Rocking the Camera instead of the Chair
Modeling at the age of 76
It would be interesting to know what Heidi Klum had to say about Friedrich Hildebrand if he auditioned on Germanys Next Top Model. But who knows? Or cares? Friedrich Hildebrand isn’t in need to fight his way up into the modeling industry. He is right in the middle of this business already, being very successful on top of it. At the age of 76 and against all odds, cause he never even lifted a finger to become a model.
One might almost say that Friedrich Hildebrand’s modeling career was somewhat against his own will. At least in the beginning, back in 2003, it was. He was 67, had just sold his car repair shop and ready to begin life as a pensioner, when something occurred that usually rather happens to younger people now and then. Him and his wife were getting out of his car in front of a garden pub, as a woman approached them and asked him straight forward, if he wanted to start modeling. Hildebrand hesitated. “Actually, I’d rather not”, he answered. Back in his mid-thirties, he’d been in front of a camera once before. “I didn’t really enjoy it.” He took her business card anyway, but shortly after that he travelled to USA for three months and so the whole incident fizzled out. It was his wife that later reminded him of the run-in with the agent. “Come on. Go and give it a try”, she said. And Hildebrand? Well, he gave in and went to visit the agency.
Elderly persons as target groups in advertisement
9 years have pasted since then. 9 years that Hildebrand is working as a model after all. He is 76 years today and not only active for just one modeling agency anymore, but several. He is being booked for photo shootings and film productions in Germany and abroad, doing advertisement for automobiles and insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and financial institutions. He also poses for food manufacturers and traveling agencies. His wife, meanwhile just as enthusiastic in front of the camera, often joins him. What is it, that the advertisers want him and none of the 20-somethings? “Well, supposedly it is the older people that have all the money”, Hildebrand responds laughing, “so naturally that makes us the target group.”
“We aren’t all that smug!”
Hildebrand is the face of many products and services, so it isn’t surprising that he is nearly ever-present on advertisement banners, TV or the Internet. He says he enjoys when he finds himself here and there, but it is always accompanied by the questions: “How long is this going to last? How long until we aren’t attractive enough anymore?”
Is he proud about his popularity? “Not really”, he answers, “we aren’t all that smug.” And being popular is relative anyway. “Sometimes, yes, I notice people on the street staring at me, puzzled, wondering where they have seen me before?” Hardly anyone would recognize him though. Probably no one would know him by name.
The burden is acceptable
On an average of two times a month Friedrich Hildebrand is called to a new job. Usually it is for one day only. When his appointments take place in foreign countries – like recently, when he was shooting in turkey for a travelling agency – it will be more than that. After being done negotiating a fee with the agency, taking care of the travel arrangements and all other formalities, he is on his way. He often brings his own clothing. “It isn’t a given that there are stylists on site that provide the outfits”, he says, “but I’ve gained enough experience over the years to pretty much know what they want.”
Some shootings are wrapped up quick while others take longer. Hildebrand talks about photo sessions that took more than 8 hours, where it had to be done by hook or by crook and they worked until late in the evening. Isn’t that a bit much for a 76-year old? Sure, answers Hildebrand, and if that happens on days that include travelling then it very well is stressful. But all in all he doesn’t see it as a burden. It might have to do with the fact that photo shootings or film productions don’t require his constant presence in front of the camera. Hildebrand: “Most of this time is being used on setting up the scene.”
Waiting is part of the business
How long exactly this waiting can take, is something a lay can’t even begin to imagine. Hildebrand has an anecdote up his sleeve: A photo shooting on Mallorca at a little manor in the country. Him and his wife are being picked up at 6 a.m. that morning to meet with the make-up artist, before they continue to the location where they arrive at 8 o’clock. Everything is ready for the shooting to begin. The only problem: the photographer doesn’t like the couch the couple is supposed to sit on and smile into the camera. So him and his team drive all the way to the islands capital Palma, spending a horrendous amount of money on a brand new, pearly-white sofa. At 4 p.m., eight hours later, the shooting finally begins. The visible part of the couch in the final pictures isn’t larger than a hand’s breadth…
Ain’t no sunshine everywhere
True! Waiting is bearable sitting in the warmth of the Spanish sun. But just like the weather, the advertising industry isn’t consistent either. Less sunny, according to Friedrich Hildebrand, is it for example when the atmosphere on the set is somewhat ‘artificial’. More than once he experienced how everything fell apart right after a shooting was finished. No one cared about one another. Their minds were already busy with the next job.”
He is also critical about the industries drop-down of prices and some offers he won’t even accept anymore. Though money is not the only reason. “I wouldn’t want to advertise for dentures or anything that required swimwear. Those kind of inquiries I reject”, he says and adds, that he wouldn’t pose for extreme political parties either.
No end of career in sight
Altogether Hildebrand enjoys his days as a senior model and is more than happy with it. He considers his activities as work, but the pleasant type. And other than the mentioned exceptions, the atmosphere at the sets is usually very nice. Extremely good are his memories about the making off an advertising movie promoting the Schleswig-Holstein Baltic Sea as a vacation region. “That was an outstanding shoot”, the residing Hamburger raves about it. “The entire team was extremely nice and the atmosphere lasted all the way to the end. We even met again afterwards.”
So he won’t disappear from advertisement and it is easy to comprehend why. It still leaves us with the question how long he will continue modeling. Hildebrand laughs as he answers: “As long as I can walk.”
Translated by Kitty Summers