English version of our interview with Markus Stock. You can find the original German version here.
Hello and welcome to Dark Art. Today we are speaking to an artist you may know from his countless band projects, such as Empyrium, Sun of The Sleepless or The Vision Bleak, named Markus Stock. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, and I hope you are doing well and staying healthy in these times of Corona. Today we want to take a look at your artistic outlets besides music.
- A few years ago, you started picking up the camera to do nature photography. What inspired you to go down that path? Did nature come after the camera, or did nature inspire you to pick up the camera?
Hello everyone! First, I have to say that I have been taking photographs since the 90s – back then with an analog Konica Minolta, Tamron objectives and Ilford 400 film. Some of my photographs were also used in the album layouts of my bands. In the last 3 to 4 years photography grabbed me again and I delved far deeper into this form of expression. Before that I was active in nature anyways, either alone or with wife and children. Now I just have one more reason to go out. Usually, I also do not come back with just great photographs, but also with many impressions and moments that serve as inspiration for my music and lyrics.
- With Empyrium you also create music that is in touch with nature, was that maybe also a reason for capturing this immense energy of nature in visual form?
I think my rather romantic worldview is the reason why nature takes a central role in all of my work. Modern humans, oddly enough, seem to think that they stand outside of nature and that they can control it as they please – After all, its 2021! (I ask myself if they said this in Bamberg too – “My god, it’s 1600!”). Humans are of course part of nature. We all come from natures lap, and will return there, nature is always right, we can’t fight or control it. It lives in us, as we live in it. Many apparently lost this connection, due to lacking the healing contact with nature. Everyone knows and feels how beneficial a stay in the woods really is – for soul AND body. Since I live in this field of tension between technology and nature, my expression in art is to be understood as an act of finding balance, and I think that I can give other people a little bit of this balance through my music and pictures.
Markus Stock – Winter’s Silence
- In your photography you have a unique style, using pretty much only wide-angle lenses, which always show more than one central motive. Why do it this way?
That is not completely correct. I actually use many focal lengths of 12-200mm when it comes to APSC sensors. So, everything from very wide angles to telephoto. My main objective is to capture the scenery, its atmosphere and everything that plays into it, and to honor this with a photograph. So, for me it is not about taking a photo of a tree, or to display landscapes like in a tourism brochure, but rather to capture the essence of that tree or landscape on that day.
Markus Stock – Moorland Evenings
- How would you describe your style of photography, since you pay attention to a very clear sense of centrality in your photos, even if a lot of it tends to sink in the mist? And what do you want to express with this?
Here I also have different approaches, but I also compose my picture after classic rules – central motive, rule of thirds, golden cut and golden spiral. What I really like doing and what is an intuitive, reoccurring motive, is creating “paths” or “gates”, which I discover between trees and branches and use as guiding lines to create depth in order to suck the viewer into the image.
- In some photos I felt like there are references to certain movies, like the Ents of Lord of the Rings, or branches that form almost human-like facial features like in Evil Dead. Is there a connection? Are you a film fan?
Absolutely! Both mentioned movies are an inspiration, as are other movies with strong imagery. Especially in horror and fantasy. I am also into having certain parts of Tim Burton’s aesthetic in my pictures. I am of course also inspired by painters (Friedrich, Klever, Kittelsen) and other photographers.
Markus Stock – The Ent
- All your photographs are very atmospheric and in a certain way always show extremes. Especially elements that are unique to a season that really strike the eye and create an emotional effect without showing any people. What can you say about this?
Thank you. To capture the mood of the place, like romantics did, and amplifying it through the photograph is my main goal when doing photography, so I am glad that it works! I want to evoke an emotional reaction. A wow effect, but also for the viewers to “lose themselves in the picture”. I usually like to go out to do photos in real weather, so fog, rain, dew, or snow – but also, especially for infrared photography – sunshine. These conditions help me in creating emotional, atmospheric, and mystic photographs, but it also means waking up in the middle of the night, so I can be out in the early morning…;-)
- So, do you only take photos in the area around your hometown Mellrichstadt, or do you go to specific places you have found or researched?
Of course, I mainly do my photography around my home region, Rhön. There I have an abundance of motives, but I also took many photos in Thüringen, Schwarzwald, Tirol and Kärnten. But the main focus is clearly on my home region. There I know my way around, my roots are there, and I want to capture the beauty of it. I sometimes randomly find motives while taking walks, but also through specific research. The weather must be properly researched as well.
- Was all this also the motivation for your newest music video “The Three Flames Sapphire” and the collaboration with Oliver König, who is of course also known in the scene for his portrayal of nature in his music videos?
I know Oliver from working with him and his Band Firtan in my studio, where me and him produced their last Album together. He is a very talented film maker and creates great moving images. He and Dona Klara already created the last video for my project Sun of the Sleepless (The Lure of Nyght), and I was really satisfied with that, so hired him again for Empyrium, and what can I say… He 100% understood how to translate the Empyrium aesthetic and created a truly great video.
- You are multi-talented, and besides your own music and photography, you also work as producer in your own studio. You almost had all giants of the scene in your holy halls of “Klangschmiede Studio E.” to work with them. How did you get to create this business besides your own music?
I of course work very hard to be “multi-talented”, and if I am interested in something, I explore it to the deepest depths. People who know me well can confirm that. In a way I am a nerd – as people like saying today. For me, music the purest form of expression and I have been heavily involved with it for over 30 years. Today I can proudly say that I can realize a complete music production with all its steps – composing, writing lyrics, playing a variety of instruments, doing vocals, recording, mixing etc., all the way to creating the master for the presses – on a high level, all on my own. So, rightfully I can claim that I have explored music very deeply – That was my goal. I understand how it works.
I must note that this alone does not create good music. I think this is where talent comes into play. You have to understand how to channel emotions. Then your craft becomes art.
- Keyword “Prophecy Productions”. You are regarded as an all-rounder producer. “A Wintersunset…” was also the first release of this label. How did this big collaboration happen, and to what extent are involved in it?
At Prophecy I am only active as a musician and a producer for the label. So, I have nothing to do with their day-to-day business. Like you already mentioned, I have been under contract for Prophecy for 25 years – I was their first artist, and probably have been the most influential. It is a little bit like an old marriage. You know each other, trust each other, but sometimes there are clashing opinions and relationships are of course always evolving. Despite everything I am glad to have found my homeport in Prophecy.
We thank you very much for taking the time for answering our questions.
More of Markus work you find on his Facebook Page Markus Stock Photography