During my apprenticeship as a professional photographer in 2005, the original idea is coming up to take high-resolution photographs of the human iris and transforming them into a piece of art.
The earliest version of the Iris Camera System evolves a few years later after countless experiments with the eyes of friends and colleagues. Shortly afterwards, in August 2012 at the ´VuuV´, a music festival in Germany, my first public sales exhibition takes place. At first declining my girlfriend's offer to help, because I don't think there's enough work for two people. How am I wrong: After four days and four sleepless nights with many enthusiastic customers it becomes clear - the foundation for a new business model has been laid.
Whilst I continue to make an appearance at markets and trade fairs, my beroom falls victim to the production and packaging of pictures. The bed becomes a work table and soon almost every surface is covered with paper and shipping cartons. This collage of wood workshop, photo studio, picture production, office and warehouse moves into the first rented studio in 2013. Finally a laboratory for the continuous development of the camera.
From 2014 on, it is not only me working full-time on my project; my friend Olivier Colin, also photographer, is joining me for support. Together we found the company "Kollektiv Lumen GbR" in September 2015, which still exists today. A short time later we hire the first employee for our image production. In this way Olivier and I can fully concentrate on the marketing of products and the further development of our technology and our company.
A major technical innovation is the development of a sophisticated lighting system and a unique camera control. Olivier`s comment to me: "Are you crazy? Way too complicated!" I, on the other hand: " This an't be too difficult."
In autumn 2015, our trainee is introducing us to Philipp Weiss - a student of electrical engineering. Together we soon realize that my ideas for the lighting system and camera control are more complicated and that the demands always increase with the possibilities. Phillips part-time job then turns into a permanent employment at our company and he is still an important part of the team today. Now, in 2020, the camera system is ready for series production in version 3.0.
During numerous events in Hamburg we develop an enthusiasm for the city and then spend the pre-Christmas season 2015 with our IRIS PHOTO stands at a Christmas market in Altona and the Elbe Einkaufszentrum - a weird alternation of cold weather with mulled wine and department store air with clouds of perfume.
One evening Olivier tells me about a customer in Ibiza, who is very enthusiastic about our pictures and thinks a gallery on the island could be very successful. Olivier is hooked immediately. I am rather critical at first.
In March 2016 we are exploring the island of Ibiza. Now the spark jumps over and I start feeling the enthusiasm as well. So we make plans to open a gallery the within a year.
The following summer Olivier and I are spending on tour almost non-stop. Often on two markets at the same time. Like that the business is growing and developing "on the road" so to speak - thanks to laptop and increasing mobile data volume.
At the end of June, during a trip to Barcelona, Olivier receives enthusiastic feedback from a gallery owner about the iris photography. This is when Olivier's vision is born - to no longer present our work at street markets and fairs, but to operate through galleries instead. Again, I am being sceptical at first.
Half a year later, however, I realize that the quality of our product simply has become too good for markets in the street, so we decide to say goodbye to bratwurst and pottery and focus fully on our new gallery in the old town of Ibiza.
In March 2017 this first IRIS PHOTO gallery opens it´s doors. Here finally we get the chance to gather first experiences with the gallery and franchise business at a fixed location. Our gallery concept is developing steadily until the beginning of 2020, with locations in Barcelona, Nice, Zurich, Hamburg and Brussels. The in-house image production is growing; in the end we are working in a space of 220 square meters with five employees.
In the meantime various suppliers with suspiciously similar ideas and techniques have appeared on the market. A patent attorney advises us to protect the constantly improving technology from curious eyes - not with expensive and ineffective patents, but simply by covering the entire camera system. So, a cover is needed - with the pleasant side effect of giving the tangle of cables, plugs, lights and screws an attractive shape.
After a few experiments in basic modelling, it is obvious that such a new technology doesn't belong in a dusty wooden case. The first 3D printer finds its way into our house - a new challenge that Philipp and I are excited to take on.
In April 2017 we attend the "World Art Dubai" - an international contemporary art fair. Many other art fairs follow - in Amsterdam, Zurich, London, Brussels, Budapest and Strasbourg.
Since March 2020 the corona pandemic has forced us to rethink our business model. We abandoned our locations in France and Spain and closed our in house image production. We have used the time of the lockdown to focus on our core competencies - the technology and know-how to produce perfect iris photographs with a resolution and quality high enough to print huge image formats. And we have established a strong brand with a harmonious business concept, which we are excited to share with other franchise partners.
A lot of time, know-how, books, research and development, 3D printer, electronical implementation, lighting performance - enter in our laboratory.