This interview was originally published in Volume IX, July 2021.
Daniel Pannemann is a man of many talents but few words.
The definition of an enigma, if you will.
Having grown up in the sleepy town of Bad Zwischenahn, Daniel left home and moved to Berlin, going on to become one of Germany’s most unique skateboarders over the last decade, casually blending power and precision with an effortless style. His unwavering love for skateboarding led to him becoming the editor-in-chief of Place Skate Culture, arguably Europe’s most diverse and forward thinking skate publication. Yet for all his talents on a skateboard and his distinct approach to reinventing skate print media, Daniel’s most engrossing trait is his photography. Often quirky, sporadically contrastive, but always intriguing, Daniel’s idiosyncratic eye for the disparate and peculiar ways an image is formed is a refreshing novelty in an oversaturated world of copycats.
Hey Daniel, thanks for doing this interview, I know you tend not to do many interviews but you’ve done a few in recent times it seems?
Yeah, I’m usually just the guy who’s not talking that much. It’s been a bit weird for me. Explaining myself is usually exactly the opposite of what I’m doing. I normally just let my work or skating do the talking, you know? And I’m not really the guy who wants to explain it. I guess sometimes you have to, and I have the time right now, so I’ve been saying yes to a lot of things recently.
I guess when people get older, they get a little more confident. They’re perhaps more outgoing?
Right! But I’m also questioning myself like, ‘Why do you guys want to hear me all of a sudden?’ Like, ‘What happened?’ Especially in a year like this. Where nothing happened! All of a sudden, people are starting to ask me questions.
It’s perhaps because you’re a bit of an enigma! Daniel, you’re a bit of an introvert I think. No one really knows a great deal about you. Your Instagram tends to consist of quirky photos and rad skateboarding, which is great. But you’re not the selfie video guy that’s gonna talk to the camera.
Sometimes I wonder what happens if I just become that person? Just to fuck with people. I find it strange. Like, how people that don’t know you talk to you via Instagram, how they dm you. It confuses me because they talk to me, and most of the time I don’t talk back to them. And I’m like, ‘Wow, you talk to me like you know me’. But of course, you know me a little bit because you constantly see stuff from me. And in your mind, you kind of know me. That’s a super weird situation, for me at least.
Yeah, I always wonder how I’m perceived by strangers on Instagram. Like do I come across as pretentious? Do I come across as weird? It’s weird how one post can make you lose 25 followers.
Haha yeah, I don’t care about that too much. It’s kind of funny as well, like, confusing people is the best thing you can do. Use it as a tool to confuse people. That’s what I like (laughs).
So with regards to your photography, did you go to uni and study it? What was your education like?
No, never. I hated school. I hated everything that came with it. And I didn’t really belong in the school system. Not that I was a bad student. I was okay, pretty average I would say. But I felt like super, super weird in school. I wasn’t really like, in the mix with a lot of people. I would say I was more of an outsider. I kept to myself most of the time, as I still do in a way. I basically learned everything on the streets I think. Learning by doing. Fake it till you make it. Stuff like that. Just work your way through it I guess.
Did you have creative jobs growing up or was becoming the editor of Place your first real creative role?
I mean, I always had a camera with me. I was always writing. I had little articles in magazines, from a young age. So I was always in that world. And I think I didn’t even know better. I grew up in this world and then this world became my world in a way. I started working at Place—I was working basically full time from day one. And it all grew organically. It was kind of my thing in a way. I felt secure and it was fun to do. And I learned basically everything on the way. That was my studying. I just jumped into the cold water. And I was lucky that it worked!
When did you first start working there? What was the timeline for you becoming editor in-chief?
I started working for Place around 2013, I believe. I think I became editor-in-chief a little bit before 2015. And then in 2017, we bought the magazine from the previous owner.
Damn, so eight years already!
Yeah and sometimes I’m like, ‘I need to maybe do something else now. Maybe it’s time to move on from this’. And that’s when we started the agency and when we started to grow out of just being a magazine to potentially becoming a bigger agency and even working outside of skateboarding.
Is anyone in your family artistic? Do you come from a family of creatives?
Not at all! No one. My whole family is still in the same spot. I’m the only one who ever left. I’m the black sheep. Even from a young age, I was always running away from home. I took my bike and was like, ‘Fuck, I need to leave this place’. But I didn’t even know why exactly I wanted to leave so bad. So as soon as I was old enough and I could leave, I just ran and left that place. And I still feel like that. I still feel like, whenever I have to go home because I need to visit family, I have this weird stomachache, when I see that I’m getting closer to my hometown.
Yeah, exactly. I don’t even know what it is, man.
I think we all have that. It’s like nostalgia but not always good nostalgia necessarily.
Totally. And I wouldn’t say I only have bad memories because my childhood was super lovely, but it’s just not my life, you know? It’s really not my life. I don’t even know if I’m home now. But I’m on a way to maybe finding a home.
I know the feeling. So how did you get into shooting photos then?
I’ve always done it. I started when I was like, 12 or something? I always had a camera. Always shooting. So it was never really a thing. It was just there. Just like skateboarding. It only becomes a thing, when you call it out.
When you force it, I think.
Exactly. So I don’t know, it was always there. And it will always be there. Because I like to do it.
Did you ever have influences from a young age? Or any time that you discovered a photographer per say?
I think there are so many similarities to skateboarding and if you would ask me the same question in the context of skateboarding, I wouldn’t be able to give you a straight answer. Because I surround myself with my friends and I get influenced by my friends. And I take that energy from my friends. So I don’t think it’s about role models or famous photographers. I think it’s more about me and my humour and my surroundings—that’s what shapes my photography.
Well, that’s funny. My next question was where do you think your sense of humour comes from! It’s a very dry sense of humour. If no one’s really hung out with you before, they probably just don’t get it.
I think that’s maybe one of my goals. That I want people to not get it. I like that. I like when people are looking at it, and they’re like, “I don’t know. I don’t get it”. I kinda like that. And I think that humour is the only thing that is left from my home. Because people from where I’m from, their humour is like that. And it’s how they talk as well, like, they don’t talk to you. People from where I’m from don’t really talk at all. They’re super quiet. They keep to themselves. And maybe that’s the only thing left inside of me, that is actually from my hometown. It’s a very Nordish/German sense of humour. It’s weird. I don’t know what it is actually.
But then I think that almost encapsulates your photography. I mean, I don’t know how you feel about that. But I definitely feel like your humour comes through in your photography, in the way you approach certain things. In the same way that Jerry Hsu’s personality is an extension of his personality.
Yeah, you get what you pay for. I think there’s a difference between my analogue shots and my digital shots. I think in my analogue shots, it’s a bit darker. There’s still a sense of humour but it’s way darker. Actually, if you compare those, you can immediately see what I mean. The analogue ones are dark. And the digital ones are more like, bright colours and playful in a way. Because that’s how I do it. That’s how I shoot photos. I do it to make myself happy, to play around, to be happy. That’s the only reason I do it. That’s the only reason I skate too. And that’s another parallel I see there. I do both because I want to feel happy. And then, if it makes other people feel happy, I’m more than happy!
How do you think new technology has affected your photography? Because I think some of the stuff you’ve been doing recently—I might be mistaken here—but it looks like you’re playing around with the panoramic option on the iPhone.
Oh yeah! All the time!
How’s that shaped or evolved your work do you think?
Oh man, it’s so much more fun. I like the aesthetic of the iPhone shot because it’s super shitty. And it has like this disgusting digital look about it. I don’t know what it is. But I love it. And I tried other cameras, like all the system cameras. I bought one. And I had like this expensive system camera and I tried it for a month and I felt like, ‘Fuck, I don’t want to take photos anymore’. And I was so confused because I thought it was me, you know? I bought an expensive camera because someone told me that I’m good at taking photos. And I was confused by that. And I thought if I’m good at it, I need to have a good camera. And then I did it and I was so confused that I was over it. I was over taking photos. And I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ I had so much pleasure taking photos, let me just go back to where I started. Just take any camera. Try to make it work. And if it doesn’t work, whatever, if it works, that’s even better. You know?
I remember interviewing Jerome Campbell years ago, and one thing that always stuck with me was when he quoted, “The best camera you have, is the one you have with you”. He also told me that if you always carry a camera on you, you’re always looking to shoot a photo. And I kinda adopted that after.
Yeah. I would say, for me, it’s more natural. Especially with the iPhone, because I can always take a photo. So I already have that mindset, that I’m always trying to find something. And there’s another parallel to my skateboarding. I skate that way as well. I just go to random places, find something and skate it. I go to random places, find something and shoot it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I show it. Sometimes I don’t. And I think that’s the beauty of it. You can choose it. You can choose what you like. And if people like it, it’s wonderful. And if not, I still have fun doing it. For me, it’s important that nothing becomes too serious and that everything is approached without a lot of pressure. And you can see that I think. And I guess it’s also because a lot of the time I skate by myself and most of the time, I shoot photos by myself. There’s no one around. Whenever I go skate with a lot of people, I can’t skate. I just find it super stressful. I’m not a social guy. For me, it’s sometimes really hard to talk to people. I mean not like this. This is fun and I really enjoy it. But I’m not the type of person who does it a lot, you know? I mean if the weather’s nice I might decide I want to take some photos. And I go and I don’t bother anyone. Sometimes I have a good outcome. And sometimes I don’t. It’s as easy as it gets I think.
And I think that shows in both your skateboarding and your photography. It never feels too overly thought out or contrived? It feels like a very natural approach to both art forms.
Thank you. I think I couldn’t do it any other way.
I always feel everything you do is because you want to do it, not because you think it needs to be done. Do you know what I mean? Like, “I need to do this trick here because that’s what’s hip right now”, or whatever.
I tried that. And it just doesn’t work for me. So I stopped it. Same with the camera. I bought a camera. I tried it, felt shitty, so I stopped it. So I think that’s something you should always keep in mind. You can always stop what you’re doing. And you can always start something new. I think that’s a very important thing. Change your shit sometimes like, look left, look right. Don’t always look straight. I think a lot of people just look straight ahead. And I think you always have to be on the move.
Totally. That’s my favourite thing about life in general. Constantly being open to new discoveries, learning new things. That’s what I’m missing most with not being able to travel much right now.
Well, it’s just so hard to be creative or get inspired when you’re constantly in the same surroundings.
Do you think photography has lost its value in some way now, because everyone’s got a smart phone with a camera?
That’s the best thing about it. I love it. I think it’s so cool that everyone can always take photos at all times. And they do. Like, how cool is that? It’s just another tool that everyone can use. And I think some people really find meaning in their life through it. It can become their passion.
A form of creative expression.
Yeah, exactly. So I think there’s still going to be a separation between someone doing it professionally, to make a living, and someone who’s just taking photos to like gain attention on Instagram. And I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s super interesting. And you can also learn a lot about people when you look at their photos because it speaks a lot. I think it’s interesting when people think about what they want to show and how they want to be portrayed or whatever. It’s almost like a new language that everyone is speaking now through daily photography. And some people are very aesthetic with it. Some people are very concerned about the output as well, which is interesting. And some people just don’t give a fuck and post everything. Like Roland (Hoogwater) for example. He just doesn’t give a fuck and he’s just posting whatever he wants and I like that because he’s just so comfortable with that and it’s amazing.
I think a lot of people feel they have to tick boxes. Like they need to have a certain aesthetic or it’s not valued.
Of course. And it’s not all good, of course. But I don’t want to talk about the bad stuff right now. Because we all know about the bad stuff.
Touching on the relationship between skateboarding and photography, why do you think so many skateboarders shoot photos? And why are so many skateboarders good photographers?
I don’t know about good. But there’s a lot of skaters taking photos (laughs). But I think mostly it’s because if you’re a skater, you are waiting a lot and sitting around, and usually, you are conflicted with your surroundings. The architecture, the art, the movement. And that’s usually stuff you want to capture. So I think it’s a very natural thing to do if you just sit around, and you look at the nice architecture, or even the shitty architecture. You look at it for so long, and you are starting to see stuff, so of course you want to capture that. That’s how you learn. Some people take it to another level, and some are not interested at all.
Did becoming an editor-in-chief of a skate magazine change your perception towards photography? Because you obviously have to make a call on what photos go to print.
I think you need to have an eye for that and you need to have an eye for aesthetics. And if you don’t, then it’s going to be a tough job. You have to go through so many photos and you have to be honest to the people that are shooting the photos and the people that are willing to work with you. You have to appreciate that. I don’t want to say that I have a natural, extremely good eye for it but i have a big interest in it. And I was schooling my eyes as well, I was looking at a lot of stuff. I think you have to have an interest in good aesthetics because otherwise, it’s just gonna be a part of the job you don’t want to happen. So that was never a problem for me. The photo selection was always the easiest job with regards to projects because usually, we’re super involved with it. Because we usually do everything on our own, or we choose the photographer we’re working with. So the photo selection was always the easiest. Like, it was always super easy to pick and choose photos. Also with the graphic designers, we always talk the same language. And I think that’s another thing that’s important to surround yourself with. People that have or speak the same language as you. Or people that are willing to accept and learn to understand your language. And the other way around. Roland is a good example of that. He’s always listening. He’s putting his ego aside when it comes to making decisions. And we trust each other to make decisions. It’s a lot about trust.
Lastly, is there anyone you’re hyped on right now, or anyone that’s underrated and you feel deserves more attention?
Damn, that’s a bit like a “Who’s your favourite skater?” question. It’s too hard. I think in general though, it’s people that are not only focused on one topic. I think some artists, for example, Stefan Marx. His handwriting is so clear and so on point, that you always know what you get. And I talked about it with him as well because I was curious about it. His work is very commercial and he loves to work commercially. And when I heard him say that, I was like, I kinda like that. Like you appreciate your own work so much by saying that you love to be in this commercial world as well. I feel like a lot of artists have a problem with it, because they think it’s a bad thing. So…that’s not really the answer to your question. But what I want to say is, I like when people are confident in their work, and sometimes that confidence shows through their work. And then it’s not even just about the aesthetic. It’s also about the confidence and the personality of the person that is presenting the work. So, as I said, it’s hard for me to answer the question because I look at a lot of stuff and I get inspired by a lot of stuff. But…I like people that are all over the place and do a lot of shit and are confident with it.