Interview: Sebastian Magnani – Photographer and Visual Artist




Born 1985 in a small village in Canton Valais, Switzerland, surrounded by mountains, Sebastian Magnani discovered photography whilst training as a media designer in 2006. After 5 years as a creative in an advertising agency, he decided 2011 to turn his passion into a profession. Since then he has been making a living as a photographer and visual artist, based in Zurich, Switzerland. Focused on portraits, celebrities, editorials, advertising and several free projects, like the Underdogs and Undercats, where got a lot of media attention and been published on many newspapers, magazines, websites and tv-shows around the globe.

Hello Sebastian! Thanks for doing this interview! How’s life?

I’m fine, thanks. Since my move from the Canton Valais to Swiss Capitol City Berne and later to Zurich everything is great. There are a lot of photographers here, but my business is running well at the moment. I’v time for my personal projects too as you have to set prioritries.

How did you get into photography?

I made an educations as polygraph. Once a week we had a image editing training course. It started with skateboard-photography with my brother Alessandro. I took photos of bands too. Since 2011 I’m self-employed.

What do you have for an equipment?

Canon 5D SR, different Canon lenses, a Velbon tripod for architecture photography, ProPhoto external flashes. I rent Hasselblad cameras for different jobs too. 

Are there any photographers that inspire your work?

At the beginning Annie Leibovitz was an inspiration for me.  For now I didn’t try to have any rolemodels that I can find my own style.  Dan Winters is pretty cool or Damien Hirst, Peter Lindberg and David LaChappelle. I would like to show a stage-managed direction with beautiful light and a lot of black. 

You have already done a lot of portrait shootings for the swiss newspaper „Sonntagszeitung“.  What was the most interesting shooting so far?

A lot of this portrait shootings were interesting. Every person is unique. It’s always a challenge to get a good portrait. Gerhard Polt was interesting. It’s nice to have people in front of your lense that you found pretty cool back in the days. It’s a great experience and a highlight for sure. Also musicians like Extrawelt and Fink. First you see them on stage and later you have these people in front of you for a portrait. You get to know them a bit personally which is a interesting aspect. 

Harry Hohmeister was funny. Very spontanious. I have seen Pippilotti Rist live at her exhibition at the Kunsthaus in Zurich and had the chance to shoot her for the newspaper – Pretty cool experience.


You have already seen a lot of countries.  What are your favourites?

Maybe one day I would like to emigrate to the States, maybe LA or NYC. There is a lot of real professional Entertainment you won’t find here in Switzerland as you have to go out of your comfort zone one day. All the productions like films, photography are situated there. But Zurich as home base and to fly from there to the shootings is an option. I’m happy in Zurich right now. 

You got a lot of international media coverage with your personal project „Underdogs“. Where do you find ideas like this?

It was a spontanious idea. I had a boring time at a weekend in the Canton of Wallis. Suddently I had the idea for a shooting with my girlfriend’s dog. After the shooting I practice with photoshop. That’s it. 

You are specialised in Portrait-Shooting. What are the challenges ?

The time-factor. Usually you have only 1 or 2 minutes to shoot a portrait. The question is if you make better picture with more time or not. The first seconds when you meet the person are the most authentic ones. Before the shooting I make a list with thoughts and ideas how the portrait should look like. You ask yourself questions like how the light should be. It’s important that you deal with the person. The editors want a big selections of your pictures. It’s important to make the best o fit in a short time and produce good pictures that in the end all participants are happy. 

Another great project of you is called „Reflections“. What’s that excatly? 

I put a round mirror on the ground and searched for perfect motivs. Reflections was the conceptual medium that expressed the quiet harmony of the multiverse. The first pictures of this project are made in nature. Maybe I shoot  some architectural and artistic ones of them too soon. 


You already worked together with the Swiss Luxury Manufacture IWC. How can we imagine this type of work? You shot a portrait or watches?

It’s still-life photography. Watches in a convenient environment. It was not a classic watch shooting.

Are there any camera-dreams in the life of Sebastian Magnani?

I’v thought about to buy a leica camera to shoot street photography but I think that I would use it not so much. A canon medium was an option too. The awarness of the photography is a basic thing. Today all the cameras are really good quality. It’s important to have ideas and that you can do your personal projects.

You already won a lot of Awards. Which award really makes you the most proud of? 

The Go-See Awards with my project „Reflections“. I didn’t expect it as there were a lot of of good photographers. It’s a highlight for sure. 2 time Gold, one from the public and one from the jury.

For ending this interview we are doing a round „This or that“:

Hasselblad or Mamiya? Hasselblad

Portrait or Travel-Shooting? Portrait

Los Angeles or New York City? Both

Beer or Wine? Wine

Fondue or Raclette? Raclette is always a good idea.

Zürich or Naters? Actually Zurich.

Penthouse in New York or Chalet in the Swiss Alps?  A house by the sea 😉

Shooting the Cover of The Vogue or producing your own photography-book? Both would be great!

Thanks a lot for your time Sebastian and all the best for your future. Any greetings?

Frank Lynch, Erich Heynen, Christian Nanzer, Karl Ebener, Vincenzo Pernice, Oli Carni, Philipp Andereggen, Andreas und Isabelle Gentinetta, Benjamin Imhasly, Mathias Guler, Thomas Julier, Nathalie Benelli, Gabriel Giger, Martin Arnold, Jonas Wyssen and my Family. Thank you too for this interview, Matthias.

For other great works please check

Photos: copyright Sebastian Magnani