Life On The Road
What’s it like being an acclaimed automotive photographer? Stephan Bauer reveals all.
To any motoring-minded observer, 32-year-old photographer Stephan Bauer is living every car enthusiast’s dream life – one that largely consists of travelling to exotic locations to take stunning pictures of even more exotic vehicles.
Robb Report caught up with Bauer on the eve of yet another international car week to see if the reality matches the dream. Spoiler alert: it does … and then some.
Robb Report: Let’s start at the beginning — how did you first get into automotive photography?
Stephan Bauer: My first job was working in Detroit as an art director. But Europe was on my mind, and is definitely home to the cars I like working with. So I moved to Germany, and the goal was always to quit working and go full-time into photography.
It was one of those things where you keep waiting for the perfect moment, but that moment never comes. So in 2016 I set myself a 12-month deadline to quit my job, whether I thought I had enough photography clients or not. I knew if I tried and failed it would be ok, but to never try was something I’d always regret. The first two years were an absolute disaster. But I pushed on and turned it around, and I’ve been a professional photographer ever since.
Which passion came first, cars or photography?
Definitely cars. I’ve been car crazy since I was a little kid, and then as a teenager I started getting interested in photography. I realised bringing those two worlds together was my entry into working in the automotive industry and it kind of snowballed from there. I love classic cars, that’s the stuff I gravitate toward, and that I really have a passion for. So high-end classic cars and high-end modern cars — anything in the higher bracket of the market — is the niche I work in and most of it came from me doing private work with the owners of some of these vehicles.
Not many people get to work in a field they truly love every day. It must feel great?
It’s a crazy lifestyle and sometimes the travel is too much and it all catches up with me. But I feel so fortunate that I’m able to make a living from working in my dream job, and that I get paid to spend time with the cars I’ve loved since I was three years old.
There must be some challenges, though?
The travel definitely puts strain on your relationships – it’s not easy, that’s for sure. I’m away for around half the year on average, and it can be very difficult for people to understand that lifestyle.
How do you maintain the inspiration?
It’s not really the cars, but what I can do with them that inspires me. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most collectible, or most valuable, vehicle in the world — if I can’t do something special in the photography then it feels wasted. So that’s the inspiration to evolve as a photographer.
You do more travel than your average spy — do you have a home base or would you be in it too infrequently to bother?
Well, I was born in Vienna, Austria. I grew up mostly between the USA and Canada. Right now I’m living in Munich, Germany, and spending my winters in Cape Town, South Africa. There’s not much happening in Europe over winter, so I started spending my winters there to have some warm weather and to shoot some crazy cars.
Your portfolio is overflowing with amazing cars and experiences, but is there one project that really stands out?
We did a road-trip for a TV show called The Drive in 2017, which was a race across Iceland with a McLaren 570 GT and a Ford F-150 Raptor. So the Raptor would go straight through Iceland off-road, and the McLaren would take the loop road around the county. Even getting there was a crazy adventure – we drove from Germany to Denmark, took a two-day ferry to Iceland, then drove them through to Reykjavik. Those cars were like UFOs over there, it was insane.
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