Inspired by nature and the rawness of the world, Julian Schröpel’s only way to live is through creativity. Having started as a graphic designer and photographer, today he tells us how he transitioned to music video direction.
Julian Schröpel is an authentic graphic designer, art director, director, and photographer based in Helsinki, Finland. With a deep love for modern art, photography, and graphics he is specialized in branding for music artists, companies, and fashion brands.
Today, we chat with the artist to understand more about his path and sources of inspiration.
Who is Julian? Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m a German photographer and art director living in Helsinki, capturing the vicinity and intimacy of emotions and people in my portraits.
Water is a source of inspiration for me, an element I grew up surrounded by. In my photography, I seek to maintain a level of rawness and a variety of emotions. Just like water changes from still, warm, and welcoming to harsh, stormy, and unpredictable. To bring emotions alive, I use color, light, and shadow as my signature.
How did your journey evolve from graphic designer and photographer to video director for music video clips?
Being a passionate music lover and a visually expressive person, my path to start working with music videos always felt like something that was about to happen. I always dreamt about inspiring others by being able to convert the stories in my head to visuals and films that represent the pictures and moods I’d envisioned.
Little by little, I received more tools to express myself. Photography has always been an important companion for me to capture moments. Whenever I would hold a camera in my hand, I’d find admiration for small and unusual details from different points of view.
After a while, I started expressing myself in more abstract forms through graphic design. The realism, surrealism — the million creative possibilities the art of graphics offer is an infinite source of inspiration for me. Artists like Storm Thorgerson, whose album cover for Pink Floyd for “Pulse” (which I found in my parents’ CD collection) still remains among the biggest treasures for me.
At some point, my worlds of music, photography, and graphic design started to collide. I started to translate album concepts and the music into iconic and capturing portraits and graphics. After doing art direction, album covers, and other visuals for artists for a couple of years, in November 2020 I was asked to direct my first ever music video.
You have a very emotional and characteristic style. How did you get there?
In my photography, I put my own personality in the background and try to get fully consumed by the presence of others. Trying to avoid any tension created by social encounters to reach a level of realness, to see the portrait/situation for what they really are.
Many people comment on the body language, light and shadow, human expression, and especially the depth of gaze in my photos. For me, all these build the vicinity and vulnerability that adds personality to my images. I’m not big on advising on poses or how to be. I just give ideas and support the person to enjoy the moment.
I don’t plan my shoots much in advance. For me, meeting people for the first time, sensing their personality, and looking into their eyes really sets the tone for what we’re about to do. The story hides inside that situation.
I enjoy capturing the energy I receive from the person or situation. I never expect a person who has never done a shoot before to act like a professional, since I wanna capture who they really are within the looks we thought of. The shoot can be artsy, but still, I wanna find or choose a path to see the character and not a model for my idea.Julian Schröpel
How is the process of directing a music film? Are there always specific steps you follow?
Before starting the process, I try to map down what feelings, atmosphere, and aesthetics the music represents for me and how that connects to the artist’s vision. What do they want to translate through their music? I gather mood boards with images and videos that bind our ideas together, align our vision, and offer a framework for us to start building the story.
From then on it’s easier to dive deeper and get inspired. You start putting together a sort of puzzle out of the pieces provided by the pre-mapping. And those pieces can come together in different and sometimes unusual ways one wouldn’t expect. The team around me — the cinematographers, stylists, and of course the record label people — all bring in their vision and inspire the final storyline.
I also like to share and give responsibility to the creative minds around me to “fill in the blanks.” I find it exciting to give a hint or seed of an idea to the team and see what they come up with. It’s like we’re translating a language but interpreting it differently, but in the end, we all understand each other somehow.
How is the collaboration like between the artist and yourself in such projects?
It differs from project to project, how the artists themselves are involved in building the vision. Whenever possible, I find it valuable to give the artists a lot of space in the process and perhaps get to know them as a person — to see how they wanna express their music. I really enjoy finding conversations where you get into a certain state of mind and you get unstoppable bouncing back thoughts that you constantly improve.
In other projects, there is a clear red thread or a story already in place, and I try to strengthen it visually. Then I mainly use the raw songs, earlier releases, and artwork as references to build on. Sometimes I also take inspiration from the artist’s name, song titles, and genre.
I compare the entire process with growing a tree. I am seeking at the beginning for the seeds to start with, making sure they can grow roots that enable you to grow into the full potential and reach out to new branches and directions. I try not to limit the growth with too much realism. There is always room to compromise or reduce ideas later.
What was your favorite project so far?
The music videos I directed and shot together with cinematographer Joni Helminen on behalf of Sony Music Finland for their artist WIL is definitely one of my best experiences. Seeing for the first time how your own idea of a story, characters, and emotions can come to life in a video is special.
This project in particular had a lot of songs that were about stories and emotions that I experienced myself and was able to find and grow a unique connection to all of this.
In a perspective of not just a client, but as a friend who wants to share with you his feelings and stories, my goal is to create music videos that are personal and live from the same strength of my emotional and characteristic style in photography too.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I am always amazed to discover new things and places. Seeing how alive the world around me shapes its unique forms or colors inspires ideas for my next project or video. Observing the outdoors is probably the strongest influence on my work to make it feel still quite natural and intimate.
The music and the sounds of a song help me to find the direction of energy, atmosphere, or even how colorful and loud the styling should be represented.
Close people in my circles always inspire me to be honest to myself and open to change in order to discover the essence of something new and refreshing. If I have a song about a specific atmosphere I go for a walk to see what it reveals through bad or good weather.
There are various approaches, but the ones above are by far my favorites apart from movies and classic inspiration.
To see more of Julian Schröpel‘s work visit his Cherrydeck profile or his Behance, here. If you are a creator and would like to join Julian and other talented people in the Cherrydeck community, signup for an account, here.