​industry insi-Der: daniel sannwald

We meet the filmmaker who brings M.I.A and Hudson Mohawke’s visions to life, as he shares his experiences in the industry, his advice on how to get ahead, and his thoughts on his career so far.

by Tom Ivin
02 December 2015, 2:54am

Daniel Sannwald is the director who breathed life into M.I.A.'s Y.A.L.A., and Kelela's A Message for i-D, and here we present his latest music video for Hudson Mohawke's haunting track Indian Steps, with vocals from Anthony Hegarty. In a high concept abstract narrative based on Rodin's The Kiss, Sannwald's latest film for i-D is a study in the endless nature of love between two human souls.

Tell us about the concept of the video for Indian Steps.
It's about love. It's about the end of a relationship between two lovers who send their love into a scared place. It's about having a special and deep bond with someone, and the moment when it comes to an end, but a moment when there is still so much love and warmth. I strongly believe that every deep love has its own place and space, and therefore lives forever.

The inspiration for the video comes from the marble sculpture The Kiss by Rodin. For the video, I recreated that sculpture with two elderly bodies. It was very touching and moving to see two ageing bodies in such an intimate way. I wanted to use the bodies as a symbol of time but also to capture the beauty of such vulnerable bodies.

What drew you to the song?
I am a big fan of Antony's vocals and I really loved the lyrics. One of my passions in life is poetry and for me Antony's lyrics are like beautiful poems.

Your style of photography is very distinctive, how easy is it to translate that style to film?
My old work was strongly inspired by German silent movies and Fritz Lang films. When I started out I tried to combine the old with something from the future. Eight years ago, a journalist invented the term TECH-NOIR for me and since then, my work has been a blend of Film Noir and Techno Club images. But I've always had a strong interest in film. In the last two years I have started to explore the medium of video, and it's something I'm enjoying more and more.

Is narrative something you're conscious of in photography too?
Not really. My early photography work was about story but very abstract; I think I am quite cubist in my way of story telling. Film allows me to develop a stronger narrative in my work again.

When and how did you start your career?
The day I started to "see".

What's the best thing about working in film?
I really enjoy the teamwork and the process! It's a much longer process then working with a photographer, and film crews can spend a long time together on one project. I just finished a video commercial and I was travelling with my team for almost 4 weeks around Europe. I really like that you have the time to get to know each other more deeply.

What's your proudest achievement to date?
I think the time when I was volunteering and being part of an organisation for befriending lonely elderly people. I had the beautiful experience to meet an old lady called Rose. I shared the last two years of her life with her, and as much as she was a blessing and inspiration, I know that I was the same for her.

I was next to her in hospital just shortly before she passed away and she told me that day how wonderfully grateful she is for all the light I brought into her life again. It was a bittersweet moment for me, and I remember walking out of the room and being so overwhelmed with emotion that I collapsed and passed out for a few minutes in the hospital.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry, past or present, who would you collaborate with and what would you collaborate on?
I will answer that with a person not related to fashion. My father passed away when I was very young and my memories are weakened each day, there are months I wouldn't think of him as we had so little time to share in the time we had with one another. He was working as an art photographer and filmmaker. I think I would pick my father and would use that collaboration as a dialogue between father and son.

What's the biggest change you've witnessed in the industry since you started?
Everything becomes faster and people have more expectations. Advertising clients become a bigger role in editorials.

What three rules do you live by?
To try and be open, kind, and patient. It's not so easy sometimes but its good to remind yourself.

If you weren't a photographer and filmmaker, what would you be doing?
I like to work with people and communities a lot, I guess I would work in social work. I used to work with handicapped kids and in elderly care and really enjoyed it.

What advice would you give young photographers hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Believe in your own footsteps.

Finish the sentence, fashion makes...
…me try out different colour combinations. 


music video
fashion industry
Hudson Mohawke
music video director
The Message
Daniel Sannwald
fashion interviews
music interviews
industry insider
indian steps