Photography: Claudia Goetzelmann

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German-born Claudia Goetzelmann is one of those restless world travelers who seems to have lived just about everywhere. But after honing her ad skills in Singapore, she moved to San Francisco a year and a half ago and is in the process of carving out an advertising niche. Or maybe two; "Singapore is a small market, and I got to shoot a lot of different things there, both products and people," she says. Though she has Singapore still-life and portrait work for clients like Microsoft, Siemens and Intel and agencies like O&M, this is clearly not the best possible time or place to be relocating a career, she admits. "I think this is the city that was hit hardest by the downturn," she says. "It's been a struggle, but it's getting a little better."

By most accounts San Francisco is making a bit of a comeback, but Goetzelmann appears to be an optimist by nature. Her excellent website ( is named after the fragrance in Tom Robbins' novel Jitterbug Perfume. "It's a great book about going on, letting go of things and being happy - because that's the most important thing," she says.

Goetzelmann is happy with a camera in her hands and she's been clutching one since the age of 5. "I always wanted to travel and take pictures. Whatever money I had, this was where it went." She grew up in northern Bavaria, took photo classes in Munich, but at her parents' behest studied law. "They said, 'Photography is not a real profession,' " she chuckles. At age 22 she took off for Africa and settled in Nigeria, working as a photojournalist. After that came two and a half years in Indonesia and excursions across Southeast Asia. "Then I felt I had to move on." All this Third World wanderlust, incidentally, was conducted solo. "I've never had a problem," she insists. "I try to keep a low profile, but at the same time I'm photographing everything. I guess I was very lucky. I met very nice people, never had anything stolen. I do use a run-down camera bag; you don't travel with a silver aluminum suitcase and a $4,000 camera."

Finally settling, at least temporarily, in Singapore, she did some annual report work and portraits, and things started happening. But after a time, "I felt very removed," she recalls. "It was time to get back into Western society and into a different market. San Francisco has a kind of a European touch; I thought it would be a good start."

Among her U.S. work, Goetzelmann, who is presently between reps, has landed some Skyy vodka still-life POP jobs; a Sony portrait campaign via Y&R/San Francisco that ended up being shelved; some bizarre portraits for New York agency Blum/Ellenson and Trellix software; and assorted Body Shop product shots, handled in-house.

Her intriguingly wide-ranging personal work includes what appears to be a chicken held triumphantly in the air, and another shot of a plucked bird sitting on a kitchen table as if posing for its portrait. "It's actually a small turkey," she explains. "It commemorates my first Turkey Day in America, last November. I was taken with the whole hype of cooking and eating and drinking so much; everybody passed out."

On the subject of photographic inspirations, Goetzelmann, refreshingly, has none. "I don't look in people's books and say, 'I want to be like them.' I've never looked up to anybody. It's a total personal process. Right now my life is very minimal. But maybe six months from now I'm somebody else."

Somebody else who may be living somewhere else - as she says on her site, she seems to be engaged in an ongoing journey to the East. Conveniently, from a professional standpoint, she'd be headed in the right direction. "Maybe in a few years I'll move to New York," she muses.

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