The power of images

Introducing John Wilhelm the Photoholic

When you visit our new website, the first thing that strikes you is the photography. What we loved about these images was the way they triggered a chain reaction of thoughts and emotions that let us create stories in our minds. We were amazed at how well each of these images captured our imagination and helped us to tell a part of our story. So, who is the man behind these captivating, storytelling images?

John Wilhelm is a Swiss photographic artist. He’s completely obsessed with digitally re-working photography, so much so, that he calls himself the “photoholic”. Many of his photographs feature his partner, children and even himself, in a variety of humorous and thought-provoking settings. John has a knack for creating images that really stick with you and draw you back to look again.

To celebrate the launch of our new site we interviewed John Wilhelm to try to discover some of the secrets behind these storytelling images that are so memorable and impactful.

When your mind is open, inspiration is everywhere

Looking at the vast amount of material John Wilhelm has produced, one of the first questions that comes to mind is where do you get the inspiration for all these images? It seems that if you look with curiosity you see stories everywhere. John draws on many different sources for inspiration from movies, series and computer games to comics, books and photos. But most important is what’s happening in his everyday life. According to John “All you need is an open mind and a pair of good eyes. Being inspired is a kind of mindset in my opinion. I have to be creative to stay happy and to be creative I need inspiration, so my mind is always open and looking for input.” It can be easy in the busyness of our daily work lives to resort to bullet points and dry information dumps when trying to get our message across, but there’s an important lesson here for us all. If we look with fresh eyes, we’re surrounded by sources of inspiration that can help us to create more impactful stories.

All images are under copyright of ©John Wilhelm

The power of an image is not what’s present in the picture, it’s the response it triggers in our minds.

Sometimes the messages we want to communicate can be complex, at other times they can be a simple expression of the emotion we experience in a moment of pleasure. The power of a strong image is that it binds you, not just by telling the story, but by opening up a space and inspiring you to immerse yourself in it. Some of John’s images are deep and reflective others are playful: “As a father of four I’m always thinking about my kids’ future. I’ve been working in IT for over 25 years now and nevertheless (or probably exactly because of this) I’m most worried about technology. If I see people (and especially kids) walking around with their smartphones, blocking their view and filling their minds – I often think it’s impossible to save our civilisation. Sometimes I want to make people think about our lives: the girl in the split room juxtaposing war and peace for example, the girl and her doll both wearing VR headsets.

It’s not a direct message, its more of a little kick to start people thinking. But usually I’m just happy if my work can bring a little smile to people’s faces: I like to look at life with a sense of humour.” When we create stories that trigger a response in our audience and get them thinking, we empower them to co-create with us and invite them to make our story, their story.

Images can make us question the status quo

Distilling complex stories into an image infused with irony and humour, is an effective way of opening our eyes to our own errors and weaknesses. Although John’s main drive is the joy photography brings to his own life, it makes him happy to think that one of his shots might influence the way someone thinks or be an inspiration for other photographers and artists. He’d love to create an image with or for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an image that could show the world in an impressive way and highlight the stupidity of predjuces against minorities, foreign cultures and unfamiliar religions.

John’s message to artists is to be courageous in your work and resist the temptation to do what other’s like, rather than what you believe in.

“Nowadays with social media dictating the rhythm, more and more artists are forced to produce new content at a very high pace and judge their own work by the number of likes. That’s a very sad trend and it’s important to fight it. It’s important not to bend to the opinions of others.”

There’s wisdom lying behind many of Wilhelm’s images and there are lessons that could help us all become more powerful storytellers whether we do that with images or words.

All the pictures in this post are copyrighted ©John Wilhelm. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.