In the Heart of the City
Frankfurt might or might not need another article praising its hidden advantages and proving how underrated it is as home for creative, internationally successful people. Although repetition for emphasis never hurts. Rather, this is a case for living where your friends and family are, where you feel good, so that you can be most productive in your artistic endeavours. Not in that tortured, miserable sort of way but in a happy, balanced state of mind. It is easy to feel left out when not living in an obvious cultural and creative epicentre such as New York, London or Los Angeles or a laid back home to artists and hipsters like Berlin, Portland or Melbourne. There is much to be said, however, for being able to have it all. A safe haven, a home base to come back to – because let’s face it, some cities lacking the obvious coolness factor have very cool airports for quick getaways – and the backdrop to building a career that is compatible with life, not vice versa.
Former model, stylist, self-taught photographer, Korres shop owner – and mum of two – Nada Lottermann was born and raised in Frankfurt and despite brief stunts in other, more fashionable cities such as Paris and Athens, has stayed and, in a less conventional way, built a successful career in this international hub of finance and business.
We speak to the multitasking talent about cameras, roadtrips and her love of the city, where we go on a drive in her stylish old Mercedes-Benz SL and where she introduces us to her favourite spots and close friend and business partner Vanessa Fuentes.
You have already done a lot in the course of your career and don’t like being pinned down, something we have in common. Tell me how you ended up being a photographer.
In a roundabout sort of way, although when I was a young girl, I would already organize photo shoots at home with friends and my younger cousins. I would dress them up and have them pose in front of a wall, just like the real thing. I suppose that was when it all started.
So that was your first attempt at styling too?
Yes, exactly. But back then, I wasn’t planning on a career in photography or styling. When I was 15, I was asked whether I wanted to model. So I did that for ten years, but I never had any great ambition, I saw it more as a sideline. It meant I was already earning my own money at that age which enabled me to do a lot, but I also missed quite a lot of school time. I found it all too tedious. I wanted things to happen quickly. Luckily, my parents were very liberal. After that, I started up an agency with my boyfriend at the time, a graphic designer, and tried to publish art photographs in magazines. Then we launched our own magazine.
What was it called?
Neue Mode Magazine. It started off as a local project in Frankfurt, then we went national, and at some point we were ready to go international. That was a really great time. At some point I was so involved in this magazine business that I lost interest in standing in front of the camera and travelling so much.
So you began working as a stylist. How did you get started?
I applied to agencies that represent stylists and ended up with Nina Klein in Cologne. I have been with her for almost 16 years now. It was a great way to get started, because they did everything for me, from organizing go-sees to writing invoices and negotiating salaries… I was able to focus on the creative side of things while somebody else managed the business. We could have done with that kind of support with our magazine.
And how did you end up doing photography?
At first, my agent encouraged me to get into art direction but at some point she said, “You really should buy a camera and start shooting.” I just thought “I’ve got no training in photography, I don’t know the first thing about it.” But I had a Polaroid, a SX70, and just started taking lots of photos with it. With a Polaroid, you have to think more before you shoot a picture, you wait for the right moment instead of picking out the perfect image from hundreds later on – I loved that aspect of it.
But you didn’t stick with it. What was the next camera you bought?
A Panasonic GF1, a really cute little camera. At the time, I started taking photos with my friend Vanessa Fuentes, who had studied photography. We’ll meet her later. We’ve been doing photography together for five years now. I have since returned to analogue photography. It’s so exciting to wait for the film without being able to see straight away what you have photographed.
You were born and bred right here in Frankfurt and have stayed here despite having travelled the world. Why?
It’s ideal because I feel totally at ease here, because it’s my home base and something like a safe haven, a kind of den. That’s important to me. My friends are here, my sister, my parents – and my husband has his agency here too. I think nowadays it doesn’t really matter where you live. I have to be in a city where things happen fast – I can go anywhere I want and the airport is easy to get to. I love Frankfurt, you can walk everywhere and don’t ever really feel alone. I can lie down on the grass by myself in Grüneburgpark and feel at home. I don’t need to live in a town with lots of business – I prefer to go there and then come home again.
What would you like to do that you haven’t done yet?
Do you mean professionally? Or something else?
(Thinks) I’ve always wanted to do a road trip! To drive across America in a cool car.
You already have the cool car. What model is it?
It’s a gold Mercedes-Benz 350 SL from 1973. I haven’t had anything done, even the radio is still the original one, although I’ve lost the code. So I always have my Jawbone Jambox with me.
What do you like most about the car?
Quite honestly, I just find it to be stylish! But it was a lucky find, with very little mileage, a sunroof, just perfect. My husband was really the one who was looking for a vintage car, so one day he got a call from our garage. They had a customer whose husband had passed away and she wanted to sell his second car. My husband showed me the photo and said it wasn’t what he was looking for. I just looked at the picture and said “Buy it now! I want that car.” (laughs) The car was in storage over the winter, so Vanessa and I brought a jump lead with us yesterday, just in case, but then it started straight away. Unbelievable! I was pumped.
How do people react to the car? You don’t see that colour very often, and it still looks fabulous.
I have fun classifying all the different looks I get. From the young guy who thinks “What is she doing in a wicked car like that”, to the sweet elderly couple where he says to her “Do you remember, darling, we had one like that too.” I find it very entertaining.
What’s a normal day like in your life? Is there such a thing as a normal day?
Yes, I have two children after all. I get up every morning at 7:20 am – always feeling like I’ve been knocked over the head with a baseball bat. I’ve tried everything, but we just aren’t early risers. None of us are. Then I rush around getting the kids’ clothes ready, making sandwiches etc. until everyone is out of the house and I have some time to myself. If I haven’t got a job on, that is. First, I go for a round of kickboxing, I’m addicted to it, and then I usually meet Vanessa in Plank in the Bahnhofsviertel district for breakfast. We often sit there for hours, talking about things, more or less opening our office for the day.
Working from a cafe is my thing too. What do you do when you have a day off?
If I have a day with nothing at all planned – and they are few and far between – I enjoy simply doing nothing, just hanging out at home.
What is the greatest source of inspiration for your work?
Travelling. Our friends refer to us as the “holiday family”. We try to get away as often and for as long as we possibly can. That’s why we decided to go on a world trip two years ago before our eldest daughter started school. That was the best decision we ever made.
Who would you like to photograph, dead or alive?
George Clooney. Vincent Gallo. Monica Bellucci. And Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters!! I would die of excitement! But George Clooney would be ok too. Preferably naked.
You like photographing people naked, don’t you?
I do. Vanessa always warns them, be careful, she’s going to take your clothes off in a minute. But it has to be sexy and the person has to be right. They don’t have to have model looks, it’s their personalities that have to be beautiful and interesting.
Thank you Nada for the interview and the drive through our common home Frankfurt in your SL. It goes without saying that all of the glances from the curb were duly noted and analysed in great detail.