Karolina, could you please briefly introduce yourself, and tell us about your first encounter with photography? Who has influenced you to start taking photographs? I`m a polish born artist. I graduated with Masters Degree from Glass Design Faculty on Academy of Fine Art in Wroclaw, Poland, and when I moved to Wales I gained a second Masters Degree from Illustration.
The photography started as a side project for my painting class and it grew into being an appendix in my Masters Degree work… and now it became my main income and form of artistic expression.
Looking back and the early days I always knew I want to be an artist. At the age of ten I decided I will go to Academy of Fine Arts to study art.
I did not know I will find photography there. I always loved photography, firstly I was just using the photos I took as a reference for my paintings, but later as I discovered what is possible with the technique I just immersed myself with it.
The possibilities were endless, especially with digital postproduction. I could create those surreal landscapes and tales with ease, there was no limit to what I could do! Later it evolved to what you can see now. I still use digital postproduction, but I do try to get everything right in the camera, creating the sets, costumes, and special effects at the photographic set, not later in postproduction.
I love experimenting, Fine Art Photography is another way of expressing myself and showing others how I see our World, full of wander and magic.
How would you describe your photographic vision and style to someone who has never seen it? Some will say it is pre-Raphaelite. It is a little bit surreal and sometimes my photographs look like paintings. It is magical, subtle and sensual.
What is the best part of being a photographer? Meeting with people, showing their stories and who they are…but also creating and showing people how I see the world around me. A world full of energy and magic.
The main focus of your art is woman and femininity itself. Why? Can you explain some of the feelings you are trying to achieve in your photographs? I love to empower people, most of the times it is both the subject of my photographs as well as the viewer. I see the light and beauty in every person I look at and I love to show it in my portraits. When it comes to females, we tend to forget about this, how beautiful we are. We buy the point of view that we need to be skinny, or buy this magical product and then finally we will be perfect and beautiful… and then we find a new magical product that will do this as the other one didn’t work… Most of us lost the connection with ourselves. But if we stop and listen to our souls and bodies they will tell us what we need. And when I photograph females I see that… and I show them how they truly look, and that is it not about next super diet or pill, but about how you think to yourself. I show how gentle and subtle they are and strong at the same time.
In your opinion, what makes photography an art? Same thing that makes painting an art… concept, story behind it and execution. That’s what I think.
How do you get yourself inspired for a photo shoot? Where do your ideas to shoot come from? My inspiration comes from everywhere.
I am inspired by lots of things, mostly outside of photography. I have always been inspired by paintings, being a painter myself, (of many different genres and eras) and throughout my photography career so far I have interpreted this inspiration in different ways. I have always admired the work of Caravaggio and all of the renaissance artists, also all the “fin-de-siecle” art including Alfons Mucha and polish artists like Witkacy and Jacek Malczewski; but my inspirations are mostly based around my own experiences, dreams, and literature including Slavic tales and the bible. Most of the ideas are heavily influenced by my cultural background and the legends and books I grow up with.
I seek inspiration everywhere, and I train myself to find them everywhere every day… you could call it day-dreaming, but I just create magical stories around everyday situations. When I travel in the bus, or go shopping I create those stories, and later write the ideas down to filter what is possible now.
Anything can be an inspiration right now, a conversation overheard in the shop, a dried flower or an interesting drawing. Every idea I get I write down, I draw it to see if and how it could work, and if I still like it I do it, others go to “maybe later” ideas.
What is your mental checklist before a shoot? Well… the obvious day before “batteries, cameras…” check up if the rest of the people involved are still coming. Then I move on to props, costumes if I am the one who makes them… and the weather if we are creating outside (that might involve some sort of a weather anti-rain magical spells 😉 ) In the morning of the shoot I will go through ideas again, if I am having video done on that day I will go with this with the video artist that works with me. And that’s it…
Could you take us through the typical planning process for your images? It all starts with an idea, a thought sometimes, then I sit down and sketch. I draw until I am happy with the results. Then I see what is possible with the ideas I have, where I can do it and when. If it is a project inspired by an artist I will do research on the artist, his work etc. and let him influence the whole project.
Would you have any tips for non-models on how to look good in front of the camera? I am a full time portrait photographer so I work with non models every day… I love it. When I shoot I create a space of no judgment in the studio, so the person I work with can open up and show me who they really are… and you know what? Every single person is one thing: Beautiful. No matter the age, gender or size, as long as we look at them with no-judgment they will show up as the most exquisite human beings with a story to tell.
I think the best tip will be to love your body as it is (and I know you can hear it everywhere…it is almost becoming a cliché but it is vital step). Be comfortable with who you are, allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of the camera… or find a person (sometimes a photographer) that will show you how to do it. Find someone whose style you like, talk with him or her and see if you feel you can trust that artist. It is all about trust. You need to trust that they will show the best of you.
In your opinion, is it fair to alter reality by adjusting images in post-production? And what do you think it delivers in the final image? It depends what we are creating… I believe any postproduction is just a part of the process (both the traditional analogue postproduction in the dark room and the digital options). Nowadays Photoshop is like a brush to a painter 🙂
Your projects are a collaborative process. Tell us what is like to always be working with new stylists, models, and designers. When I am doing purely commercial projects I use people I trust and like working with. When it comes to collaborations I love challenging myself and push the limits with likeminded people. So when I have an artistic project I love getting some new people involved. It is always refreshing to do something as a group.
What project(s) are you especially proud of? Why? I think it is the Tales project. I keep adding new images to the series… I don’t think it will ever be completed. Some of the images so far I am extremely proud of.
Who or what was your biggest influence in photography and why? Hmm there is so many… and I love them for different reasons. I try not to get influenced by photographers, and to create my own style… but in the times of internet and Pinterest I think it is close to impossible not to look at others people work.
I love Annie Leibovitz for doing exactly what I want to do (being a super-heroine of photography 😀 ) I cant stop looking at Mario Testino portraits and his almost magical connections with the subjects. And last but not least Ansel Adams for showing the pure magic of Earth.
In your own experience, what are the biggest challenges for an independent photographer? I think the best answer will be, two things. One is getting your work seen, and not giving up. The second is to do the actual work… as self employed artist I don’t work 9-5, it is hours and hours of creating and postproduction… but also doing the business side of photography. Trust me I have days when all I want to do is look at cats on internet… So time management skills are one of the most important aspect of my work I think J
What projects are you working on next, and what are your goals for the future? At the moment I am traveling Europe shooting. So the pile of my projects both commercial and artistic is growing very fast, as fast as my ideas list… Next shoot when I am back in UK is with amazing Burlesque artist… again a lot of smoke bombs and magic will be involved! Very exited about this one 😀
In terms of traveling, what is some advice you can give someone that is about to travel with their photography kit? I travel light… in Europe the luggage restrictions are quite big! So I always have my Canon 5D with me and my trusty Sigma 24-70 2.8 lens and 70-200 and some backup camera with Canon 50mm lens on it. I have Speedlight with me, I am all about natural light but sometimes it is impossible to shoot in what’s given by nature so I need to be prepared. You will also find lens wipes, diy crystal ring to create some light effects in camera… sometimes I also take with me about 4 meters of light coloured tulle.
Is there anywhere in the world you are fascinated about and you’d like to become a location for a shoot? Hmm I don’t know… I would love to shoot in India, China…Japan and tour through United States. It is quite hard question for me, as our planet is amazing and every corner of it is beautiful and inspiring. I am grateful for the places I was lucky to shoot so far and I hope I will see a lot more.
If you couldn’t be a photographer, what would be your other career choice? I don’t know… I will go with the easy answer and say an artist 😀
But if I couldn’t be an artist I would probably end up studying law or chemistry… but I’d rather not.
Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey?
“Do or do not there is no try” haha
But seriously work really hard, and not listen to people who say that this is impossible. For many years I was afraid of showing my art to anyone. I was thinking I am not good enough, it is not the time, and yet I was still doing it, learning, training, trying new techniques and talking with people. It took me a lot of courage to show those works to public. As an artist the worst enemy for me was myself, I want my works to be perfect, there was a lot of frustration, tears but I never stop believing that anything is possible, never give up. It is also thanks to my friends and family, who are supportive to all my crazy ideas, and when I get down and sad they will listen and help me get through it.
Never give up. There are situations that make us want to quit. Sometimes people, family the close one will not understand your path, they will say it is impossible to achieve. Do not believe them – do not look for validation in others, it is your path, your way. It is not easy but if you love it- it is worth it! When you hear someone saying you can`t do something or you are not good enough? Prove them wrong.
Think to yourself “That’s an interesting point of view you have. Now watch me do it”. It is your life and if you feel photography is what you want to do? Do it.
Sometimes you will want to quit… that is ok. Sometimes we all need a break, take a break, walk away from a project, for couple of hours, a day… a week. Do something else, it helps to clear the head, and come back to it after.
Learn. Look at art, learn about the techniques and try new things. Find what you are passionate about, and do it, be brave! When you plan your shoot do your Research. What inspires you? Is it art? If you see an art that makes you want to do something similar try it, think how they did it, why the composition works, and how would you do it? What would you change and do different.
Keep yourself inspired. Sometimes you can start to feel burned out, or bored when you are shooting regularly the same things, and tiring the same creative ‘muscles’.
What I do almost every time is trying something new, even with clients after I am sure I have what they want I will suggest something new, to keep things fresh. In addition, I will set myself small challenges to find in dramatic time or situation in which to shoot: at sunrise or sunset for example, or in snow, rain or in the desert.
Try something new. I think we all need to try new things, to keep growing. As a portrait photographer I usually shoot women, but I try new things, I will photograph men, or children to try new things, or build a still life to keep myself busy and inspired all the time. If you don’t like having your photos taken (it is the case for most photographers I know) practice and create amazing self portraits not a selfie, a moving portrait. Tell a story with it.
Tell us one surprising fact about you.
Hmm… I`m a witch and I love avocado!
Haha but I guess it’s not that surprising when you know me…