YOLO. Work hard, play hard. Das Leben ist ein Spiel. Jeder kennt diese Sätze doch nur wenige leben sie wirklich. Winston Kletter ist einer von ihnen. Wenn er nicht gerade für Bruno Banani modelt, oder für internationale Magazine fotografiert, surft er 10-Meter Wellen in Südafrika. Winston ist so gut wie kein anderer darin, Spaß zu haben. Gepaart mit einem riesigen Haufen Know-How der Branche ist er unserer Model-Experte und unterstützt uns bei der Prüfung von Bewerbungen. Wir haben seine Story parat und sie ist so verrückt und außergewöhnlich wie es für Winston nur sein kann.
Hey Winston, you’re a model and photographer, how did the transformation take place?
Aloha from Cape town! I believe passion, curiosity and a deep understanding of every aspect of ones profession or leisure activity will enrich the experience. Working with top photographers around the world, I found great interest in the human interaction and all that mysterious technical photographic gear. Simply asking questions, seeing patterns, identifying camera, lens and lighting variables.. seeing how these translated into different qualities in the final photos became almost an obsession for me.
Are you still modelling? If so, how do you find the right balance between these two professions?
That is a very good question! It has been a long and challenging journey. moving back and forth between photography, modeling and acting work. Modeling and acting is very much about constant preparation, being in relatively perfect physical and mental state when you arrive on set, knowing the part you are playing in the bigger vision of the project. Then you are finished and are free to do whatever you want.
As a photographer it is really hard work from pre-production client meetings, “selling” your concepts, negotiating rates, gathering the best possible team, organising all those individuals and keeping great harmony and focus within the team. So these days I “Cherry pick” projects. If I am to be in front of the camera, it has to be a great project.
“I skateboarded over to the studio with my guitar and surprised by the surreal experience of getting paid large quantities of money to have two beautiful girls push their boobs into my face.”
Everybody knows your beautiful smile from your signature campaign for BRUNO BANANI Fragrances. Is it good or bad to have such a big exposure on one motive?
I had done several campaigns for the “BB” underwear range. I remember we were in a studio shooting and I was doing backflips on set and had taken these long narrow mirrors off the make up tables and was using them almost as wings to make shapes and give depth and structure to the light & photos when the owner of the company came in and was clearly affected by the creative process.. he kept shaking my hand and expressing that our partnership was important to his work and we would do great things together. A few months later, they flew me in from Miami where my dad was dying and my son was just born, was quite an emotional time.
I skateboarded over to the studio with my guitar and surprised by the surreal experience of getting paid large quantities of money to have two beautiful girls push their boobs into my face. Suddenly there were megaposters the size of buildings with my face and massive billboards and POP (point of purchase) posters, most of the magazines ran the campaign and people would literally stop me wherever I went “.. you are the guy from …” There were lot’s of offers for reality TV shows , for odd appearances on TV and “celebrity” events.. I was asked to be flown in to judge the European Pole dancing championships , and slide down a luge track in a cooking Wok. Was flown from arguably the best surfing wave in the world in the middle of the jungle off the coast of Java to speak in front of thousands of people in Cannes where they put me up in 1000 Euro a night suites.
There was a lot of opportunity and many jobs offers.. however I had a few years earlier become surf addicted so I basically took the money and traveled the world surfing the best waves I could find for the next 8 years. Probably not the best business decision but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to challenge those big gnarly waves while I was still young enough to really take those beatings and learn the unique skill set to surf the best waves on the planet. Before I surfed away all of my savings I had the foresight to utilize BB campaigns becoming one of the top fragrance brands in Europe and those huge buyouts to invest in the best cameras, lenses and lighting that money can buy.
What other campaigns are important to you personally?
Fortunately I was able to work on some of the best campaigns in the world over the decades.. Award winning TV spots shot in Western Australia at ” the Pinnacles” a fossilized 40 million year old forest. (Nearly died on that trip staying longer after the job and surfing Margaret River at over 10 meters), shooting campaigns for Versace and working for Armani. There was a big ski campaign in St. Moritz, working for Vogue was a big thing for me personally.
My favorite photographer was Albert Watson and I called their studio in NYC they refused to see me. So I got their address from the phone book and pretended to be a delivery guy and dropped my portfolio.. long story short they booked me for Vogue and campaigns for United Technologies and Shamask campaign from Japan and more. Campaigns in New York with Steve Horn the biggest producer/director of TV commercials in the world. Being in the biggest fashion show in the history of the world in Paris. Skateboarding on the runway of a BIG fashion show NYC ( I just thought it would be fun so I did it without telling anyone.. they freaked out on me backstage and threatened to destroy my career. Until the designer came over and told me he thought it was the coolest thing he had ever seen.. that shut up all the organisers haha). Too many to mention really…
You’re located in South Africa. This is a perfect spot for both surfing and working. Do you ever leave the land of green?!
After I started surfing in Hawaii, I was based in Athens for a year and was really missing the ocean, so my next big trip was South Africa. It was the time of the first free elections and Nelson Mandela was being elected president – a truly glorious and fascinating time and place. Somehow reminded me of when I was in Berlin when the wall was coming down. I love South Africa and the “rainbow nation” mentality. It is far from perfect and while I love the nature here (more plant diversity in the cape than in the whole amazon) there is also great poverty here, crime is on the rise , especially violent crime.
I was broken into my house here a few years ago. Gun to the head.. 3 guys with masks and weapons. I gave them my computer immediately but they kept insisting I get down on the floor or they were going to shoot me. Getting down on the floor did not seem like a good idea at the time and though it was probably stupid I fought my way through them and ran out though getting stabbed two times in the scuffle. Fortunately it was in the arm I put up to block the knife otherwise it would have been my neck. Anyway… the light here is beautiful and the surf is world class, unfortunately the rates are really below international standards so it is a big sacrifice being here.. I will be traveling lots again in the next years.
Do you have any advice for upcoming models?
Modeling is a paradox. You have to give it 100%, yet you can not take it too seriously. There are great opportunities to travel and see the world, to mix with different cultures and social strata. Yet it is a short lived career especially for girls, so I always strongly advise that while modeling one should study, or look for other opportunities to pursue simultaneously. Read voraciously, push your body, learn the cultures and languages and locals where you travel. The work can be beautiful though there are many untrustworthy people in the industry trying to take advantage of your youth, beauty, sexuality and lack of business skills. Work with great people that prove trustworthy and who develop the best version of you, not those that want to sell or use you only for their own profit. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. Modeling, even for the best models, is often a countless series of rejections, many castings without success. It is like learning to play the piano, you must take the time to develop your specific instrument and understanding, practice and enjoy the journey and not just the destination.
Be careful out there I have been in bombings in Paris, had to save the lives of five people from a car I was in that crashed and flipped into a river & sunk underwater. Been bitten by a shark and been close to death dozens of times over the course of my travels and saved dozens of lives during my often lonely travels exploring the world.. Though on the other side I’ve also seen some of the most beautiful places on the planet, had the freedom to create my own lifestyle, live and work all over the planet, plan most days as a free agent, surfed the best waves, snowboard some of the worlds best mountains, mixed with royalty and chilled making music with people from the street, made friends and exchanged ideas with people of every imaginable life experience and nationality. Dated some of the most beautiful women on the planet (including “Ms America”). Life is a great adventure if you get out there and explore. Be wise in your choices. Don’t let people force you to do things that are against your moral compass. And have FUN!!!