Filmmaker Focus: Gunther Machu

04 07 2015

Gunther Machu splits his time between his career in engineering in Austria and his passion for shooting spectacular environments around the world. He has captured places, people, animals, and events across the farthest reaches of the globe, and he’s a go-to resource for us (check out his work in an as-yet-undisclosed spot from Ogilvy & Mather).

Like many of our favorite filmmakers, Gunther sees the world in a different light than most, finding the intimate moments that bind one place, scenario or moment to another. We sat down with him to discuss favorite locations, The Travel Diaries, and what you can expect next from the Viennese shooter.

Where are you from? 

I was born in Vienna, Austria and have come to Vienna after living many years abroad, in countries like Tunisia, Iraq and Egypt. Vienna is a wonderful place to live by the way! 

Where are your favorite places to shoot (and favorite places captured within this piece) and what are your weapons of choice for shooting them? 

I really love exotic places, like the Middle East, Asia or India as the people, the culture and the food is so different from what we are used to in the western world. Hence, my favorite places to shoot for this piece were really Dubai with its unbelievable wealth and Shanghai. I also loved Malaysia, Kuantan, where little monkeys were waiting in front of the McDonalds to steal BigMacs from the people coming out! That was by the way the perfect link to the US, New York! I love small, portable cameras as I cannot afford to bring big equipment when I am traveling, but I also love the cinematic, shallow depth-of-field look of recent large sensor cameras. My weapon of choice for shooting for many years was a Panasonic Lumix GH2, and more recently the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. 

What is The Travel Diaries II about? 

It is really a display of street life in the big cities around the world. People everywhere have the same desires – make money, go shopping, eat and sometimes just to hang around. Also, I wanted to to show some strange and unexpected things (to the outsider) which feel completely normal for the local population. 

What inspired the idea of compiling the footage into this specific narrative? 

I was looking for ways to connect these places, mainly in a way where the viewer would not immediately notice that the location has changed, sometimes more than 12000km apart! Skyscrapers for example are connecting places (from Shanghai to Houston), sometimes animals (the pelicans from Houston to Miami Beach, the dogs from Nashville, to Malaysia), car wheels (from Miami Beach to Dubai). Another very nice connection was the raging bull sculpture, where one is located in Wall Street NY, but another one by the same artist is located at the bund in Shanghai. Another example where a common theme connects very different places. 

You say these locations have a lot of differences but also a lot of similarities. Can you speak to both of those? Along that line, what were you most surprised by on your journeys? 

The similarities are expressed with the connections between the places, and the things going on in the streets. However, the differences become quickly very apparent, the different cultures, clothing, food, but also the wealth of the people. What really surprises me on many of these trips is the unbelievable financial power of some of these countries, and how they display it – examples are Dubai and Shanghai. 

What are you currently working on/shooting? 

Currently I am working on a completely different subject – I have followed the wildlife in a little pond which is close to my house for more than 2.5 years throughout the 4 seasons. It is really unbelievable, how much nature is present in this little pond in a big city like Vienna! Life and death – using extreme macro shots, but also very long lenses like a 1700mm (35mm equiv.) to capture a snake chasing frogs! I hope to have this finished by summer this year.