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Adventure Is Everywhere: Photographer Julia Nimke

By Terri Stone

a photo of Julia Nimke

Julia Nimke

Julia Nimke has been a photographer since she was 12. While she may have begun with awkward snapshots, by 16 she was already being paid for her photos. Nimke has spent the eleven years since then studying her craft and practicing it almost daily. It’s no wonder that Adobe recently chose Nimke as one of the six new Creative Residents.

Nimke, who has lived in Berlin for nine years, grew up in a small German city near the Polish border. “It was not a very beautiful city,” she remembers. But it was near her grandparents, who had a large garden that left the young Nimke with a deep appreciation of nature, which you can see in many of her more current photos.

photo of a woman's silhouette, surrounded by fog, photo by Julia Nimke
photo of a mountain valley with sunlight, photo by Julia Nimke

When she was 14 or 15, she joined a weekly photo club for kids. “We were a group of 10 people who would go outside and shoot something, then go into the darkroom and develop our photos,” Nimke says. “We would speak about our pictures, and we had a mentor who would show us photo books and take us on photo tours.”

At 16, her family moved to Dresden, and it was there that a local paper paid to publish her images. When she was 18, she decided that she wanted to make photography her career, so she searched for an apprenticeship. “I applied to different firms, and luckily, a photo studio in Berlin said they wanted to have me.”

self-portrait of julia nimke
photograph of a misty swamp by Julia Nimke

In Germany, such apprenticeships usually last for three years. Because of Nimke’s previous photography experience, she was allowed to skip the first year. But she wasn’t ready to leave formal education behind just yet. “After the apprenticeship, I did a master in craftsmanship. For me, photography is a kind of art, but also you have to know how to set up lights, and use the camera, and things like that. There’s a lot of technical stuff.”

And so for the next two years, she continued to explore photography’s more mechanical aspects. “I learned there is a lot of diversity, from digital to analog,” she says. “I tried all genres of photography; it was a huge playground.” Just 15 other students were in the program.

To Nimke, analog has its pros and cons. “It’s more expensive, and the whole process takes longer,” she notes. However, “a lot of photography is about sharpening you eyes. Shooting with film does that because you only have 24 or 36 frames in each roll. It’s a good way to think about what you want to capture before you choose the trigger.”

photo of Moroccon trees, by Julia Nimke
a photo of a Moroccan beach by Julia Nimke
photos of a campsite at night, by Julia Nimke

Nimke enjoyed darkroom work. “It’s a very peaceful and calming process to develop a negative into a positive, and to try out all those little things you can do to manipulate a photo.” Stress “little” things—Nimke doesn’t like to fabricate an alternate reality with her images, whether they’re film or pixels. “What’s most important for me is authenticity. Everything I shoot is something that has really happened. I don’t stage things. That’s the main thing that connects all my photos. In the darkroom, I mainly played with contrast, light and shadows, and double exposures. I now apply those same edits digitally in Photoshop.”

TRAVEL (NEAR AND FAR)

Looking at Nimke’s website, you may think she spends most of her time traveling, but the reality is different. For the last three-and-a-half years, she worked 20 hours a week as a photographer and photo editor, in addition to juggling freelance clients. To free up her schedule for longer trips, she banked overtime and holidays. She also combined work and pleasure; for example, she collaborated with outdoor brands that gave her products she would then take on photo-centered travels.

Besides her camera and lens, Nimke’s favorite tool is a Sprinter van equipped with a bed, which she drives around Germany and Europe on frequent photo trips. Many of the trips are short and within 100 kilometers of Berlin; her longest was six weeks in the Balkans. She did choose a plane over the van for her most distant trip, which was ten days in Morocco.

“Adventure has nothing to do with being a large distance from the place where you live—you have to be open to a new look on what’s around you,” she says. “A lot of things can be adventures; you just have to look at your surrounding differently.” Nimke hopes her photos will make viewers feel like they’re part of her travels and encourage them to go on adventures of their own, no matter how short the journey. “Just go out there and do your stuff. There is so much you can do!”

double exposure shot of a woman's head with a hat and a sunset, by Julia Nimke
double exposure self-portrait by Julia Nimke

The Adobe Creative Residency empowers talented individuals to spend a year focusing on a passion project, while sharing their experiences and processes with the creative community.