2021 AG Photographer of the Year - Andreas Pollok

With 35 Artistic Guild award-winning images in his 2021 portfolio, it comes as no surprise that Andreas Pollok was named the 2021 Artistic Guild of the Wedding Photojournalist Association Photographer of the Year. His versatile style lends itself to this premier contest, which honors photographers who take an artistic approach to wedding photography.

As anyone who scans Pollok's galleries will see, he appears to go to great lengths to ensure that no two images are the same. His commitment to composing authentic images while creating a work of art is unlike anything else that is seen throughout the wedding photography industry — but surprisingly, these distinct, one-of-a-kind images often happen organically. "To be honest, I don't have the aspiration to always create something new," Pollok explained. "I will follow my own thought process in finding the light, and then I do the rest and I hope that something new is coming out of it."

Light plays a central role in any portrait that Pollok takes. Whether he is capturing a bride who is bathed in the glow of natural light, or he is using his own light in a creative way that transforms the image, Pollok makes lighting a top priority whenever he is shooting. "When I am taking images, I only look for the light," Pollok said. "I am obsessed in finding good and interesting light. I like any kind of light: backlight, hard light and also flashlight and existing artificial light."

But there is one type of lighting that disappoints Pollok — muted natural light caused by cloudy days. While some photographers prefer the clouds because they eliminate shadows, Pollok finds that the natural sunlight casts an effervescent glow that is ideal for highlighting the warmth and romance of a wedding day.  "I don’t like cloudy days," he said. "When I don’t find good light, I try to create my own light with some flashes. But most of the time I play with natural light."

By beginning the process with a search for the best possible lighting, Pollok transforms the wedding portrait session experience. He is thoughtful and purposeful in his approach, and as a result, his images stand out in the crowd. "When I find the good light, the next step is to decide where I put my couple," he said. "This is how I work. I start always with the light, and then I decide what’s around the light and can I integrate this in my picture. And not the other way."

For Pollok, every portrait is an opportunity to tell the story of the couple's wedding day — and to showcase the love that they share for one another. With this in mind, he works to use his couples as the subject of the photo, while also giving priority to the environment that surrounds them. He feels that by incorporating the scene — and all of the poignant details that are hiding in the background — he is able to create a masterpiece that the couple will cherish for years.

Of course, any experienced photographer can develop a style and begin to rely too heavily on their favorite tried-and-true techniques. But Pollok avoids this common pitfall by creating annual challenges for himself. In 2021, for example, he pushed himself to separate his couples more often, and to capture more solo portraits of his brides and grooms. "I spice this up, and try to separate the bride and groom," he explained of his latest self-induced challenge. "When I separate them, I also do individual portraits of both of them. So I always have a nice selection of one scenery. I like to show the bride in interesting light and the groom as a silhouette, or vice versa. But I (also) like shadows. Sometimes in my images, there are more shadows than light — but this helps me to show only the interesting things."

By keeping his creativity on edge using these self-imposed challenges, Pollok ensures that every gallery he produces is fresh, interesting and engaging. In the past, some of the challenges that he has given himself include increasing his work with double exposures and using specific types of color gels in this work. Looking ahead to 2022, he is continuing to push his boundaries and force himself to try new things. "For this year, I want to create one image per wedding with a very slow shutter speed and include different kind of lights," he said.

From dramatic black and white portraits set against geometric backgrounds to whimsical outdoor portraits taken during the fleeting golden hour, Pollok's portfolio is one of the most diverse wedding photography galleries that anyone could ever find. It is not often that you will find a photographer whose style is so fluid, and who knows that they are required to keep challenging themselves in order to move forward in an ever-changing industry.

And what is the key to Pollok's endless supply of creativity? Well, it seems that he truly just likes what he does — and he uses the elements that he prefers most to create captivating images. "I like symmetric images. I think that symmetry can have a strong impact in photos," he said. "But you need other elements like leading lines or some kind of framing, that make the symmetry work. Otherwise, it is better to put the object outside at the edges. I also like to play with foreground and background elements, and also to split the couple in foreground and background."

He may have been named the Artistic Guild Photographer of the Year for 2021, but don't expect Pollok to shy away from these contests in the future. "I really like the AGWPJA Contest," he said. "Because I think my images fit perfectly in this contest."

Published on March 22, 2022