The Magic World of John Wilhelm


John Wilhelm, better know as photoholic is a fantastic photomanipulation artist. Check out his story and his work.


posted by Fliiby • 8 months ago


Before we outreached to John, asking him to join Fliiby, Maja from our team made a bet with our CEO that if John joins Fliiby, she’ll take the whole team out for a dinner. We must say that dinner was great, in a fine restaurant (images included) and John is now part of Fliiby’s photo community.

If you haven’t seen his work earlier, you can see his portfolio on Fliiby here, and be sure to visit his website for more work.

John uses photos and then manipulates them until they look as if they were torn out from a fairy tale. His lovely three girls are usually the main models in his work, and you can’t help but notice how they look as if the whole setup around them is real.

We asked John few questions about his work.

Hi, John! So, the thing that intrigues us the most is – how do you manage to persuade your girls to cooperate with you? Is there any particular Swiss chocolate brand that helps you with this?

Actually, there are many nice chocolate brands here in Switzerland which can help to persuade anyone to do anything. But honestly… I guess kids would do almost anything (except washing hands and flushing the toilets) to please their parents in a healthy relationship. My children can feel how important this whole photography stuff is for me and so they co-operate. Most of the time it’s fun but sometimes it’s also hard work. And of course, sometimes I have to bait them with chocolate and iPad-game time.

You mentioned that your father was a photographer, but it wasn’t until later, with a digital camera that you discovered your passion for photography, or should we say, photomanipulation?

Any photographer you look up to?

I’ve been in this whole Photoshop-compositing-area for over 5 years now. Photography was always an important part in my life but I really didn’t like that whole darkroom process with acids etc… back in the analogue times.

Digital photography was better but after many years of shooting I had to fight with some sort of crisis of meaning (guess every photographer has to pass this point). What are all those photos for? What am I gone do with them? Will anybody ever have a look at them later on?

Exactly in this moment, I discovered the images from the German photoshop artist and trainer Uli Staiger. And all of a sudden I knew what I had to do. I wanted to become a master in this discipline.

Lots of followers and fans think I am this master already. But in my opinion, I’m definitely not. Perhaps I’ve become a reasonable good hobbyist but I have to learn still soo many things… and it will never end especially with all this new 3D-stuff I’m so eager to learn.

You mentioned that the future boyfriends of your “models” will have to go through photo shooting with you. Instead of slaying a dragon, the prince has to do a crazy photoshoot with princess’ father to get a dating license. Pretty fairy-tale like! Any particular idea you have in mind for this photo shoot?

Definitely. They’ll have to jump all naked on a burning trampoline with a rasta wig while my assistant will shoot water balloons at them. Or something like that.

What’s the weirdest situation you had during a photo shoot? Has it ever happened that something didn’t go according to plan so you had had to improvise?

Well, that is the standard if you shoot children. We have to improvise the whole time. It already starts with the timing. You can plan as much as you like but if your kids are not ready at a certain time you’ll have to do it later or never. And once a shooting takes place the most difficult part is endurance and concentration. My children are willing to pose in front of my lens for let’s say 5-10′. After that it gets very difficult. In this cases, I have a secret weapon called mama. Mama can give me some extra shooting minutes with all her patience and creativity.

Is there a particular piece of your art that is your favourite?

Yes, it’s still “Into the poppies”. With the success of this image, I got the confidence that it would be possible to reach my goal to become a good digital artist.

Your photos are sold on stock websites, and you encourage people to tell you if they spot your photo used somewhere. Is there any particular location that you’ve been surprised to see your work at?

I’m always surprised. A few days ago I’ve received an image from a follower showing my oldest daughter Lou on a really large billboard somewhere in a city in the middle of Africa. That’s so crazy.

We noticed that you love discussing with your fans on social media, so there was the time when you’d sent a framed image for a fan’s mom. You also very thoroughly explain the process behind your work. Do you find communication with your fans as important as creating art?

I think if people take their time to study your images and give you feedback the least you can do is to appreciate that, to answer questions and perhaps to give them back something somehow if possible.

Social media fuss is part of the game nowadays. I always try to keep it at a certain distance. I mean honestly… it’s just Facebook, Instagram, Flickr & co. and not real life. If I die I will be forgotten within a week. Timelines will get flushed with other stuff and I’m virtually gone. But don’t get me wrong… I really like all those social media tools very much and it wasn’t possible to reach so many people without them. And it’s also very motivating and exciting to create new work not just for yourself but for thousands of people.

When you do your work, is the process (photo shoot, editing, photo manipulation) set in stone, or do your girls help with some ideas how your final work should look like?

No, but they help me at the beginning with their own ideas. Once the post-process has started it’s all up to me. Sometimes my girlfriend (and mother of our three children… pssst we’re not married but don’t call the police now that’s okay here ;)) gives me advice and that helps me sometimes a lot to get through mental blockades.

How much time you spend on editing and rendering? For which image you spent the most time working on?

“La pianiste”took a very long time (approx. 50h). Everything 2D is absolutely easy if compared to the 3D stuff. This was my first 3D scene created from scratch and it took soo much time. Meanwhile, I’m much faster. I guess an image takes an average time of 5-10h if it’s 2D compositing alone and 10-1000000h if 3D is involved ;)

Is there any young, perspective photographer you see as your “heir”, or you plan to pass on the creative bug of yours to your girls?

Unfortunately not yet. But I think that’s not so important anyway. If my girls want to enter photography I’d love to show them some tricks and support them with whatever is needed. But they have to feel the urge themselves. I would never push them.

May we ask you to show us the first work you’ve ever done?

No, impossible, sorry. It would detach your retina immediately. And btw. my first artwork is still on the right wall in the entry area in my mother’s flat. I was 14 months old when I made it ;)

Thanks a lot for the interview and all the best to Fliiby!

Posted by Fliiby • 8 months ago