Partnership / Arjowiggins Tooled Up

Carl Kleiner on the tools behind the perfect image


Märta Thisner

To mark the launch of the digital version of Arjowiggins’ Paper Book we have partnered with the creative papers manufacturer for a series of features on designers and the tools that are essential to their practice. From the technical to the unexpected, classic to cutting-edge, their toolkits include everything from French curves and rolling-rulers to 3D printers.

Over the next four weeks we will be sharing the insight into the work of photographer and image-maker Carl Kleiner, renowned graphic designer George Hardie, Prague-based collective Studio Mütanta and Irma Boom, Dutch designer and “Queen of Books”. The project is a celebration of the tools behind diverse approaches to design and photography.

We kick off the series with Carl Kleiner.

“I find it easy to talk about my tools,” says Carl Kleiner, the self-taught photographer with a diversely hands-on approach to making images. Best known for his abstract still life photography, where possible, Carl prefers to take the analogue route when it comes to making and shooting much of his work. Behind the technically impressive photographs are an inventory of equipment and tools that allow him to do most of the leg work in camera rather than in post-production.

“If my work was a theatre, my tools would be the gaffers and the stagehands,” he says. “Without them, I couldn’t make good images, and that’s why I want to highlight these rather than the star, which would be the camera. In the end, the camera isn’t what makes images interesting.”


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner

Evidence of Carl’s beginnings as a graphic designer can be seen in the bold, tactile quality of many of his images. As he started shooting more and more of his designs, he moved away from design software and towards using his hands and his camera. “The analogue and digital aspects are equally important to me. It’s important to me, for vanity or for satisfaction, to make as much as possible in camera. Many of my images look computer generated but most of the retouching I do is just to perfect things I’ve done by hand.”

With his singular process now fully honed, we asked Carl to talk us through some of the standouts in his toolkit.


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


Fisso Arm:

“This is a pretty expensive piece of equipment. It’s used for gripping. Fisso make medical grips and photographic grips. It’s really useful because it’s so precise. There’s a clamp attached now but you can use different attachments. I use the clamp most of the time for lights, but there’s also screw clamp which could lock onto a table or a C-stand. If I want a reflection somewhere and I need a tiny mirror that is two centimetres, and it needs to be held at a very specific angle to catch the light and reflect it exactly where I want it, then I’d use this.”


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


“I have lots of blocks in different materials. I use these when I need things at different heights or when things need to be levelled. They’re hidden most of the time, like if you want flat things to appear as if they’re floating. Most of them are made out of stone, or wood or perspex. Behind the scenes a lot of my work is about rigging in order to only show what I want to show.”


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


“I like using what I have around, and I use my bookshelves quite a lot. I have a Hay bookshelf and each shelf has a different coloured lacquer. If I need a background, and I don’t want to paint or source one, I quite often grab one of the shelves. They’re easy to remove so I take them out. I’ve always used what’s around me. I try to find the easiest way to do something without compromising what I want. Not everything has to be custom made.”


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner


“I’ve been doing hand drawings since I started working. I have lots of notebooks, I always keep them in my bag for ideas. If I’m at the office I usually do sketches on loose paper, but when I’m not, I always use a notebook.”


“C-stands are the best invention ever. It’s an adjustable stand and it comes in different heights. I have around 20 of these and I use them all the time. They could hold lights, or hold boards, and you can connect them, and rotate them. You can also connect the Fisso arm. These changed everything and I probably need them most.”


Märta Thisner: Carl Kleiner

The Paper Book is the complete collection of creative papers, developed and manufactured by Arjowiggins, and distributed by Antalis. A single, comprehensive volume, containing every kind of paper for every communication requirement, it is the ultimate offline tool for creatives and graphic designers alike. Arjowiggins have also developed their website to provide a web-based version of the Paper Book. For more information or to use this online tool for yourselves, click here.