CONVERSATION

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director, art historian and  MM Award 2022 Jury member. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here

Diary of: @fionadinkelbach

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
1. Your work as an creative director and photographer is strongly oriented towards a visual language that you define as timeless, elegant and contemporary. Do you think that these characteristics can also be considered a good definition of luxury? How does luxury differ from what it is not?

For me, luxury is defined by timelessness. I’ve been working in the luxury industry for over eight years now and in that time I’ve seen that timeless design always prevails. Our current society and way of living should also not be ignored. Luxury has changed dramatically in the last decade and it does not have to mean glitz and glamour. Rather, it is the opposite. Nowadays, it’s much more about sustainability, innovation and certain values that are coming to the fore. The right materials, perfect manufacturing, an eye for detail. It’s not about waste and overconsumption (anymore). And therefore, of course, luxury is always something contemporary. Something that is also constantly changing and must always be discussed again. Luxury certainly doesn’t always have anything to do with the price tag. A brand that I consider too kitschy or inauthentic, both visually and in terms of content (which brings us back to values), is not for me. Expensive does not equal luxury. And luxury is not always a material good. In my opinion, you don’t always have to own everything, but individual experiences and taking the time for them are much more important.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
2. In 2014 you founded a magazine, The Dashing Rider, which presents itself to readers as a “collection of unique, timeless, well-researched visual stories about fashion, architecture, contemporary art and culture”. How is the world of independent publishing evolving? How did this project come about and why this name?

I actually started writing a blog quite early, back then it was a completely different world. It has actually changed a lot in the last few years. Social media alone was never enough for me, so over the last few years I’ve expanded TDR into an online magazine. It was important to me that I could really tell stories, give deeper insights into my topics and really keep the reader. I want the viewer to take their time, slow down and really connect with the topic/article. For me, this includes delivering large-format images, writing longer articles, an appealing and individual layout, and the overall visual presentation of a topic. This is hardly possible on Instagram and other social media channels, which are completely designed for fast consumption. Again, the concept of timelessness is very important to me —definitely a leitmotif of my entire work. The name was meant to describe something comprehensive. A reflection of something that could be. Without having to commit to a thematic focus.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
3. How did you define your concept of storytelling? What are the elements that characterise it? Can you tell us about the choice of a black and white look&feel and an analogue feel in an increasingly digital world?

The stories I tell, as well as the choice of topics for TDR, are very individual and personal. So are the brands I work with, both for my magazine and for external commissions. I always have to be 100% behind it. It’s a complete, holistic universe. I draw a lot of inspiration from the past. The late 1960s as well as the 1970s are a very big source of inspiration in my work. I’ve always been fascinated by many areas of these eras—for instance, an architectural movement, a piece of furniture, or simply a place that I associate with a certain longing. This is also the reason for my visual approach and the use of black and white photography on film. I use digital platforms, but I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a digital person. I think this connection is quite fascinating. Bringing an analog medium that immediately recalls past decades (and is very much in line with my taste for the 1970s) into a digital world. Digital aesthetics are often very loud, colorful and hectic. The same goes for popular social networks. I like to bring some tranquility and timelessness in there. Someone once told me that they could unwind on my Instagram account and described it as “visual detox”. I liked that a lot. The situation is similar in art. As an art historian, I visit a lot of exhibitions, institutions and galleries. It often is an absolute visual sensory overload. But here I have learned to filter, to scan and to show only what meets my visual standards. If it doesn’t fit in, I don’t show it. It’s a form of curation. Through this I have not only found my own visual language, but also a signature direction in which people recognize me. This goes so far that people I know tell me I should go see a certain exhibition because it’s “so me.”

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
4. Analysing your work, a strong passion, perhaps an obsession, for details emerges. The perception you convey to me, when looking at a photo and reading a text, is that your focus is always on a micro scale, almost as if you feel the need to analyse things under a microscope. Is this interpretation correct? Transferring this concept to social life, what are the details you notice most in a person you meet?

A very fascinating observation! I generally like to go into depth. When I write, these are already very niche and specialized topics. Equally, in my visual work, I like to show cut-outs or very strong close-ups. I want the viewer to take their time, maybe stay a little longer than usual and reflect on what the image means to them individually. With a detail, you don’t get a lot of anticipation. It is not bold and not everything is visible. One’s own imagination is challenged and the viewer continues to think about it for himself individually. I like that very much. I would say that I have a well-trained eye and I always notice certain things first, such as gestures and facial expressions.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
5. I was very passionate about your “open-minded” perspective. How did your background, including the Master of Arts degree in Art, Aesthetics and Media Studies at the Braunschweig University of Art influence this view?

Life at an art academy is simply quite different and had a strong impact on me. I remember the time when I applied for my theoretical art studies. There were three universities to choose from: two of them were traditional universities with art history as a subject. And one was an art academy with art studies as a subject. I quickly decided on the last one. The difference is quite simple: the direct connection to the fine arts. You don’t have that at a conventional university. Due to the close relationship to the arts, I have always had a vibrant and constantly renewing engagement with contemporary art. Quite different from what it would have been with a classical art history program. It was less about a traditional breakdown of art history (which, of course, was also a topic in my basic studies), and more about social and philosophical issues. It is about exploring which parameters influence artistic processes, how traditions are formed in art, how motifs change, references can be deciphered, and how modalities affect our perception. Just to give a few examples. I was particularly shaped by the examination of language as a medium and the introduction to reception history/aesthetics, which familiarized me with the history of viewing cultures as well as visualization techniques. It’s something that has formed my view of certain things a lot and has given me an individual perspective, which of course extends to my aesthetics as well.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
6. On your website we find a Journal section, with a selection of images taken during your travels, almost like poetic postcards. How do you organise and plan your trips? Which activities do you like to leave to chance?

Thank you for the beautiful compliment. In my life there are two different types of travel. There are the business trips and the personal trips. The business trips are either press trips or trips organized by me to certain dates such as art fairs or other things that are professionally interesting for me. Whereby the boundaries are always blurred. There, the activities are of course often much planned. But when I really travel privately, it already starts with packing my suitcase in a completely different way. And in fact, I don’t plan that much in advance. I let many things come to me and love to explore an unknown place.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
7. Speaking of travel, yours is a journey that straddles the line between digital and analogue. How do you combine these two souls? What is one digital and one analogue habit that describes your personality?

That’s actually not always that easy. As written before, I would definitely not describe myself as a digital person. I like to use the internet for my work, but I am through and through an analog person. The physical productions are always my favorite, but I also love to be digitally creative, e.g. when it comes to website layout. A digital habit that definitely describes my personality is ‘scrolling to the end’. For example, when I’m in a certain section in an online store, I always have to scroll to the end. A little OCD. My analogue habit which describes me quite well is the use of a physical calendar in which I write down every appointment by hand.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
8. Your job often takes you travelling and being among people. How do you like to spend your time in solitude? Is there a piece of music, or a book, or a film, that reconciles you with yourself more than others?

I’m definitely a person who needs a lot of rest and I need my downtime after traveling or after events with lots of people. For me, first and foremost, actual silence is very important. No music, no movie, just silence. At least directly after an event. There are of course also more normal rest periods, which I then fill with music etc. I unwind especially with Shoegaze, e.g. My Bloody Valentine or Lush.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
9. You are one of the members of the MM Award Jury: what do you look for from the contestants?

For the moment, I’m very excited about the different fields and submissions. I will pay particular attention to innovative design. Since I am a very sensitive person, I also look at how something affects me and how I feel about it, which feelings are evoked.

Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
Caleido interviews Fiona Dinkelbach creative director and art historian
@fionadinkelbach
10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it? Can you send us a photo taken by you?

That is actually not so easy, because I am a collector of different things. For example, I bring myself an object from every trip, which of course always has emotional value and reminds me of a good time. Los Angeles is one of my absolute favorite places. The photo shows stones that I collected on Malibu beach.

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