Photographer Basia Pawlik: “It’s a very tough industry.”
“People say fashion is not realistic, even so I like to give my little piece of beauty to the world, which can be really ugly.”
To begin, can you please give us a little intro as to what motivated you to become a photographer? It just happened. I used to shoot on film as a child, almost everything. Then I started in fashion seven years ago and I can’t stop, when I don’t shoot for a while I feel like an addict – I need to create again.
In your opinion, what are the ingredients for success with photography? Being open to learn, develop and go out from your comfort zone. Also being very critical to your own works, if you think you’re the best, you won’t go any further and learn from your mistakes. The most important in my opinion is to watch, especially good photography, to get inspired. And not to give up, no matter what.
What intrigues you most about fashion photography? I must admit, I never thought in the past I will do fashion photography, I used to think it’s stupid! After I tried I realized this is what I love most in photography. Looking at models transforming in front of the camera, waiting for perfect pose or moment… Creating beauty, showing emotions. People say fashion is not realistic, even so I like to give my little piece of beauty to the world, which can be really ugly.
What do you hope people take away from viewing your images? I hope they see what I keep saying: everyone is beautiful, there are no ugly people or people who look bad on pictures. If you think so, you need a proper photographer. A lot of viewers admit they like how I work with colors, it’s a big compliment for me.
What is your best source of inspiration in your photography journey? It can be anything, but I love to watch other photographers works, they can be very inspiring and they push me to do better. I am a movie fan, I love documentary and older, black & white cinema, filmmakers work is also a big inspiration, my favourite are Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Wes Anderson and Krzysztof Kieślowski.
What does it take to achieve a unity of the artistic and the commercial aspect in fashion photography? I feel like I’m still looking for the answer. What I believe is that despite talent, which is essential, you need a lot of hard work to make it happen, and after hard work comes an experience. I often had to go out of my comfort zone, learn new things I wasn’t prepared for on the shooting, so now I’m less and less stressed each time. You can’t predict everything, so being open minded and spontaneous helps.
What is your mental checklist before a shoot? And… What goes through your mind when you are behind a camera? I’ve learnt to check all the equipment before leaving for shooting, after I had to go back from the train station because I forgot the battery. Some things like camera, lenses or cards are essential, I always take my Kindle with me, just in case 🙂
When I’m shooting I’m focused on what’s behind the camera, I realized recently that I am very calm (as for a stressed person) and focused. For me shooting time is shooting time, and as much as I enjoy it, it’s no time for party or distractions. I keep my attention on getting best results and I basically am in my own world then.
What from your point of view makes the shoot successful? Getting great images is a goal, but the atmosphere and people are very important. Sometimes you can create something spontaneously, when the model leads you, and it can get really creative. It’s fantastic to get the shooting published, but even if not, when I feel I’m proud of what I made, I know it was worth to shoot.
Basia, tell us a secret, what is the key to getting the best out of someone for portrait and beauty shots? My personal key is to wait for perfect moment. To be honest, I base on my intuition, and I almost never know what I want to achieve before shooting. I watch the model, let her pose, I search for the greatest look or pose.
What is elegance according to you? I believe in classic, and classic never gets old, just like Frank’s Sinatra’s songs 🙂 For me elegance is classic Parisian fashion style, Cate Blanchett. Most importantly it’s the ability to be yourself, show yourself and not to be ashamed who or how you are.
What are you looking for in a fashion model? What is an ‘x factor’ for you? When it comes to physical features I love red or ginger hair and freckles – there’s a huge chance I will shoot with anyone with this features! But, I don’t like to judge people by their look, for me very important is the positive attitude, good contact and personality. Being intelligent is definitely a value.
What would be your advise to models who want to develop their portfolio? Your images and your portfolio speak for yourself, especially for a photographer. Shoot a lot, but be critical, even if people tell you are great, work hard to be better. And pick carefully what you show in your portfolio – I would never shoot with a model that has an extremely bad images, as it indicates bad taste. Don’t be afraid to look for better photographer, it’s worth it.
What type of projects are dearest to your heart? Why? I like most to shoot fashion and I have few favourite sets, but I think the best is still ahead. It is satisfying when I feel like my best shooting was the most recent. What I value a lot is documentary photography, I love to watch and admire it, mostly the old project shot on film. I’m probably to shy to do documentary projects properly, but it’s great to watch.
How do you feel about digital manipulation in present day photography? What do you think it delivers in the final image? I believe it is an essential tool, but it can’t substitute knowledge and good technique. I’m always doing my best to get the perfect picture in my camera, and I don’t manipulate a lot. Photoshop helps a lot in fashion, even just for cleaning face imperfections or – which is very important for me – with color tones. But you need to remember, it’s not the manipulation, but photographer who makes the picture.
What role does social media play in your photography business? They make lots of things easier, like reaching people all over the world to see my works. I hate the fact that you can simply get famous for nothing or do fantastic things and stay anonymous if you don’t know how to use social media, but the fact is without them I probably won’t be bold enough to do photography. It’s a great platform to meet other creatives, to show images, get inspired or stay up to date. They are essential in our world.
What would be some tips you would give to a beginning photographer? Practice, practice, practice. Use your imagination, but remember, that not everything looks good. Use your eyes to learn from best, and to look for inspirations. Take every advice, even critical one.
What would be your dream photo-session? Definitely something big with clothing designer. I love romantic, delicate style with dreamy mood. I wish to have an agency represented model and a designer on set with some fantastic location, either outdoor or inside.
What do you love the most about your profession? It’s a very tough industry, seems easy and ideal, but you have to work hard to gain success. Despite that and lots of other disadvantages like not being able to make any money, I still love it. Mostly the fact that I am in some way independent and can get creative. It is very important to me that I can be a part of beautiful world of fashion, and I can do what I love. There are a lot of challenges I am meeting every time and it helps me to develop as a person and as an artist.
One ambition? Be able to make photography not only my full time work, but also a work that helps me pay my bills. Keep doing what I’m doing and being better.