Koto Bolofo: The Art Of Good Photography Is Spontaneousness

Fellow Fstoppers reader Alex Masters sent me an interesting video featuring fashion photographer Koto Bolofo. In this behind the scenes video for German Vogue, Koto is collaborating with fashion stylist Christiane Arp to create images that have both a circus influence and also an early photography feel. It's refreshing to hear Koto talk about how a shoot of this nature comes together, and how having an initial guideline can lay the groundwork for improvisation and spontaneity. I think the final photos capture the mood everyone was going for on this shoot and model Elena Sudakova helped bring the circus performer element with her crazy flexibility.

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Andreas Feustel's picture

What a nice guy! I could listen to Koto Bolofo for hours. Interesting, that he is using constant lighting in this set. He says: "let the child play". In my opinion, the best way to work with a professional model.

Thank you for posting this video!

Andreas (Germany)

Marvin Hagemeister's picture

Totally agree. Seems to be such a nice guy! And he has such a cool attitude!

Perfect ! what a beautyfull photoshooting

Nana Kofi Acquah's picture

Really nice guy

Everything just comes together so well. I love how he emphasizes the free spirit during the shoot even after everything is planned prior.

Always been a fan of his. His color is amazing. Thanks for posting!

really love the video , and the way to use koto to work, the simple thing, the honest way, really love, the music used in the video, wow, i try to find in shazam the names, but , can´t get it, if someone, knows the tracks names , please share

I really love Koto's energy. It is infectious and inspiring. A wonderful video.

Joop van Roy's picture

I must be the only one who finds this video very annoying... I'm also getting quite a pretentious vibe from it all.

You took the words out of my mouth. When you shoot stuff like this almost all the weight is carried by the model and the clothes. He shot it in portrait which is very simple in studio. I'm sorry but this is just very average and over the top. He does seem like a nice guy but this was a dull shoot.

Pretentious? If you think this video is pretentious, don't watch any other fashion BTS. This is about a 1 on the pretentious scale, Mario Testino summarizing his "busy schedule" is like a 10. This guy was nice! Also I liked how they talked about the art direction of the shoot. You don't see stuff like that too often. I thought this was golden!     

Koto is probably one of the top image makers in the history of photography. He learned to shoot in natural light because he couldn't afford lights. They need to make a movie on Koto. BTW Joop van Roy. Avedon was such a huge fan of his that he came to see Koto in London when he was just 29 years.

"The art of good photography is spontaneousness " Awesomeness

Scott Morrison's picture

Koto has a great attitude and view on photography, i respect him very much. But if that is the height of spontaneity in the fashion industry I want no part of it. That wasnt spontaneous at all, that was just bouncing ideas with the team. Spontaneous is scraping the whole plan and going somewhere never imagined to get something out of the ordinary. I must say the pictures are amazing however.

Patrick Hall's picture

 Does spontaneity require a minimum amount of time?  I think what he meant was they had the background elements and the outfits but overall they weren't sure where they were going.  If you bounce fresh ideas around with a team 40 mins before shooting, does that not still make it spontaneous?

Scott Morrison's picture

Precisely what I was saying, for them that may be spontaneous. It is spontaneous but only to a degree. I guess I just like being in situations very far away from what I know. Thats when I create the pictures I like because I haven't seen them run across my screen a hundred times before. No minimum amount of time, just something different.

William Jason Wallis's picture

I like this because he is using continuous light instead of flash (it seems) and film


Joop van Roy's picture

@colorspace:disqus I understand what they're trying to say and i mostly agree with the whole 'play is good' message, but it all seems so incredibly contrived and faked in the video... i guess it just gets under my skin.

I think your own inability to let go and freely express yourself is manifesting itself in your perception of others. Sad, that.

I agree Alex. This is what happens when Avedon comes to you. Bottom line Koto is incredible. Huge heart. Creates beautiful images. I loved that Neiman Marcus shoot. Amazing.


It was obvious that he raved about the fashion stylist Christiane but I would have given equal kudos to the model Elena Sudakova. It was her posing abilities, energy, and expression that gave the images and the fashion life.

Wow that's weird, the whole time I thought he was talking about the model. hmmmmm. She seemed great.
Anywho...I enjoy eloquent people, confident in every word they say and not scared to play around. That's probably why he got to where is more then another photographer who is just as good. Personality goes a long way.

Rock Urias's picture

I had the privileged of working for Koto for over 5 years,I used to do his contact sheets as well his fine art prints from time to time.

he showed me a whole new way of looking at things.