The Photography of Johannes Höhn a.k.a. Pangea | Grailify
The Photography of Johannes Höhn a.k.a. Pangea

The Photography of Johannes Höhn a.k.a. Pangea

There are many photographers in and around the world of sneakers who stand out for their approach and imagery. There has been an explosion of creativity in recent years. But Johannes Höhn does more than that. He has not only found his own way, but has also inspired others and helped to create a movement. Combining what he learned in streetwear and sneaker photography with outdoor explorations, he founded the collective "German Roamers", which became enormously successful and led to collaborations with brands and even a book.
Johannes, besides classic sneaker shots, you are best known for your unique approach to outdoor photography. What were the first outdoor trips that sparked your interest in this world, and how did this change come about?
It was around mid-2014, I remember being totally impressed by some of the images I saw on Instagram. Most of my photography at the time was focused on sneakers and streetwear, somehow I was struggling to find "that thing" in photography that fulfilled me. Then when I stumbled across the outdoor photography of Hannes Becker (Germany) and Dylan Furst (Pacific Northwest, USA), I felt really inspired and motivated to go out and try to take nature photos as well. I think it was in November 2014 when I went to my local forest for the first time to take some shots. I had no idea how to do it, I just did my thing and tried to capture it the way I wanted. Not long after my first excursions into German nature, I felt that this was something I could spend more time with and focus my photographic activities on.
White Island Vulkan, New Zealand
The name "Pangea" has also been around for a long time. The name describes a supercontinent in prehistoric times, so it's somehow about a global or travelling theme. Was that your intention when you chose the name?
Not at all. When I chose the name Pangea Productions, I was still making skate videos. I chose the name around 2007, at a time when I wasn't even making photos. At the time I just thought I needed a cool name for my video productions and wanted to use an alliteration with the letter "P". During my research, I came across the term "Pangea", which I really liked both in terms of sound and meaning. Now, more than ten years later, I have to say that things have evolved towards the meaning of the word, so I think my name makes much more sense now than it did then.
Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada
Obviously you have two sides to photography, one outdoors and one that combines streetwear and sneakers. Can you say something about how these two passions coexist in your life? Are you separate from them or are they brothers from the same mother?
They are definitely brothers from the same mother - or father? I agree, there was a time when I posted exclusively outdoor stuff on my channel, but that has changed in the last few months. I've evolved as a photographer, and I still do with every photo or image I take. I think it's an important process, and especially for me - who taught myself everything - my skills, interest and interpretation of photography have changed a lot over the last few years. What has been there from the beginning is the urge to somehow combine these two worlds: Sneakers, streetwear and nature. It was a balancing act for sure, but to this day it is a very positive challenge to combine and experiment with both elements. As for my IG feed, my attitude has also changed a lot in the last few years. Nowadays, I just post anything I'm proud of and enjoy - be it an epic nature, atmospheric street shots or a cool sneaker animation. I've realised that it's all a part of me and means something to me, so why should I separate it?
Cologne, Germany (Nike Air Max 97 Jacquard)
Why do you think landscape photography has experienced such an upswing in recent years?
I think people have simply realised that landscapes and nature are something they like to look at and can do something with. There could also be a kind of dream aspect to it. With the help of Instagram, you can explore the world and see all these crazy places. Conversely, you realised that you could become a popular photographer with landscape photos, and there were also a lot of new people coming out of that and posting more of these beautiful landscape photos. Both factors favoured each other and made the whole genre even more popular. But that's probably only a small aspect of it.

You are not only a photographer, but also a passionate sneaker fan and an integral part of the local scene. Can you describe how this scene has changed over the last ten years?
That's a difficult question. Ultimately, I think most people know the main differences between now and then. Ten years ago, there was just no sneaker hype. You could just buy the shoes you wanted, whether it was the latest Air Max x Patta collaboration or the Nike x Atmos Air Max 1 Elephant. I remember these shoes being on the shelves of local shops for months! Pretty crazy when you think about it. I remember the first big hypes coming up in 2009/2010 exactly, when a lot of Asics models came out and people were camped out in front of the shops. When I think about it, that's when it all started: limited releases, collaborations, all the things that made people crazy about shoes. Sneakers were just starting to become mainstream and attracted the attention of everyone, from young to old. I think the community was different ten years ago because everything was smaller. But I have to say that today the community is still there and still strong - I see a lot of people coming together because of the shoes. The whole product craze and the market has shifted, but at the end of the day, the interest in sneakers still brings people together, which I think is the most important part of a community.

Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy
To help us understand your day-to-day life, can you describe some of your recent or current projects?
2018 was definitely a big year because it was the first year I was completely freelance. Apart from shooting myself, a lot of it has been about organising campaigns and productions, so my work has shifted more to the producer side than the actual work as a photographer. It's super cool to see things develop and grow, benefiting from the creative network we've built up over the last few years. It feels like all the effort I've put into growing is now coming together as brands and clients appreciate the knowledge and skills we can offer.

Your favourite projects of the last three years?
The launch of our first book (German Roamers) in November 2017 was definitely something that felt absolutely unreal. It's a milestone and very special - holding a book in your hands is much more than just putting your photos online. Another favourite was a trip across Canada and the US in the summer of 2017, which took us from Whitehorse to Anchorage. It was only ten days, but we saw and experienced so much in that time - I still think back fondly. One of my absolute favourite images of all time was taken on that trip (Bear Crossing). It was all a matter of seconds, and I was the only one from our crew who could take that exact shot. It still makes me so happy when I look at it. Another favourite project was a photo session we did with adidas for their Atric release last year. Each of the main German sneaker retailers sent one of their photographers and we all got together in Duisburg to shoot for a day. These kinds of events are by far my favourite: meeting, interacting and photographing with like-minded people.
Duisburg, Germany
Many of your photos look like they took a lot of work to get into that situation in the first place. How seriously do you take your outdoor trips? Do you actually camp outdoors and walk the whole way or is that just a photo?
Most of the trips I do don't necessarily involve camping. Especially when you're in a national park, camping is often strictly forbidden! There are usually mountain huts along the way, and that's the way to properly and legally spend the night. However, most of the pictures involve a lot of work, either to get to a place, or, if the place is easily accessible - which is also common - a lot of work to create something new.

How difficult is it to take some of your shots in the early morning? What times do you have to get up to catch the great morning mist and light?
Preparation is definitely important, but one thing I've learned from shooting nature is that anything can happen! You have to look at the weather forecast, make a plan and decide where you want to go, but often things turn out very differently along the way. Getting up early is an essential part of the business, but once you've experienced an epic situation, it's not hard to motivate yourself to get up super early. It's like a drug - just the chance to see something incredible makes me get up voluntarily. Once you're on site, it's about a certain kind of flow. You have a few ideas in your head, but a lot of the creation happens spontaneously while you're there.
Skopje, Macedonia
You are the founder of the German Roamers collective, which has become very successful in the last few years. You really approached it with a community mindset instead of putting yourself at the centre. Why was it important for you to involve others?
The idea behind the German Roamers collective was simply to gather like-minded outdoor photographers from Germany on Instagram. When I saw that outdoor photography is recognised worldwide - especially for the spectacular landscapes of Canada, the USA or New Zealand - I thought to myself: "We also have some very talented people here in Germany, and we also have some very beautiful landscapes that we can show to the world!" I saw the potential of all these people and thought to myself that we have to bring them together. Fun Fact: I only knew two of them personally, the rest were chosen just because of their photos on "the gram". Today, exactly 4 years later, we are 14 people and know each other very well. We have become best friends and spend a lot of time together travelling, taking photos or drinking beer. It's completely crazy to think that it all happened because of an app.
Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada
You've obviously travelled a lot in the last few years. What were some of the best trips you were involved in?
I have to admit that I don't travel as much as people think! I'm very selective when it comes to photo travel and production. It might look like I'm travelling all year round, but the reality is very different to what people think they see on social media. Planning and organising takes a lot of time, and I'm not a person with a "I need to see every country in the world before I turn 40" bucket list. That's not something I want to live by. If you're constantly travelling, how can you think about the experiences you've had? Besides, I really like being at home, so I don't aspire to this globetrotting lifestyle. As for my favourite trips in the past, there are definitely many incredible moments and things that stick in my mind. Every trip is special in itself - it's the people you're with, the experiences you share - so it's really hard to name specific trips. My favourite countries I've travelled to so far are the Faroe Islands, Canada and Norway. I think I could spend the rest of my life exploring these countries and wouldn't need much else.
Kalsoy, Faroe Islands

Bonn, Germany
Do you have any dream destinations on your bucket list?
There are some places I would really like to see one day, for sure. Exploring Disko Bay in Greenland during the midnight sun is definitely at the top of the list, but otherwise I think I would choose my travels wisely and return to countries I enjoyed being in rather than forcing myself to see new countries.

What are your favourite destinations within two hours of your hometown of Cologne?
Number one is and always will be Eltz Castle. The place is pure magic, and even though it's overrun by tourists, influencers and photographers, I get goosebumps every time I visit it. It is simply incredible.
I also really like the Eifel National Park, the Moselle region and the village of Monschau. There are definitely a lot of great things to see near our hometown!
Eltz Castle, Germany

You have a wide range of interests beyond photography. What are some of the things that inspire you on a daily basis?
Music is an essential part of my inspiration process. Through music I get to dream and create ideas in my head. I think that at some point in my life, making music will be the craft I want to learn. I am already looking for music groups to join to get better at it. Besides music, I still do a lot of sports. In general, I would say that I love to see people who are passionate about what they do and get inspired by it.

Please name three favourite sneakers.
Air Max 1 "History of Air", Jordan I "Shattered Backboard", Nike x Bodega Footscape Woven Chukka Mid.
Hokitika, New Zealand

Tokyo, Japan
Which pair of shoes would you choose if you could only take one pair and travel around the world for a year?
Probably my adidas Terrex Free Hiker. It's super comfortable, looks good in the city and on the trail, and most importantly, it still looks good.

If you had to use only one camera and one lens for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Contax G2 with 21mm lens.

What's the next project you're going to tackle?
Next up is an editorial for The North Face featuring their Retro 90's Rage collection. I'm very excited about that as I own a few pieces from the OG Rage collection.
Kahler Asten, Germany

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