In-depth Interview in 18 pages for Shades of Color magazine, issue 11
Can you tell us about you, and your learning path in photography?
First of all, I would like to emphasize that I am not a pure photographer. Yes, I won many prizes in the field of photography, but nevertheless I am not a photographer in its usual sense. The reason I say so, is because photography is only a medium and photographs are just a starting material for my work, but not the final result.
When I started photographing, I did not understand what exactly I want to achieve. I remember that I liked to capture moments from the lives of people and the amazing beauty of nature, but after some time, I felt that this was not enough for me. I had a desire to tell not about what I see at a given scene and moment, but about what worries me at this moment in my life. Once, in some interview I said that I turned my camera from the outside world to the inside world and these words still seem to reflect most accurately what has happened to me. I stopped capturing events and began to capture my thoughts and feelings.
I am mainly an autodidact and have not received a systematic education in the field of photography. I took various courses in photography, post-processing, art history, drawing and composition.
What kind of images were you looking at when you started?
I have always been attracted to images where I saw some kind of secret, strangeness or hidden drama. For example, a flock of birds in the Galapagos Islands as in the Hitchcock movie; people living on a floating straw island on Lake Titicaca; a surreal petrified forest in Namibia; landscapes of the Dead Sea, as from another planet, etc. When it was cold and foggy, I liked to watch a beckoning light from the windows of strangers’ houses; I also liked to watch how, under the street lighting, people’s faces could take a strange and sometimes even sinister expressions. Sometimes I found myself thinking that I would like to transfer the people I meet on the streets to another time or space. I think that is what led me to what I am doing today.
Who are your main influences
I remember that I was struck by such photographers as Jan Saudek and Joel Peter Witkin, although what they do is not my way at all. Also, I received a strong push toward by inner freedom from the German photographer Anke Merzbach.
But probably, greatest influence on me was exerted by Renaissance painters such as Brueghel, Botticelli and Vermeer. And from 20th century - Schiele, Klimt, Modigliani, Lucien Freud and Filonov.
How would you define your style?
My husband once ironically called my style a SuRenaissance (as from surreal renaissance).
I think, that such things as classification and definition of style - is probably the work of an art critic. I just express my thoughts and feelings using a personal visual language that closest to me, without thinking of which style to attribute it to.
How do you find inspiration?
Hard to say. It’s always different.
Sometimes it’s through watching people. For example, it is interesting to understand why some people are happy and live in harmony, despite the difficulties and oddities, while others, even quite prosperous, are not.
Sometimes I’m inspired by stories that happened to my friends, and sometimes I’m I am triggered by famous stories and past legends. For example, when reading the story of Judith and Holofernes and seeing completely different visual stories of Judith by Klimt and Giorgione, I wondered what actually happened there. Maybe the story was not quite like that at all, so I dared to create a new image of modern Judith. Similarly, Venus of Botticelli pushed me to create my own version of modern Venus.
It is also interesting for me to draw parallels between Biblical characters/stories and the modern ones.
Sometimes ideas are born in the process of cooperation with musicians, dancers, artists of other genres.
Unusual place can also lead to the creation of artwork. For example, when I saw the Italian town of Monorola in Cinqua Terra, it looked like Brueghel painted his tower of Babel right there. So, I wanted to build my own tower of Babel in this place too, but with some Italian flavor…
But wherever the idea comes from, I won’t use it because just it’s a “cool idea”. I take the idea only if I feel connection to it and if it excites me.
Your images are mostly composites and storytelling images. How do you conceive these images? Are you making sketches or storyboards?
I think the way I work resembles the process of making a movie. The only difference is that I have this movie from one frame. The process has the following steps:
- Casting (often among friends and acquaintances)
- Location selection
- Preparation of needed equipment
- Filming - In general I’m working according to a script, but I’m still open for improvisations.
- Digital art with computer - I do not have any standard procedures or beaten tracks.
The process ends when the voice inside me says that I no longer want to change anything in the result picture.
What kind of equipment are you using?
My equipment consists of Nikon a D800 digital SLR camera and several Nikon lenses, which I once won as a Grand Prize at the Nikon International competition, and, of course, my computer with the relevant software. It seems to me that today the equipment issue is not as critical as in the past. I am convinced that masterpieces can also be created using a mobile phone camera, depending on who is holding it.
How do you work the lighting in your images? Can you describe your setup?
Most often I use natural daylight. So, here I don’t have any secrets or any special settings. I just recently built my own studio, and it is not yet equipped with lighting equipment.
What was your best photography experience?
In 2013, my artwork “Elegy of Autumn” won Nikon Grand Prix. In this work, I wanted to tell the story of an elderly couple who lived for many years together, but at the same time each lived in his own separate world. When I photographed them in a small apartment in a hostel for the elderly, I did not think that this work would be such a huge success. The work has been to many exhibitions in different parts of the world, where the heroes of the work could never get due to their age and financial state. And I am very glad that, at least within this artwork, they traveled the world. They were not able to see the world in reality, but the world saw them...
Post-processing is an essential part of photography today. What kind of software do you use?
What you called post-processing is just as important process for me as filming. Working on the filmed material is the most intensive and time-consuming part of my creative process. I cannot afford expensive decorations. My decorations consist of photo material taken at home or while walking with the camera during my travels around the world. This material consists of elements such as doors, windows, clouds, textures, objects, trees, cars, fruits, animals, stones, water, smoke and many others… I have a huge amount of photo-materials that is waiting in the wings on my hard disks and is used when needed. I also create color solutions on a computer. If for my work I need a yellow umbrella, and I only have a red one - I will not waste time searching for yellow, I will just use the red one and then change its color to yellow on the computer. Perhaps in future I will also start experimenting with 3D modeling software. For me, the most important thing is to get a result that my internal critic will be pleased with, and for this, all the means are good. Since I don’t consider myself a photographer, I don’t limit myself by means.
Do you have any post-processing workflow, and what kind of software do you use?
Most often I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I never use standard filters or templates. Each new work is a method of trial and error. The work is finished when I feel that it has everything I want to say and at the same time there is nothing superfluous.
Social media is probably the most important tool to promote your work. Which one is the best for you, and do you have a specific strategy to use it?
Nowadays, social networks are certainly a great opportunity for artists to be seen and recognizable. I have an art page with lots of followers on Facebook.
I show my new artworks there and announce exhibitions and other events. However, my works are mostly acquired by collectors, and Facebook rarely brings new buyers to me. Perhaps my target audience is not well represented on Facebook or it doesn’t reach my art page.
Do you have any upcoming projects you want to mention?
I am not very close to the term "Project". For me, a project is something rather technological. I am closer to the concept of “Theme”. When a particular theme becomes important to me, I start working on it. Sometimes having finished one artwork, I feel that the theme has been exhausted for me, and sometimes I feel I need a series of works in order to unveil the theme. I never know what will be important for me tomorrow, so I never plan in advance something I simply don’t know.
Now I am interested of talking about the theme of emotional abuse and spiritual purification through pain. About feelings of a person trapped in emotional slavery and his personal journey of getting out of the web of emotional dependence.
This is my new series of works called “Catharsis”.
What will be the next theme, I do not know yet.
Finally, do you have one great tip/advice for aspiring photographers?
Do not try to be like everyone else. Do not try to be the best - art is not a sport. Find your way and be yourself.