Martin Johannes Kielmann is a Photographer and Art Director. His fashion assignments take him all over the world, and he has worked on numerous fashion shoots. In 2019, his photography career brought him to Tanzania’s cotton fields. The pictures he took of the initiative’s activities there illustrate this year’s annual report for CmiA.
What were your motivations and expectations when you arrived in this east African country?
I loved the fact that I was in Tanzania to photograph smallholder farmers—some of whom had never had their picture taken before—rather than professional models. For me, that is the best kind of photography, and my work in Tanzania was a real journey of discovery. It allowed me to reveal the characters and personalities of the people behind Cotton made in Africa through my photos. I fully immersed myself in the situation, letting the people in front of the camera speak for themselves and allowing my usual methods and habits to fade into the background.
What were your most memorable moments or experiences?
In the studio, the focus is on process, procedure, and organisation. In Tanzania, the most important thing was to capture the moment. The opportunity for a good picture comes about by chance and can be over in seconds. I was also inspired to see the people in a new light: natural and authentic, exuding extraordinary calmness and friendliness as well as deep humility towards the resources and the work by which they make their daily living. In retrospect, numerous photos reveal—in addition to pride and respect for nature—a focus on the subjects’ hands, representing the human skill that is essential to living in this environment. I was immensely affected by a visit to a primary school, where we played football with pupils during break time. It was great—one of the best experiences I have ever had on a trip.
What would you like to tell consumers and fashion labels?
To spend some time taking a closer look and asking themselves, “What am I really wearing?” I was deeply impressed by the people who produce the cotton for our clothes and by the work they do. I will never forget seeing how many people are involved in the production and processing of the raw material.