. Photography gives me the feeling of being connected to the world around me, as I do observe what happens, what people are doing, how a tree or a flower really look. It makes me more conscious of my environment and that is already a lot these days.
What purpose does photography serve for you?
Photography is a personal thing and some kind of meditation to me. It helps me coming down by directing the stream of thoughts away from everyday life. Furthermore I am one of these guys who thinks that especially street photography should show up the good and the bad things, should have a social aspect so to speak.
What are the recurring themes in your photography?
First of all I'm not a professional photographer, photography is my hobby. I'd say that most of my, at least for me, more serious images were made in African countries and my approach is to see a scene as if it was a scene on a stage. In this way I try to show life as it is in foreign countries, what is happening on the streets or in the lives of people. So at least the recurring theme is to show differences and similarities.
Tell us a bit about Cosyspeed bags
The company name Cosyspeed comes from Compact System (mirrorless) Camera and speed, the main benefit of our first product, the Camslinger bag. So we offer quick access gear especially for mirrorless cameras. The core idea of the Camslinger concept came out of street photography in my time in Burundi.
By this time I had a huge DSLR and it was almost impossible to take photos on the streets of Bujumbura, Burundis capital. After 15 years of civil war people were reluctant, shy and sometimes dismissive. I bought my first mirrorless camera, a LUMIX GF1 with the 20 mm pancake and photography became a whole different thing on the streets in Bujumbura. To carry my camera I was using a sling strap by this time, which gave me access to my camera within a second. But I wanted to have my camera protected against rain, dust, bumps and especially from being visible to others.
I couldn't find a bag which fitted to my needs and made a first prototype from cardboard. So the Camslinger concept was born which allows to be as quick as one would be with a sling strap, but gear is well protected when not in use. The Camslinger is designed to be worn around the hip but can also be used as a sling bag over the shoulder.
The design approach is minimalistic, functional and not for carrying your gear from A to B but to take along a camera and one or two lenses for a day on the streets.
You remind me of my very first bag, this thing was a huge backpack and I carried it wherever I went! There's quite a few bag makers out there, how did you set out to make a difference?
Yes, that's true, there are many great bags out. But I had the feeling that no one was seriously moving into mirrorless and though I saw and still see lots of potential. The Camslinger is pretty unique as a carrying concept and this is a good starting point.
Here's something closer to home: Where did the idea for the Street-o-matic and finger strap come from?
The Streetomatic is the second line in the Camslinger bag concept. It came out of response from customers and street photographers. We developed it together with Swiss street photographer Thomas Leuthard and it provides a bag that fits to the needs of many street and travel photographers. Put in a camera and one or two extra lenses, spare batteries, smartphone, small stuff and just hit the street. That's it.
The Fingercamstrap is a side product so to speak. The idea came out of the concept, that the Camslinger should be quick and one-handed accessible. A neck strap or wrist strap always needs two hands to be attached and though weren't suited to the one-hand aspect of the concept. However most photographers want to secure their cam against accidental dropping. The Fingercamstrap can be attached with only one hand and without losing time. You can attach it when grabbing the cam in the Camslinger bag and so you don't have to have fear of dropping accidental. It works as easy as the Camslinger concept itself.
The fingercamstrap is one of those things you wonder why no one invented them before. Any closing comments?
No, just THANKS 🙂
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