Ilka Schumacher

To properly break the rules, you first have to master them.

Ilka grew up in East Berlin, attending school in the united Germany of the 1990s. After completing secondary school (Gymnasium), she was given a camera. Her neighbour, a famous singer, asked for her help in putting together a portfolio and it was then that she discovered her love of photography. The pictures she took of the singer led to an invitation to come and work at the photo studio where they had completed the project together.

Ilka’s curiosity next took her to a printing business, where she both worked and completed her professional training in desktop publishing and prepress. She went on to immerse herself in media computer science and graphic design. ‘Then someone offered to have me do a PR campaign for a member of the Bundestag, with everything: photos, website, printed matter. That led to a job at an advertising agency, where I created online campaigns and took photographs. I was good at that, and everything I enjoyed doing came together there.’

Photography is the unifying theme of Ilka’s life. The camera took her from the film set of a Harry Potter film, where she made portrait photos of the leading actor, to a volunteering project in Bosnia. She and others collected stories about people coming back after fleeing the civil war. There she met her husband, a Dutch photographer, and she moved to Amsterdam to live with him.

At ZJA I can use all my experience and expertise, but now for architecture. That, to be honest, I find incredible.