Q&A: Dennis & Patrick Weinert, A Storyhunter Takeover from Nepal
Dennis and Patrick Weinert are documentary photographers and filmmakers based in Germany. Their work has taken them across Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Americas and Europe, as they depict conflict, humanitarian crises, and cultural issues. In 2016, the brothers began producing a self-funded experimental documentary in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which explores how local youth cope with the political instability and raging conflict in the region. We asked them about their experience filming the documentary and freelancing:
Storyhunter: Can you tell us more about your documentary?
Weinert Brothers: Our latest project deals with transborder human trafficking between India and Nepal. The first time that we actually became aware of this issue was during our first trip to Kathmandu and some mountain villages in May 2014. At that time, we were working on our debut photo book about poverty in the context of globalization and that gave us the opportunity to talk to some young women who were trafficked to Kathmandu and subsequently exploited in the city’s underground brothels and dance bars.
Since then, we have returned to the region multiple times and things really took up speed when we got the chance to work as show host and camera operators on a documentary feature about human trafficking in South Asia for German public TV channel WDR. However, after finishing the shoot, we had the feeling that there was still so much more to tell and to explore about this topic — so we decided to go back once again and write a book about it.
S: What is your favorite picture from the Takeover?
WB: It’s very hard to pick a favorite picture from this selection because all of them tell stories that really matter to us — but if we had to choose one, it would be the portrait of a nomad goat herder in northern Burkina Faso. It is certainly the picture that has influenced our “careers” the most so far, and it is always a good reminder for ourselves on where we come from, artistically speaking.
Burkina Faso was one of our very first trips to the area and we’ve been more than lucky to cover so many interesting stories in such a short time — thanks to a great fixer and, of course, to very hospitable and genuine characters like Abdoulei, who is portrayed in the picture.
S: What draws you to the freelance life?
WB: We always had a strong urge to work independently and to go our own way — and freelancing gave us all of these opportunities. So after dropping out of university and school we formed our own production company and started working. As is certainly the case for most freelancers, money is always scarce and our hours are long, but we don’t mind because the benefits outweigh the costs by far. Over the last three years we had the privilege to work in about a dozen countries scattered all across the planet, and the stories we heard and the connections we made let us forget all the hardship easily.
S: What is the most challenging part about being a freelancer?
WB: Time away from loved ones is definitely a challenge, but technology helps a great deal to stay in touch with your folks at home. Apart from that, it’s probably the constant physical strain. We tend to work on independent and commissioned projects that require a lot of legwork in remote areas, difficult climatic conditions, and with limited access to clean food and water. So this means that each of us normally loses more than 20lbs on a 4–8 week assignment, which can be difficult to put back on, when we just have a month or two back home in the office.
Of course, another challenge are tight budgets, which often force us to get creative in order to deliver high production value with limited resources. But ultimately, that’s a good thing because it helps us develop an important skill you need to have as a freelancer — a problem-solving mindset.
S: How do you like working with your brother?
WB: We always had a strong connection and spent most of our childhood days together. During the summer holidays, we usually gathered all of our friends and started shooting short action movies just for fun. As it turned out, those early experiences of collaborating and also of complementing each other now help us a lot to work efficiently as a two-man-show.
We have our conflicts and crises of course, which is kind of unavoidable when you consider that we have to share the same bed or lie next to each other in our sleeping bags for at least six months out of a year. But we consider ourselves fortunate because with time we developed the skill to focus on the work ahead, instead of getting on each other’s nerves over minor disputes. After all, it’s very comforting to work with someone that you can trust 100% and who shares all good and bad experiences with you.
By Jindalae Suh, Storyhunter Content and Marketing Intern.