• Behind the Scenes: Friends of Friends

    Freunde von Freunden (or, "Friends of Friends") is one of our favorite destinations for discovering new creatives from all over the world. If you aren't a regular reader of the Berlin-based online magazine, you should probably head over there right now, where they publish beautifully photographed, in-depth interviews and profiles that look at the lives and homes of interesting people from all over the world. From New York artists to Belgian fashion designers, Italian winemakers to Canadian editors, we're continually inspired by their storytelling. This winter, FVF released its first book, an over 300-page anthology of 45 unique stories on people and their homes. Including work by 38 photographers and spanning 23 cities, it's a book you won't just read, but reread…and we're excited to have it freshly in-store at UO. To learn more, we talked with FVF editor Zsuzsanna Toth about how the site's beginnings, dream interviewees, and how to find inspiration in voyeurism. 

    How do you explain the concept of FVF to someone new to the project?

    The three founders, Frederik Frede, Tim Seifert, and Torsten Bergler, always wanted to do something fun for themselves while having a personal reference as their goal. 
They started the online magazine Freunde von Freunden in 2009 and started telling the stories of our creative friends in Berlin and show how they live. In 2011 it went international, and creatives suggested other people from around the globe whom we visit in their living and working environment, portraying their lives in the most authentic way. We document our observations through an interview and photos, sometimes also accompanied by video. Furthermore, on our journal, we publish in-depth articles about topics that naturally surround the creatives we feature: fashion, food, design, travel, and technology. 
    Intrinsic to the project is a sense of voyeurism. Can you talk about why you think projects like this—glimpses into other creatives' lives and routines—are so appealing?

    I feel like the era of "superstars" is over. What people are looking for nowadays is excitement and inspiration in real life through other people's real lives, in a surrounding they can identify with. The people we look up to and feel inspired by can be the aspiring young artists from that one building you pass in your street regularly, thinking about what this person living there must be like. It can be the crazy guy you see on the train everyday, or the friend of a friend of a friend you got introduced quickly at a party. Those brief encounters are often much more affecting and real than flipping trough a magazine with "celebrities."

    How does the process start for you in selecting who you want to interview?

    The name "friends of friends" still describes the concept best. We wouldn't be what we are without our amazing and constantly growing network. Since our first portrait over five years ago we keep asking our guests for suggestions of creatives in their circle of friends or profession. I also receive suggestions from our photographers and editors and external people every day which we then discuss with the editorial team. And, of course, we select people we find interesting ourselves and are keen to interview. 

    Can you share more about how the typical feature comes together—do the photographer and interviewer go together? 
What's the process like?
    We don’t work with huge teams. The "core" team always consists of one photographer and one editor (eventually there will also be a video editor too). We meet up at the work or living space of the guest and keep it simple. We work with natural light, no staging, and the conversations are happening while the day is documented on camera. 

    When you personally are conducting a piece how do you feel is the best way to go about it?

    To be honest, I like to not be too prepared. I realized that pre-planned questions and topics often disturb the natural conversation flow. Usually, the most interesting quotes and information I get don't come from an answer to a question I've prepared beforehand. 
    When I conduct an interview I am truly interested in getting to know the person. And the questions that come out of that natural curiosity are the ones that lead to an inspiring an in-depth conversation in the end. 

    What are some of your favorite homes, people, or details in the book?
One of the highlights of last year and also part of the book is the portrait of 90-year-old couple Gwen and Gawie Fagan who built their own home in Capetown. The house reflects a lifetime full of love, inspiration, trust, and experiences. I shared this portrait on my social media channels with the words "I am not afraid of getting old anymore."

    Other highlights are the extraordinary space of architects Nicky Zwaag & Joris Brouwers, and also our dear friend Claire Cottrell who contributed in many different ways to FvF in the past years. And I love to see the printed portraits of fashion designers Bruno Pieters, Helga Ruthner, photographer Hanna Putz, and Berlin-Paris "legend" Michel Würthle—all these interviews were so much fun to conduct and meant a lot to me. 

    Who are some dream features on FVF?

    That’ always tough to answer. Well if I could just list some people I would like to interview I would definitely approach the living myth Martin Margiela, Miranda July, trend forecaster Lidejwi Edelkoort, or artist Isa Genzken. Charles and Ray Eames would have been a good fit too.

    What do you think says the most about a person: is there a certain room you always ask to see or question you always ask?
I wouldn’t say it is a certain room. We also in general avoid showing the bedroom, which is probably the most intimate place in every house. I would say the most significant spots are zooming into corners. A mix, a personal, naturally-occurring curation of small things that come from different aspects of a person’s life, collected and showcased within a physical pile. That's what I like to explore. 

    Has looking inside other people's homes changed anything about your own living space?
    Good question. In my case it is hard to say because I moved five times in the last two years. Of course there was some conscious and subconscious inspiration but in the end I guess it just made me more confident not to hide certain things that are naturally part of my (everyday) life, or personal details and souvenirs that you don’t have to explain to none anyway. 

    What other magazines or editorial projects are you into at the moment?

    Offline I love to spend my weekends with 032c, The Gentlewoman, apartamento, self service, encens and ZEITMagazin. 

    What are some recent favorite online discoveries or websites?
I am following DIS magazine for a while now. And I make sure to check NYT and DazedDigital on a daily basis. Oh and I discovered idea books on Instagram, which is a great source of inspiration for book lovers.

    Freunde von Freunden at Urban Outfitters