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Marcel Castenmiller

The photographer slash model on how he got into photography and why Tokyo is such an amazing place to document

When introduced to Canadian-born model and photographer Marcel Castenmiller, you are instantly graced with his calm and composed character. Although gently spoken and understated, Marcel seems to command your attention even when saying very little. He possesses a rare wisdom that seems to go beyond his years. Introduced to photography whilst documenting the development of his projects at grad school, his style and approach often seem to reflect on his character; producing images of a serene nature - frequently focusing on small details or way-moments of friends with an impressionable depth.

With a profession that requires frequent travel, Marcel tells Dazed about his experiences in Tokyo and the impact the city had upon him. He also discussed some coming projects following his recent group show at the Milk Gallery, as a part of the Milk Gallery Underground exhibition, showcasing the work of emerging photographers.

Dazed Digital: You began a degree in General Fine Arts, focusing on painting and art history. When did you decide to venture into photography?
Marcel Castenmiller:
 Everything started at school, we were told to document all of our work in the studio; how it was created as well as the different stages of its creation. I got excited about having a reason to purchase a 35mm SLR. When I got that, my first camera (a Pentax K1000) I couldn't stop shooting. I eventually took it everywhere and now I cannot leave the house without a camera. 

DD: Some of your photos, specifically the ones of landscapes, resemble paintings. Have you ever thought about mixing the two mediums?
Marcel Castenmiller: I recently considered that but I cannot stand spending hours to make a painting look photo-realist. I don't feel like I'm painting, I feel like I'm copying. I prefer pieces that are modeled from life. Ironically most of the painters I admire have work that is photo-realist.

DD: As a model you are required to travel often. Tell us about what you documented when you travelled to Tokyo and what inspires you about the city?
Marcel Castenmiller: Tokyo is quite an amazing place. Everything that exists there is meticulously well-crafted, the quality of things is unparalleled. Even the things that aren't considered "good" are made perfectly poorly. It's also the only city where I've photographed the airport at every arrival. That's very unsual. Even the drive from Narita Airport to Shibuya, Tokyo gets at least one roll of film to itself.

I photograph the city itself, the emptiness, the crowds and the buildings. I have very few friends in Japan so each photograph seems to possess an emptiness - which I now realize is loneliness itself. However never have I felt unhappy about the isolation. It's also very strange for me to focus on a city like this because my photographs are usually way-points of a journey when I travel. But in Tokyo it all sort of blurs together, plus every shot has such significance and is so exciting that nothing stands out on it's own.

DD: You have put out a series of five fanzines, the last one published in September of this year, what are some projects you are currently working on?
Marcel Castenmiller: This winter I will be working on a self-published book, printed larger than my existing zines and higher quality than xerox.

Text by Zeyna Sy