We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Celia Rogge a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Celia, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Have you been able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen? Was it like that from day one? If not, what were some of the major steps and milestones and do you think you could have sped up the process somehow knowing what you know now?
Yes, I am incredibly lucky and tremendously grateful that I have managed to actually make my creative work – photography – a full time job, though it is by no means always an easy task. And it certainly has been a longprocess to get to where I am today.
When I first started many moons ago, I took any photography job I could get. I took on portraiture and event photography: commercial work, fashion, product, families, babies, weddings…really anything. Which truthfully, I really did love also, since I am a complete people person! But most importantly, it made it financially possible to concentrate on what I consider my true calling, my art work.
Today, I can focus purely on my art. Instead of working on shoots for others, I now work only for myself. This includes exposing and explaining my personal struggles and innermost feelings through my photography. It’s here where I’m able to use creativity to reach out and hopefully touch others…
I have to say, it is the most fantastic and satisfying thing when I succeed. When I see the light ignite in the viewers’ eyes and I have touched someone’s heart! And then if they feel they must own a piece of my work and take it into their own home – now that is truly the most incredible and indescribable feeling.
My pieces are my children. I want to know where they are. I want them to be in a good home. I want them to shine. Most of all I want them to inspire joy and positivity.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I was born and raised in Germany – it is where my family still lives today. In high school one of my majors was Art, in particular, sculpture and oil painting and, on my own, I explored creative photography. My professor at the time strongly urged me toward an arts college.
However, at the time I was unable to win that battle with my parents, as I am sure many of us failed! So, I came to the US as an undergraduate to study at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. It was my parents’ firm belief that I first have a “proper” academic university education.
In retrospect, I actually agreed – funny how we sometimes do that with parents opinions years later – and after graduating, I took advantage of a one-year work permit to experience New York before (as I thought) returning home to Europe. I got a job with one of the only places that would take the visa and pay me! I ended up working for a Canadian bank and stayed there for many years.
It was because of that job that I ended up being able to save up the seed money for my photography business, all the while working on my portfolio on the side. It had never left my sight, it just took longer than I had first envisioned.
This was in 1994 and I am still here in New York… Though today, luckily, my work takes me to Europe all the time and for long stretches at a time. This is great in so many ways, I get to see my friends and family who live there while working in my “old world”.
I still am truly and fundamentally influenced by living between my two diverging cultures, continents, architecture and languages.
Still today I have this inner conflict, between the continents – the juxtaposition of the Old Works and New World and annually consider to move back to Europe “next year”… Having been born and brought up in Europe, I have my roots there, yet I have made New York my base for over twenty years. This is where I have made my friends, my new family and the City, my home.
My inspiration is deeply rooted in the notion of discovery through visual reflections. Be that in mirrors, glass or water; the otherness/sameness that coexists. I also use cameras that see light reflected on a different frequency, making for mesmerizing vistas. Equally I have an inherent strong passion for symmetry and linear structures. It is a need for order and a fascination for the vanishing point and linear perception.
The Yin and Yang within me is represented in two fundamentally different types of photography I explore with two different types of cameras. One a “normal” DSLR and the other being a daylight infrared camera. One subject and type of photography is urban surroundings, the other is taken solely in nature.
In my architectural works of New York City, London and Berlin, entitled “Reflections,” I invite the viewer to experience a new perspective within the clear lines of these fabulous metropolises. I continue this in my works of grand interiors, museums and palaces throughout Europe, the United States and Australia. The architectural work is very much grounded in my roots in Europe, and Germany in particular. Perhaps it’s the German in me where my need for order comes from! :) I am incredibly lucky to work directly with the archivists and curators of many spectacular museums and the owners of private homes. And having access to these places, and to work within the structures all on by myself without assistants or studio lighting – this is what allows for the intimacy I have with my “subject”. And I very much hope to telegraph this relationship to the viewer through my work…
Contrasting this is the other, my emotional/more personal/ ethereal work. It is here where I use a dedicated daylight infrared camera in nature – the diametric opposite of my architectural work. It is with this type of camera where I am able to take images that filter common vistas through the transformative power of sunlight in a camera that is not usually employed. Here light is reflected and absorbed fundamentally differently than the way you and I – in other words our human eye – sees it. It truly creates a new perception and adds a new understanding of what surrounds us on this beautiful earth we call our home. . With this camera, I seek out and travel to inspiring & beautiful nature locales such as the Estremadura in Portugal, the plains of Northern Germany, the forests of Poland, beaches of the Caribbean, and the rolling hills of Connecticut where I find vistas that are unusual to begin with but where the IR camera makes those shine on another level. The different way light is reflected here elevates the contours of nature to an almost spiritual level. It is truly dreamlike, — and the complete juxtaposition of my architectural work.
My hope is that my work takes the viewer into a land of possibility, to “Look Up” and “find doors”, to see beyond the self evident, while also mirroring my inner world.
Today, I have been and am represented by fabulous galleries with solo shows on both sides of the Atlantic, the German Embassy in DC and the Consulate General in New York. And on top of that I get to work with incredibly inspiring renowned interior designers such as Alexa Hampton, Jan Showers, Michael Smith et al all over the world. They in turn elevate my images into their visions on an entirely new level.
My work is living and breathing when it is seen. And when it is, I feel tremendously grateful and so lucky for it!
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
My work is about entering the realm of possibility. My mantra is “Always look Up…”. This is meant in a figurative, but also very much in a spiritual and philosophical way. Reflections of all sorts of course stem from light…naturally. I am so inspired by this notion of discovery through light. Most obviously of course this is openly manifested in my “Reflections” series.
In the infrared photography. reflective light is seen in a different way. In my interior portraits of enfilades (doorways), I want to lure the eye of the viewer ever deeper into my images, creating space and possibilities. In all these ways I am striving to make the viewer find “wonder” and discover again! Everyone these days is so focused on their devices, ignoring and hardly taking in their surroundings, thinking about doomsday…rather than searching for positivity and possibility. We all know this but we need to try to fight it…
Looking up figuratively at what one has been blind to; discovering, really seeing one’s surroundings: a beautiful building,
the reflections within the canvas of windows; intellectually connecting with a different frequency of light shining on nature and exposing an ethereal beauty that we humans could not see before… That is what I try to manifest and share in my work! Hopefully my images help shine a light on the way to SEE the world…
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
Where to start… Well, for one, I knew that to pursue my passion full time, I needed to earn seed capital which led me to working as a banker on the trading floor of a Canadian bank, here in New York, for a number of years while pursuing my artwork after hours.
I fully realized, that to be in any stretch of the imagination successful in my dream, I needed both representation, as well as the necessary nest-egg make it happen. It took years and also jumping over many shadows and fears. I cannot tell you how many late night conversations and discussions with friends and family I had before I finally dared it. But once I had firmed up both, I finally quit my day job, jumped into the scary cold water, and I have not looked back since. This was nearly twenty years ago…
Being an artist and entrepreneur is truly not for the faint of heart. There is zero stability of income nor any guarantee of success, short term nor long term. But what there is, is this incredible thing… The knowledge that each day when you wake up you create your own destiny in the purest sense. And that is literally priceless and a true gift to yourself.
My second big pivot that I would like to share for obvious contemporary sake was work during the pandemic. It was a true reckoning for me as for so many of us. My business was on a stellar trajectory until the second quarter of 2020 when it came to a halt. With no in-person viewing, it was obviously difficult to replicate the type of interaction the viewer has with the artwork.
Today, I am glad to say that I am back on the horse. And… I am really excited to share the news that I have a new solo show this Fall at New York’s wonderful Galerie Mourlot who have represented me since 2008. I hope you can all come to see it!
Thank you so much for this opportunity to chat with you!
- Website: www.CeliaRogge.com
- Instagram: CeliaRogge
- Facebook: @CeliaRoggeFineArt
- Linkedin: Celia Rogge
- Twitter: @CeliaRoggeNYC