Fine Art Photography

Zoë Sim | London / Brighton

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Hello Zoë, thanks for submitting your work. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thank you for this opportunity to share my work. I am currently in my final year of studying Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts in London, which I love. The last few years of studying have been life changing and I have been able to find my voice, after years of anxiety.

I am originally from Brighton and I am also half French. I have always been creative, which was encouraged at the Waldorf Steiner School I attended throughout my childhood. After I graduate I plan to become a practicing artist and I hope to have a creative career. 

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?
I have been working with photography for a few years, in the past to document installations and create self-portraits, but it was not a serious part of my practice until I discovered infrared photography. It has now grown into a passion to learn how to work with the medium from digital to film photography. When I first saw Richard Mosse’s images I was overcome with a need to use this infrared, and since then I have approached it from many angles. It wasn’t until then that I truly connected with photography, and it has now become my main focus. 

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You are studying fine art at the famous Chelsea College of Arts in London. What is the most important thing that you have learnt about fine art photography during your studies?
Because I am studying Fine Art it has been a liberating experience as there has been less focus on technique and more focus on ideas and inspirations for my photographs. I was supported in my slow journey to learning how to work with different cameras and the editing process involved with infrared, and I have been able to approach it in less serious manner. Because of the wide range of facilities I have been able to consider how I want my work to be displayed by building my own light boxes and printing on textiles. Therefore for me the most important part of fine art photography is the context of the work. 

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During your studies your practice has involved exploring the color pink in different mediums and themes. It seems that this had a deep influence in your work? 
Pink has been a primary theme throughout my work for many years. Originating from an exploration of feminist ideas around reclaiming the colour from its many negative stereotypes in connection to femininity and ‘girlyness’. Pink is one of the least used colours within art, and I am interested in why that is and what meanings it triggers in people. I have found people have strong opinions or reactions to pink, and I enjoy this affect.

It started as a reaction, with a need to examine the cause of why pink had such strong associations, and why I felt ashamed of liking it. Yet overtime I became obsessed with pink and I have since explored it in many ways. It has grown much bigger then its stereotypes, for me it has become a way to express myself. Pink has become part of my artistic persona ‘Mz Pink’ which I use to help me overcome my anxiety; I am able to be confident because pink makes me feel empowered.

My work has used pink conceptually and also purely as a colour, there has been no limit to how I have used it. I feel with every project I have found something new to say with it, and it has evolved overtime. 

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Let’s talk about your submitted landscape photographs. First of all congratulation for theses unique compositions! The images are kind of a pink dreamlike world. How did you come up with the idea?
Through my explorations of pink I wanted to be able to create a utopia of some sorts, a pink dreamscape. Pink for me is a calm colour and I wanted to create a space void from reality, and the harshness of life. I am pulled towards the idea of creating immersive images that can envelop the viewer, creating an alternative universe. The subconscious aesthetics of pink play an important role in these images, and I am interested in the automatic responses to the colour from the audience. 

I have become fascinated by nature, in finding a way to transition my ideas around pink to a surreal and natural space. A way to discover the abilities of pink to change a subject and separate it from its associations. Nature is an important part of infrared photography because it is the green that becomes pink. Therefore I have been documenting every walk in the countryside, in the hope of finding a vast beautiful landscape. 

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You used digital infrared photography. Do you think digital photography gives you more possibilities to express your art?
With this series I found using digital photography gave me the possibility to capture vast landscapes in panoramic shots. My converted camera is actually quite low resolution so I took about 40 images for each location and stitched them together so that I could create high quality images. The process of editing my photographs afterwards is a part I have come to enjoy because each image is a surprise like with film. Digital photography has so much potential to be manipulated; and I like to enhance the artificiality of it somehow. 

Do you have a special workflow, when you start with a project?
I tend to work in two ways, either I go out and just take pictures and I don’t think I just do, but then there is the other part where I plan an idea for a long time thinking about the way I want to do it. 

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Is there a photographer, which has influenced your thinking and photography? 
Richard Mosse has definitely influenced me by showing me this medium, but he has also made me want to reclaim the medium from such a problematic context. His beautification of war has made me want to explore why pink has this affect on serious situations, and it has motivated me to explore this medium. 

I have also been inspired by photographers such as Juno Calypso and Signe Pierce who have made me reconsider aesthetics and the role of beauty in photography. They both incorporate feminine stereotypes into their work, and they are also unafraid to work with pink.

How do you see your photography evolving over the next years?
I feel that overtime as I gain more skills, I will move more towards film photography, hopefully large format. I want to be able to work large-scale, filling entire spaces with huge pictures. I want to work more with how my photography is presented so that they can create an entire world of their own. I also want to continue exploring the boundaries of infrared and attempt to take it somewhere new. 

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Irene Bel | Barcelona

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Hello Irene, thanks for submitting your work. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in Barcelona, my home town. I believe that where you are born and grown up determines, in some way, who you are. Since my youth, I wanted to travel and discover others countries to understand more about cultures, beyond my own. 

My love to nature is very strong. My big passion are horses, where I developed a way to interact with them. Some of my photos with horses won prizes and being published in magazines.

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?
The first time I became aware of photography was when I had to stay at full rest, for several weeks.  It was during that period, that I began to take pictures of myself. After that, I began to work on self-portraits as a form of expression, recovery and analysis. At the same time, photography became a companion in the resting hours. Since then, the camera has become my best partner. When someone asks me if I feel alone when traveling, I usually think that I do not travel alone, I travel with my camera.

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Did you have any formal education in photography or are you self-taught?
I studied photography for three years. I was lucky to learn photography before digital photography became “boss”. I had the opportunity to learn the whole photographic process and the alchemy that was hidden behind it. I learned to photograph in black and white and how to interpret lights, zones, etc. Since then, I have always felt more comfortable shooting in black and white. But I must admit that there are photos that claim for color.

Let’s talk about your submitted project “In our nature". Can you tell us a bit about it? How did the idea come up for this project?
When being out in the woods, surrounded by nature, I became aware of how disconnected we have become to mother earth. During my walks and riding, I felt the need to merge with nature and that’s what I did.  “ In our nature” explores the relationship between the body and environment.

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Can you describe the process when you started with the “In our nature“ project? 
When you become aware of the presence of nature as a whole - the body starts to merge into the space and be a part of the whole environment. Shapes and angles of the human body start to look softer. The focus is set completely on the natural way a human body can bend and be captured in the landscape. I tried to take away the perceptions of the body when it comes to sexuality and nudity. I don't want to create tension or desire in the picture. I prefer to offer tranquility and peace to the viewers. Specially nowadays that we are into a very sexualized culture. 

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The pictures are very well composed. Minimalistic - in kind of a peaceful mood. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Composition is the key of photography. I've always thought that photographers should look for an image that crosses from the aesthetic or narrative side. But it is also important to pay attention to composition, because it is crucial reading the image. It will give you a unique point of view and that is what the photographer wants to describes behind the camera. 

Composition is so important; that’s why I always try to explore different artists from other media to search of new points of view.

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What is the most challenging for you about photography?
Photography, especially documentary photography gives me the opportunity to see the world and get in touch with people in a very intimate way. Photography is about learning the meaning of empathy - a difficult sensibility to acquire. I’m very grateful for that. At the same time I have to learn how to connect and become a witness of their lives and personal situations.

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Final question. Is there any female photographer you admire?
When I started to work with the body as a way of expression, I became very interested in Francesca Woodman’s work. A few months ago I had the opportunity to see her work in the Bernal Espacio Galería in Madrid. She still inspires me. Especially when I need to work on more poetics projects in the future.
 
My absolute admiration is for those brave women, like Alixandra Fazzina, who is able to tell stories in the most difficult social and geographical environments. Fazzina has the ability to photograph without losing the compassion and empathy towards those who are suffering. Quiet and strong images that transfer the atmospheres of the scenario.

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Website: https://irenebel.com 
Instagram: irenebel_photography 
Facebook: IreneBelPhoto

Natalie Christensen | Santa Fe, New Mexico

Natalie Christensen is a photographer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has won several regional awards and shown work in the U.S. and internationally. Unconventionally, Natalie launched her photography career on Instagram.  In addition to pursuing her interests in art and design, Natalie has worked as a psychotherapist for over 25 years and has been particularly influenced by the work of depth psychologist, Carl Jung. This influence is evidenced in her photographs, as shadows and archetypal images are favoured subjects.

Hello Natalie, when did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?
I became interested in photography as a mode of expression about two years ago. I had relocated to the American Southwest after living my entire life in a very different part of the United States. I think that photography helped me process the experience of a new environment. I always thought of myself as a verbal person, expressing myself through words. Something about this new place nudged the visual side of me

As a former psychotherapist, what made you decide to dive finally into the career of a photographer?
I am still working in the helping profession, as a consultant, however, I am also a photographer and it takes up an equal amount of time. I am fortunate to be able to devote myself to this, and I have a very supportive partner who has encouraged me to follow this road wherever it leads.

Let’s talk about your project New Mexico Deconstructed. How did the idea come up for this project?
New Mexico Deconstructed wasn’t an idea until after a number of these photos were already taken. I was drawn to certain types of scenes here without an articulated reason as to why. As a therapist, I often look for patterns in people’s lives and explore the possibilities of the meaning of these patterns. I did the same with my own images. I noticed certain similarities in the images and realized that there was a series happening without a conscious plan. This was very early in my exploration of photography, and I didn't really understand the idea of projects and series. I was just taking photos! 

The pictures are very well composed, minimalistic and have kind of meditative mood. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Coco Chanel once said about accessories: “Always remove one thing before you leave the house. Less is more.” I think this applies not only to fashion but also to interiors, architecture, photography and other art forms.  When I am out shooting, I am very drawn to negative space; I think it is very restful for the brain to experience it.  I think I have a deep attraction for geometry as well, and so this combined with negative space and a tight composition conveys a meditative experience. The images are simple, but I hope that they also invite the viewer to contemplate something deeper.

You intentionally shoot in „unattractive environments“.  Do you have an idea why?
I am attracted to unattractive environments for several reasons. First, I think it is more challenging to shoot in a place that is unattractive on the surface. I am much more interested in a banal scene than a beautiful landscape. I have spent much of my professional life exploring the idea of the shadow side of the personality. The dark side that we ignore, deny, avoid. When I go behind a shopping center or a blighted out abandoned commercial space it feels very similar to me. What am I going to find there? What will be revealed? In those hidden places can be the gold, the thing that illuminates and says to us, ‘Hey, I have been here all along. Look at me, there is something to understand here.”

How important is it to hear your inner voice as a photographer?
Of course, the inner voice of the artist is what creates “authentic” work. The world of sharing and viewing art through social media can make this difficult – is this my authentic voice or am I being influenced by what I see others doing? I don’t know the answer to that question. I struggle with it.

You started your photography career on Instagram. Do you think Instagram gave you the opportunity to break through as an artist? 
Yes, Instagram has been the vehicle for me to launch my career as a photographer. As different people began to take notice and feature my work, I gained more confidence. It has lead to showing my work in galleries as well as gallery representation, which has been a major goal for me. The stage is very large and it’s impossible to overstate its influence on contemporary photography.

Do you think Instagram had an influence on the aesthetics of your work?
Yes, as I previously stated, Instagram is the place where very talented photographers are sharing their work regularly, and viewing it definitely has an influence on my own work. Minimalism is very popular and there is no shortage of inspiration to be found.

What is the most challenging for you about photography?
The most challenging thing for me at the moment is the technical side of photography – learning the camera settings as well as Lightroom and Photoshop. Since I have no formal education in photography I am learning it on my own and with help from other photographer friends.

Final question. Is there any female photographer you admire?
Female photographers I admire include Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann, Sinziana Velicescu, and Haley Eichenbaum.

Michelle Bastos | Brasília, Brazil

Hello Michelle, thanks a lot for submitting your work. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?

I currently live and work in Brasília, where I was born. I am a Political Scientist and have a Bachelor of Arts (Drama). I believe that the double qualification had a lot of influence in my work, both form and conceptually. I mainly work with political themes (understanding as political especially the micro politics). The Drama comes to my images as performance and intensity.

As a background, I have a grandmother originally from Karajá´s native indigenous group. As many Brazilians, I came from a multi ethnic family, what means having European, African and Native Indigenous blood.

I am very interested in my background, what made me living in some Indigenous villages in order to understand more about their way of life. I am developing some photographic projects in those villages, which probably will not be seen in the art world because the images produced are on their own.

I got a specialization in Portrait and Visual Identity at Speos Paris Photographic Institute in 2011. Since there I started my own research about portraits, what became the main topic of my work. Currently, I research and work about what I call as “analogies of the portrait”. I am developing ways of portraying people without working with the traditional concept of a portrait. 

A few years ago, I won a partial scholarship at Istituto Europeo di Design of Madrid, where I concluded a Master Degree in Fine Art Photography.

My first experience in photography was between 2004 and 2007 when I wrote and published a book about the Brazilian actress Dulcina de Moraes and worked with her photographic archive, with photos from 1906 to 1996. The book was published by LGE Editors, having as title “Dulcina de Moraes- Memórias de um Teatro Brasileiro”.

At last but not least, I am Feminist! Considering how a woman lives in Brazil, that couldn´t be different.

You submitted your project about lines, mistakes and absences - shot in seven small villages in the middle of nothing in Brazil. Compared to your other work this one is very colourful and abstract. How did you come up with the idea?

I was portraying people on those villages when I realized that traditionally the locals paint their own homes, choosing 2 different colours and dividing the house façade horizontally. There is a kind of pattern, an own way to understanding what is the beauty.

Therefore, I considered that those walls, painted by the residents, keep a strong relation with their own skin. What their understanding as “me” was mixed with what their understanding as “home”. For me, the close of walls has a strong relation with portrait. Somehow, that is a portrait too.

Can you explain to us how people live in these villages? 

The year of 2017 is been an atypical for all Brazilians. Recently we had a Coup to the democratic State, what had negatives impacts for all Brazilians, especially the population socially vulnerable, mostly concentrated in rural areas (when they are not big unproductive landowners, what is common in Brazil), mostly black or Indigenous (related to Brazilian historical process of Slavery and Colonization).

In most villages, local people are missing everything: jobs, education access to health care and even hope. Somehow, I met people extremely positive about life and future. I learned a lot of them. Considering that I can´t do a lot about jobs, education and health care at least I can do something about hope. On my next trip, I will teach locals what I know about photography and social female protagonist.

You said that there is a tight relation between the walls of the houses and the skin of the local people… What do you mean by that?

I meant that I see that walls and skin tell the same story about their owners. Every mark, spot, wrinkle or disruption are related to an experience of life. Walls and skin are the same covers to the same subject.

It is so amazing to see that people want to express themselves, - how they want to be seen by colour painting their houses.

I think sometimes the less you have, the more creative you’ll get. Would you agree?

Most houses are built and painted with few resources. In cases where the owner can pay at least for the dye and the tape to mark a perfect line between colours, they get closer to the beautiful pattern. In cases where the owner has no financial way to pay for those materials, they improvise with donations of the rest of dye, clay or whitewash.

What is your intention with this project?

Initially, my intention with this project was to understand how life is in deep Brazil. 

Brazil has a population of 200.000.000 people, including different ethnic, social condition and strong regional differences.

I live in the capital, what makes me having a social experience - mostly the same. Because of that, I was wondering if I really know my country. That was the main reason to explore deep Brazil. I had met places that I never imagined before. Even for me, Brazil keeps been a big surprise in every small trip I do.

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Brazil. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?

As many other countries, there are more male than female photographers and artists in galleries, biennales, art halls, prizes, grants and festivals.

This year the group “Yvy Mulheres da Images” was created by Brazilian women working in images - not only photographers, in order to get more space for the woman in the art world. The group wish to get gender equality in all fields of art/image.

Between the big list of Brazilian photographers who I admire I could say those names: Ana Lira, Elza Lima, Virgínia de Medeiros, Aleta Valente, Rosangela Renno, Marizilda Cruppe, Nair Benedicto, Cláudia Andujar, Maureen Bisilliat (Brazilian citizen), Berna Reale, Luisa Dörr, Musa Mattiuzzi (who is not exactly a photographer, but a performer who uses photography in her work) and from Brasília I recently know and admire the work of Julia Milward and Dalia Hofmann. 

Are you already planning other photographic projects?

I am always planning and doing something new in photography. My hyperactive personality keeps me working on more than one project at once.

You can find more about Michelles work by clicking here.

Ana Clara Tito | Rio de Janeiro

Hello Ana, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hi, Nicole, I'm an industrial design student and for the first two years of my undergrad, I had special photography classes. These classes were my first real contact with the field, granting me a way to express myself and talk about things other than just register family moments or travels. By the end of 2013, I decided to go on an exchange program to a university in Toronto, CA, where I spent a year focused on visual arts – especially photography, which I already knew would be an important part of my life and career.

You submitted work of your photo essay „Together“, which is about black and mixed race young women. What is this work about?
"Together" is about so many things! I and my work have always been connected with the themes of emotion, intimacy and stereotypes, in a sort of political way. My projects are usually about myself but in this project, I decided to make things different. I wanted to have other women with me, women that go through similar experiences and that many times are labelled the same way as I am. I wanted to talk about love and support between us, about our sensibilities, our bodies, our beauty.

More than half of the Brazilian population is black or mixed. We have the largest African diaspora in the world but it still doesn't mean that the aesthetics of this group are seen and represented on the traditional mass media. Even though that has been changing a bit lately, we, as culture, still follow many European centred beauty standards. The effects of that on the young black and mixed Brazilian woman can be really serious, leading us to a sad story of internalised hate, low self-esteem and depression.

Another issue we have to deal with is the myth of the strong black woman that can support and survive anything, adding to the general idea that women are too sensitive and need to learn to contain themselves. This can lead to deep and dangerous suppression of emotions.

So you can imagine what it means for us to have a space to celebrate our emotions, our beauty and aesthetics, a moment to celebrate the union, friendship, love. As a brazilian philosopher and feminist Sueli Carneiro says, we need to claim our right to be, as black women, fragile, vulnerable, worth of care since through history that has been taken away from us.

We live in 2017 and unfortunately, there is still a lot of racism in the world. I was surprised to read, that even in Brazil there is made a big difference between white and Black/ Mixed people. Can you help us to understand what’s the reason for this?
There is always a big difference being made between white people and the other ethnicities. Things have been complicated since European countries decided to go around colonising the world, separating people in "us" and "them", with the last group being taken as less worthy, less human and less developed.

In Brazil, the last country to end slavery, the black population became officially free only in 1888, less than 150 years ago. For the most part of our history, black lives and bodies have been violently exploited and excluded. The official end of slavery didn't mean preparation, inclusion or acceptance in the Brazilian white society. Instead, we had official government moves trying to whiten the population – to make it look more like Europe – like for example, the encouragement of migration from European countries and other places to Brazil. We had theories that propagated the idea that we, as a country, would only be civilised and developed once we were more white. Because of that, even after 1888, Brazilian black population kept being excluded, marginalised, criminalised, killed.

We can say that a lot changed for the better, but we are still far from equality in a country ruled by white rich – and many times untouchable – men with no intention of seriously talking about these deep-rooted inequalities. In a country like this, where race still dictates class and social position, it's harder to have strong black representation in the mass media, on the universities and governments, for example.

Anyway, we will fight and we will shine!

We all know, that there shouldn’t be made a difference about skin tones, gender, religion or sexual orientation of people. We are all one and the best would be to care for each other and live respectfully together. Do you think especially women have a worse standing in Brazilian society? Unfortunately, yes. If not even in countries considered rich, developed and stable – politically and economically – we see equality between men and women imagine here!

High numbers of domestic violence and femicide, deep conservatory views and politics on abortion, low representation in academic, political and business environments, ultra sexualization of the female body… These are things that we face here in Brazil and that show the urgency of change.

What do you think could help to change this?
Men need to stop thinking they can talk for us, decide for us, govern for us, create for us. We need to break into these environments dominated by white man. Women also urgently need to create space for ourselves, create unity and support each other because we are stronger together.

Let’s talk about your workflow. What were you looking for when you captured your images? Did you have a certain vision about the composition?
I had certain feelings that I wanted the photos to incorporate and some few compositions to try, but things developed very easily with the girls involved. We all knew each other, and I believe it created a comfortable space for the moments and consequently for the images to be developed.

There were also some art direction choices. I had very clear in my mind the colours I wanted and how the poses should feel intimate and delicate. I was looking for beauty, vulnerability but also strength, supportive and positive relationships.

What would be the best compliment you’ll get for „Together“?
That's a hard question for me… I think it would be someone saying that felt represented on my images, that felt deeply touched by them and what they mean.

Thanks a lot, Ana…
Thanks a lot, Nicole, for this conversation and for the space you've created for us women.

Website: aclaratito.com
Instagram: ac_tito

Leticia Valdes | Buenos Aires

Hello, Leticia, thanks for submitting your work. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and when did you first become interested in photography?
Hello, I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina and I have a degree in film studies. I first become interested in photography, when I was thirteen. In the beginning, I captured objects and tried to present them as realistic as I could. Little by little I developed my interest in more abstract dreamlike images.

I've always been very much interested in black and white photography and influenced by artists like Horacio Coppola, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Josef Sudek and Edward Weston. Years ago I took lessons at Rosa Revsin’s studio. She taught me about the concepts of the aesthetics of photography, as well as the history and fundamentals. Rodolfo Lozano and his “fotografía creativa” workshop polished my visual training. Both artists helped me to learn the fundamentals of photography. 

When you started with photography you experimented a lot with analogue cameras. Nowadays you prefer shooting digital? Do you think digital photography gives you more possibilities to express your art?
I don’t actually prefer one over the other. The digital format just allows me to check immediately the pictures and gives me the possibility to produce a certain set of images.

From time to time I work with analogue cameras and experiment with older modes of productions like cyanotype, wet collodion and pinhole photography...

Let ́s talk about your submitted project “MARCAS DE AGUA”. These images are very powerful. How did you come up with the idea?
Generally, I don’t go out and hunt for pictures -  I find them. They reveal to me like secrets. The choice of objects or places doesn’t depend on me. It’s rather the result of chances. “MARCAS DE AGUA” was created during a short trip to the coastal shore of Buenos Aires.

When you work on a project like “MARCAS DE AGUA” – do you have a special workflow?
I try to make my process intuitive. My creativity gets blocked when I am under time pressure or if I have too many requirements or restrictions. Everything develops - it may take years or just a few moments. The key is not to hurry and not to expect immediate results or magical solutions.

Besides your work as an independent photographer, you work as a curator. What are you looking for when you curate work of other artists?
I love working with artists. When I curate work of an artist I am not just looking for great artwork - I also try to imagine the reaction of the audience. I want to create an "experience", starting from designing the space and the people who visit the exhibit.

Tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Buenos Aires. Are there any female photographers you could recommend?
Buenos Aires is a great place for artists. Many artists are looking for new genres and formats of expression. Every day new creative networks are starting in neighbourhoods, becoming research labs and ending up in fantastic different projects. People are working hand in hand to participate in exhibition biennales, forums and fairs. 

Sara Facio, Alicia D'Amico or Annemarie Heinrich are role models to young female artist. Currently, Adriana Lestido is an important Argentine photographer who captures pictures of the daily life revealing the characteristics of human relationships. Other great female artists in the Argentinian scene are Florencia Blanco, Estela Izuel and Helen Zout.

How do you see your photography evolving over the next years?
I currently can’t imagine a direction. But I know, that I will follow a path of experimentation, continuous self- improvement, constant exchanges with other artists, and communication with absolute freedom.

Marisa Culatto | London

Hello Marisa, thanks a lot for submitting your work. How did you get into photography?
I think I was interested in “producing images” from an early age.  I started taking pictures with a small compact camera I was given at the age of 11. Then, when I was 17, in my last year at school in Gran Canaria, I got my first reflex camera and attended a year long photography workshop organised by my senior school with an amazing local photographer – we even had a darkroom!  I did modern languages at college, but spent most of my spare time reading about art and experimenting with mixed media and alternative photographic/printing processes, sometimes even “borrowing” other people’s images from newspapers and magazines to work on them. Then I got a job as assistant to a fashion photographer who was very experimental.  I learnt a lot about technical matters in those years with him, but the most important lessons he taught me were that there are no fixed rules, and that hard work is the base of everything.

But it was really the encounter with the digital realm what consolidated my artistic practice, as it helped me think of the camera as just one more of the elements of my process.

You said, that you have an ambivalent relationship with the photographic medium. Can you explain why?
I’m always surprised – almost uncomfortable – when described as a photographer, which could seem strange as I work exclusively with a camera.  I think this is because my language – my imagery - and my work processes don’t fit comfortably within the classic territory of photography. Since the advent of the digital, there’s a lot of talk of what is or isn’t photography (let alone what is or isn’t art!).  I have heard opposite approaches: that only photojournalism is photography, or that anything lens based is photography.  I think both approaches talk about the same fact: that there has been an explosion within the medium. I’m not sure where I stand on the theory… I just want to do what I want to do.

Let's talk about your submitted project Flora. First of all congratulations for these unique compositions! How did you get the idea for Flora?
Then, first of all, thank you: I’m delighted that you like them.  I had been thinking about tackling the genre of the still life for quite some time.  I wanted to do my own take on it and eventually concluded that the way to do it was to photograph frozen compositions. I tested different approaches until deciding that these would have to be based on vegetation.  This decision came about after doing another project called Ophelia, in which I photographed clusters of seaweed floating in small puddles in the sand… So, in this case, refining the process took a while.

The photographs look very well composed. Every single flower seems perfectly arranged.     How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I think the sense of composition is something that one just has, like being able to sing in tune, or being good with words. The rest is just working at it, and looking a lot of other people’s work - I’m sure it helps train the eye too. 

What is your intention behind this presentation?
The conceptual intention has to do with beauty, and the loss of it, and the futile attempt to hold on to it.  It’s my way of trying to come to terms and accept the inevitable process of getting old…  In the end, it also speaks about the act of photography itself: the freezing of the moment.

What do you find is the hardest challenge when taking pictures?  

My biggest challenge is producing what I want to produce with limited resources.  I am not very interested in technique or technology, and I don’t like having too much equipment, as I find all that too encumbering and distracting. So I have to find a way to do what I want to do with the resources available.  This is generally possible and, also, for me, limitations are helpful, in that they provide me with a framework and help me focus.

Is there a photographer which has influenced your thinking and photography? 
I’m never quite sure of who or what has influenced me the most.  I think I’m not always aware of what has an impact, as I feel that this sometimes happens at a subconscious level and in a cumulative manner.  I tend to resonate with very different visual artists, regardless of the medium they work on, so not just photographers.  Having said that, I remember a Keith Arnatt exhibition I saw in the early 90s, which included works from his Canned Sunsets and The Tears of Things series.  It had a massive impact on me.  It would take too long to explain how or why, but the fact is that I left the gallery finally certain that, if I ever allowed myself to be a practising artist, my medium would be photography based. 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?
At the moment I’m working simultaneously on two very different projects. One is a long-term, ongoing nature.  It’s called In Order to See, and deals with a more “photographic” behaviour in which I carry a camera with me to take pictures of the world, but obviously with a twist…  The other one is another “staged” body of work, like Flora, in that I put them together in the studio, but the idea behind it is completely different, and, formally, it happens in a dark background, rather than the very bright white of Flora…  It’s in its early stages, so I cannot say more about it yet.

Thanks a lot Marisa for the Interview!

Aneta Vašatová | Czech Republic

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Hello Aneta, thanks a lot for submitting your work to Women in Photography. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hello, I am a photographer based in the Czech Republic. I graduated from Tomas Baťa University in Zlín ( The Czech Republic) in Advertising Photography. We learned how to use technology and cameras in a creative way, as well the theory of art and photography. In our faculty were lots of fashion, graphic and industrial designers - I collaborated with them on many projects. I guess that was the beginning of my experiments with mixing medias.

You submitted photos of your amazing project Recto Verso - „Imprinted“. There you print landscape on fabric and implement them to the real landscape.  How did you came up with this idea?
I was always interested in social and environmental engaged art. I believe that art and photography have power to highlight problems in an aesthetic way. I wanted to express my ideas about the relation between man and nature - it’s similarities and differences. So I came up with the idea of the Recto Verso project which means obverse and reverse sites of this relationship. It is divided into several phases and projects - where nature is involved in the process as well as technology. So „Imprinted“ is one part of this concept. I printed my personal landscape on fabrics and searched their characteristics. Then I installed them into different environments and explored the transformation of the context. Our identity is hidden and covered. Humans are partners of a nature not their enemies.

You combine photography with other artistic disciplines. Can you explain us something about your work process?
The process itself is more important than the final result. Speed and simplicity is the motto of digital cameras and mobile phones. Lots of theoreticians call photography almost dead. Photography has became a part of our everyday life - a part of consumption. These days we are surrounded by visual smog on social networks. For lots of people photography means only pressing the shutter. What disappears about photography is the process: long preparation, developing negative, enlarging etc.. Photographs lose their uniqueness and an emotional value. Pressing a shutter of digital camera is just the beginning of the process… Through duplicating prints, installations and other methods I am researching hidden potential of photography.

What is your goal with this project?
Through my project I want to highlight several environmental and social issues and approach them to people. I am very interested in public installations and exhibiting in public spaces because I believe that art can educate and enhance people. Not only small groups of art critics and artists - everyone who is willing to observe.


Your photos are very well composed. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
For my project "Imprinted" I took all photographs during hiking. I took my camera, a tripod, all my fabrics and went to nature - sometimes alone, sometimes with a model. When I found a right place I took time to find good angles, positions and light. When I did self- portraits I used the self-timer. I was repeating this processas as long I was satisfied with the composition. 

Sometimes I had to stay covered, sometimes barefoot or without a jacket in the snow. I felt cold, itching by little branches. This physical aspect was almost a meditative process and very important to me, because I feel attached with the place I am working in.

What would be the best compliment you can get from the viewers of your pictures?
The best compliment would be if someone will be inspired by my work and I encourage him to do something on his/her own. I think its the greatest reward to see that somebody finds energy to do something or at least deeply think about it‚ because of your work. 

What do you enjoy most about being a photographer/ artist?
For me photography is not only a profession, business or specific education. It’s a lifestyle. As a photographer you’re looking at more details, relations between objects, people and situations. You are more attentive! Even observing shadows on a leaf or on the wall can give me great joy.

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Czech Republic. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
Czech Republic is full of talented contemporary photographers, as well in a past (Sudek, Drtikol ect.).  Lots of them are working abroad. A great documentary photographer Markéta Luskačová  is workingin London, because we the Czech Republic is a quite small market. I also can highly recommend wonderful Bára Prášilová who is working into creative fashion photography, as well as Bet Orten. One of the best Czech young photographers is Tereza Vlčková with very feminine and unique vision.

You can find more about the Recto Verso Project on Aneta's website: www.rectoversoproject.com

Clarissa Bonet | Chicago

Hello Clarissa, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and when was the first time you became aware of photography?
Currently I live and work in Chicago and have been in the city since 2009. Prior to moving to Chicago for graduate school, I lived in Florida where I grew up. The first time I became aware of photography as a form of expression and art was when I was about 15 in my first photography class. Prior to that, I took so many photographs of my friends and family with those cheap disposable cameras from the drug store. It wasn’t until that first photography class, I became aware of the breadth of the medium, beyond vernacular photography.

Let’s talk about your City Space project. How did the idea come up for this project?
The project City Space stemmed from the shift in my environment from the tropical landscape of Florida to the urban space in 2009. If I hadn’t moved to Chicago, I don’t know that I would have ever made that work. I was never particularly interested in the urban space prior to my move; what sparked me had a lot to do with lack of exposure to the urban space in a large way. I was taken aback when I found myself in this strange new environment. I started making photographs to understand this place and my role within it.

Can you describe the process when you started with the City Space project?
When I first moved to Chicago I felt invisible. I had never lived among so many people and it was overwhelming—and a little terrifying. I distinctly remember thinking I could disappear and no one would ever notice…well no one but my husband. I thought about the hundreds of people I pass every day who live on my street, or the people on the train. A constant revolving door of strangers, whom I would see once and then possibly never again. So these ideas were foremost as I started making images for the project. Many of those early images are not in the project now, but the thread of relentless anonymity is still very much a part of it. I never fully show anyone’s face; everyone is portrayed as an anonymous stranger.

The images look like candid shots - but they are composed with people you hired. Why?
There is something lost in translation between a photograph of an event and what that even felt like in the moment. I am trying to image the latter. With my project City Space I am not trying to document the city but rather show the viewer how I perceive the urban space. I found I can best achieve that by staging the image and utilizing the tools of photography—like camera angle, depth of field, light and shadow—to reveal how I understand, experience, and see the urban space.

You studied Photography at Columbia College in Chicago and are represented by the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago. What advice would you give young photographers who want to be represented by a gallery?
Do your research and know what galleries your work would fit into. Don’t just accept the first offer of gallery representation if it’s not a perfect fit. I had my eye set on the Catherine Edelman Gallery as a student because of the type of work she showed. I felt as though I could fit in as one of her artists. A few years later I had an opportunity to show Catherine Edelman my work when I was in my last year of grad school, and from there she invited me to show her more work as it developed. I made sure I took her up on this opportunity and did just that, meeting with her every 6 to 9 months over the course of about 2 years. It’s also important to understand that gallery representation doesn’t happen overnight, and you have to be patient; it’s a process. Once you get your foot in the door be patient and follow up, but don’t be aggressive. Gallerists are very busy.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career as a photographer?
Not following up with people. Right out of grad school my work got a lot of attention and I didn’t understand what people meant when they said to keep them posted on what I was doing. I thought putting them on my email list or just updating them right then with what I was currently doing was what they meant. After my experience with Catherine Edelman I realized what they were saying. Now I try to stay better connected with people, and I reach out directly to curators and institutions.

What do you enjoy most about being a photographer?
Seeing the images come to fruition. My images exist first as ideas in my head, then as really terrible sketches in my sketchbook and/or as iPhone sketches. The whole process is time consuming and stressful because there are a lot of moving components, but during the shoot that all seems to melt away and I am focused on shooting. Once I get the image scanned and start editing, then that’s one of my favorite parts.

What and who inspires you? Is there a photographer who has influenced your work?
There are many photographers and painters who have influenced my work. Ray Metzker is probably the most influential, but there are so many others. Michael Wolf, Daniel Shea, Harry Callahan, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Mona Breede, Hannah Starkey, just to name a few photographers. As for painters who have strongly influenced by work, I would have to say George Tooker, Edward Hopper, Vija Celmins, and Georgia O’Keefe’s city paintings.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?
My project Stray Light debuted at the Catherine Edelman Gallery this past year, so it is relatively new. Stray Light is an ongoing photographic project aimed at imaging the nocturnal urban landscape, as we have all but lost the night for our progress. In its place we have formed a new cosmos, one of vanished surfaces and flecks of light. Carefully constructing each image from multiple photographs of night-lit buildings, I reform the urban landscape in my own vision—one that seeks to reconstruct the heavens in its absence above the cityscape.

In addition, I am working on a new project focusing on the structure and surface of the built environment that is not so much about its inhabitants, although they play a small role in it. I’m excited about the project and process, which is a little bit of a departure for me. But I am not ready to divulge too much about it yet as I’m still very much in the process of working things out.

Kalliope Amorphous | New York / Rhode Island

Hello Kalliope, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
I come from a family of artists on both sides, so I have always been very creative. I started working with photography about eight years ago and never looked back. It’s the one thing that combines all of the things I love in one medium. 

I started working with photography because I wanted to see if I could make the emotions and ideas in my mind visible in photographs. From day one, I approached the camera as an artist first. I learned to photograph intuitively and to view the camera as something capable of manifesting the invisible. Photography became my primary medium because I feel that there is no other medium that is capable of as much synchronicity and magic.

You submitted some work of your self-portrait series. How did it come up that you started shooting yourself?
I started using myself as the model in my photographs because it was convenient. I was the one who was always there at two in the morning when I had an idea. Once I started with self-portraits, I also started to see the cathartic value of being both the subject and object of what I want to express. 

When I was younger, I was a model, so I had experience being creative in front of the camera. Being creative in front of and behind the camera at the same time was new to me, but it came naturally and I really loved the level of creative control that it allowed. It’s important for me to be able to work in solitude, so self-portraits became the bulk of my work.

The visual expression of your series is very unique. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I don’t really plan out my photographs too much other than the concept. My process would probably be considered chaotic. It is very performative and emotional rather than pre-planned and I think that this sort of approach comes through in the mood of the finished photograph. My process essentially involves my asking a question in the form of gesture and receiving the answer in the photograph. I always compare my process to the Japanese art of Butoh dance, because it is very much a dance that is summoning something deeper than myself. The difference is my process finishes in a photograph. 

So, my compositions are usually very spontaneous. I tend toward creating a base for my compositions that creates the mood of a viewer looking in on a secret moment, or compositions that are evocative of pictorialism. My compositions and all of the elements that I use in my process are always reaching for something timeless in the finished image. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your workflow?
I have two residences, so it’s different depending on which state I’m in. When I am in New York, I do a lot of street photography and so it’s a very different kind of workflow. I spend a lot of time taking photographs of the daily hustle and bustle as well as the quiet beauty of the city. It’s a quiet, daily chronicling of memories of a city that means so much to me. Street photography is spontaneous, so my workflow is very simple. I live my life, I capture the beautiful or interesting moments in it, and I don’t spend too much time editing.

When I am in my other residence in Rhode Island, my workflow is different. I have a very large studio and office in my home, so I incorporate a lot more staging. I have closets of backdrops, props, handmade lighting and filters. So, even though the subject of the photograph may be loosely planned, I tend to plan out the “stage” or the experimental effect more intricately. I also tend to spend more time editing my self-portraits and experimental work, because over the past few years I have really come to appreciate the possibilities of filters and textures. 

Before you became a visual artist you were a poet. Did poetry influence the way you work as a photographer?
Photography is visual poetry to me. I go through long periods of time without writing. In the absence of words, images are how I express my inner and outer landscape. When I have periods of time where I am not creating photographs, I write. To me, photography and poetry are different aspects of the same language. They are both vehicles through which I can translate the invisible into something more tangible. 

This year you started with street photography. How did this come up?  And what do you enjoy most about it?
The first time I took photographs of people on the street was shortly after David Bowie died. I went down to his apartment building and the scene there was such a mix of beauty and grief. I think it was the day after he died, and a makeshift memorial was starting to grow. It was such a beautiful and sad moment. That was the first time I felt inspired to take my camera and photograph moments on the street and to take candid portraits of people. 

It was the first time I had the experience of creating art by capturing a live and very emotional moment outside of the studio. It was the first time I recognized that documentary and street photography were capable of capturing the fragility of being human, the passing of time -all of the things that I have focused on in my other work. So, it was outside of David Bowie’s apartment on a very sad day that I became inspired to start capturing more of the human moments around me.

Was it a challenge to shoot strangers on the streets?
I try to remain an invisible observer because I feel it adds a more interesting perspective to the finished image. I don’t like to invade people’s personal space or be intrusive. If there is any challenge, it is the challenge to try and stay invisible. Sometimes it’s a challenge to make sure I am not invading people’s space. I like to catch people as they are, in authentic moments, lost in their own thoughts, lost in the landscape of the city. When it becomes obvious that I am taking a photograph, that dynamic is changed and it results in a different aesthetic.

Beside your personal project, you also shot portraits of Hillary Clinton and Marina Abramović. What advice would you give someone who starts with photography and looking for his own direction? 


Those series were not a result of working as a portrait photographer. Both Marina and Hillary are women that I am inspired by and when I am inspired, it influences my art. So, both of those were personal projects. In fact, all of my series are personal projects, because I could never work without complete artistic freedom. I don’t work for anyone but myself, and I don’t do commercial photography. It’s all fine art photography. It’s all art and it all comes from the same place, so all of the work I do is personal. For the past few months, I have been focused on photographing Hillary and creating other art in support of her campaign because it’s really important to me. On that note, my advice to others is to focus on what is important to you, while at the same time realizing that what is important to you will always be changing.  

My advice to other artists is to do what you love and follow what moves you without making concessions if you are able to. I have never made concessions in my art, my career, or my life and this is important to me because it keeps my work and vision as authentic as possible. My advice is also to focus on your own vision. Don’t pay too much attention to what others are doing, what gear they are using, or what the latest trends are. Trends will come and go, but authentic vision that originates in the gut and the heart will remain timeless and endure. 

Alina Autumn | Saratov, Russia

Hello Alina, thanks for submitting your work and taking time for the interview. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello, Nicole! My name is Alina Autumn, I am 23 years old. I'm from the city in Saratov, Russia. For me photography is a way to share my thoughts and feelings with people. I like to create tragic, sensual images of women. It is important for me that the photo tells a little story. Usually I create series’ of pictures which represent a complete project. I am inspired by natural beauty of people, nature, cinema, vintage, light, and color.

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?

Photography attracted me from teenage age, but I photograph people for the last three years. My muses are natural and fragile girls. I appreciate natural beauty, feminity and mysteriousness. I am facinated by the shooting process - I like to photograph especially outdoors.

Did you have any formal education in photography or are you self-taught?

I am self-taught. It took a while to find my style. When I began with photography the world and people have changed around me, this helped me to develop creativity.

What does photography mean to you?

With my photography I can share with the world what I have in my mind and share the vision of beauty. Photography has helped me to see the world differently.

Your portraits are very poignant and very well composed and each seems to tell its own story.  Where do you get your ideas from?

When I get the idea for creating a pictures, I do sketch or record this into a notebook. The idea is born incidentally and occupies all my thoughts. Then I begin searching for objects for the shooting. I think about clothes, details, location and color.

You submitted a beautiful photo series of albino girls. How did the idea for it come up?  

In this series of pictures "Light souls" I wanted to pay attention to harmony of the people and the nature. The choice of albino girls isn't accidentally. They look as if they were angels who have arrived from a far-out planet. Albinos submit the mysteriousness and fragility, just like trees or the infinite sky.

What is your work process?

Besides sketches it is necessary to prepare an image in general. I pay much attention to clothes. Iusually choose them for the shootings individually. In the series "Light souls" I tried to show a new point by common clothes - they made the images of the girls complete.

What is your intention behind your photos?

For me it is important to develop my creativity, but not to loose myself and to inspire people. Photography will always be part of my life.


Do you have any role models that your photography is directing towards?

Marta Bevacqua and Monia Merlo. These photographers are able to reflect female beauty in all its variety. There is also a project of the Romanian photographer of Mihaela Noroc "The Atlas of Beauty" where she shares the beauty of women from around the world. I am inspired by the large-scale of projects devoted to a certain subject. In the future, I want to create a project like this - the first steps are already taken.

DASHA PEARS | HELSINKI

Hello Dasha, thanks for submitting your work! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, and thanks for your interest to my photography! I’m a conceptual photographer from St. Petersburg, Russia, currently based in Helsinki, Finland. I’m self-taught, mostly. I use photography for expressing myself. I’m not documenting reality, I’m documenting myself and my imagination in my photos.

When did you first become interested into photography as a mode of expression and art form?
I first tried to express myself by photography about 5 years ago. I was interested in photography before that, but mostly in street and documentary genres. I also had a day job, that was very far from visual arts, so I didn’t actually have time to even think, that I could be anything but an office worker. Then a major change happened to my life: my elder daughter was born. For some reason her birth produced a burst of creativity inside me. I had a friend who encouraged me to try something new in photography. This is how I started taking conceptual portraits.

How would you describe your work?
My images are stories that could have happened to the characters in them in some parallel reality. The stories come from my thoughts, observations and experiences. So, I could say, I tell a story about myself by visualising tales about my characters.

Where do get the ideas for your work ?
I try to see beauty in simple things and ordinary people and aim at showing it to the world. I do believe that we are constantly surrounded by miracles, but we do not recognize them because they come to us so gracefully and seamlessly. My work explores magic and beauty in ordinary people and simple things. Thus, I am very often inspired by people, things and places.

Your work is very well composed! How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Thank you! I got so-to-say formal education in composition in an arts school, which I attended, when I was a child. Later on, I studied composition by looking through the work of great masters of photography: Henry Cartier-Bresson, RIchard Avedon and of cause, Rodney Smith. I never stop learning though and I feel, that I still have a long way to go in order to become a master.

Congratulations for winning the Best of Russia Conceptual Contest! How do you feel about it? And do you think it is important for a photographer to take part in Contests?
Thank you! It was a big surprise for me and I didn’t even believe it at first. And yes, I feel very happy and proud. I do think that taking part in contests is important. First of all, a photographer can get some valid appreciation and recognition of his/her work. In my opinion, this is crucial for any creative. We live in the times of social media and sometimes, even if you get 100 comments, saying that your work is amazing, it’s not worth much. But when your work is recognised officially by some authoritative jury, this is when you get self-esteem and strength to keep on creating.

Is there a female photographer or a type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
There are several photographers that influenced my works. The first is Anka Zhuravleva, a conceptual photographer from St. Petersburg, currently living in Portugal. Her work is incredible and I can say that her photos made me turn to conceptual shooting. I was amased by the fact that her photography fairytales were created in the very same city where I lived. I was so close and therefore seemed possible for me as well. Another big inspiration is a female photographer, known as Sparrek. She is from Tallin, Estonia. There’s such depth in every one of her works. And once again, I’m in love with Rodney Smith’s photography. He’s an endless source of inspiration for me as well.

What are your next plans?
I’m working on several very interesting projects with other visual artists. I’m not publishing anything about them yet, as I really want to collect some more material first. Now I can only say that they will explore human psychology in a way. Or should I say female psychology? As my models are generally young women.

I also want to continue sharing my inspiration and skills with other photographers. I organized my first two-day workshop on creative photography last February. Now, I’m planning to organize a few more and also I’m working on a program for an intensive four-day course in creating concepts with a camera.

MICHELLE CHAN AKA LITTLE.RICE  | HONG KONG

Hello Michelle, thank you for submitting your work. I am very excited that you are our first photographer from Asia! Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! Thanks for having me here - truly honoured to be interviewed here and wow first from Asia too! I’m over the moon.

I’m Michelle - my nickname is Rice cause in Chinese “Mi” means Rice, and I do like to eat rice - hahahaha :) I was born in Hong Kong but have been pretty much raised in the UK, till recently I returned cause family is here. By day, I’m a freelance art therapist. I work with special needs kids. I used to do it full time, but for various reasons and mainly for having more time to do photography, I changed to freelancing. So now I can do both! Hehe.

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?
Photography has been a lot of things for me - recording of moments, expressing my feelings, translating my ideas etc. I’m no good with verbal languages… whatever that’s been rehearsed in my mind comes out all haywire - very weird. I’ve always felt that languages can’t describe exactly how I feel, or what I’m thinking. So ever since I have a camera, or can get hold of a device that has a camera, I’ve always been using imagery as a mode of expression. It’s only been 2 years that I took photography more seriously.

You submitted your project “The third eye“. How and when did you get the idea for this project?
Haha, actually it’s funny that you asked because how I work is really strange - I don’t set out a project idea and follow a project and shoot. When I do that it goes all wrong for some reason - meaning I feel those photographs come from the brain rather than the heart - they don’t connect with me (Not sure whether I’ve explained it well haha). Anyway, for me, I shoot with my instinct almost all the time. Then after a few months I look back at the bunch of photos I have and try to sort them into “themes”. One of the themes I found I’ve been shooting a lot is enigmatic and mysterious. The title “The third eye” came about because I’m into spirituality and meditation and I thought it fits well with this theme. In Taoism, “the third eye” is a mystical and esoteric concept referring to a speculative invisible eye which provides perception beyond ordinary sight.

Your images are very poignant and well composed. Do you first look for a framework for the composition or do you use your instinct?
Haha - well some people say your photography reflects your personality and the things you have been through in life - which hmmm I guess it’s partly true. I studied psychology and I kind of understand how subconscious works. So when I shoot with my instinct, maybe my subconscious surfaces and translates into visual imagery...

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Good question. Honestly I don’t follow any rules for composing my work (or maybe I did but I didn’t know that I did, you know what I mean?). I’d say, I look at many photographs - thousands and thousands of them everyday. And maybe the composition of these images get imprinted in my brain which I replicate when I shoot.

Your work is exclusively in Black & White. Why?
Because…. I can’t do colour! Hahahaha. No - ok that’s not it. It’s because I think black and white somehow demolishes the presence of reality and takes me to my dreams and imaginations where they can be found in my photography work. I want to capture images that hopefully make viewers feel the emotions that I left on the prints.

What would be the best compliment you can get from the viewers of your pictures?
Compliments in general is a plus for me already. I try not to shoot for compliments, but what resonates with me. And I guess when viewers see that too, I’ll be even more grateful.

Recently your work has been chosen as one of the Top Tens for the “Urban Playground“ theme of Toronto Urban Photography Festival 2016! Congratulations to that! How do you feel about it?
Wow yeah. I was ecstatic!! It’s great to have your work get recognised by people who know what they are doing haha. I would love to attend the festival unfortunately the timing was off.

You are also one of the founders of The Orange Moon Collective and also a member of (DRKRMS) which is a photography platform for Asia’s best emerging photographers. Can you tell us a little bit about it and what was your intension to start a platform of the Orange Moon Collective?
Sure. The Orange Moon Collective started with a few friends who clicked with me and have really similar vision in photography - Edward Chan and Ricardo Leung who attended the same workshop by Richard Kalvar and another good friend of mine, Arek Rataj, who’s based in China. We thought of forming a collective to promote the interest of this genre here, in Asia, since it is still relatively unknown. Right now, we organise photowalks and workshops so that more people get a chance to learn more about it, and for the future, we are planning to do projects and exhibitions.

Tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Hong Kong. Are there any female photographers you could recommend?
Hong Kong is a vibrant and fast-paced city. It’s a great place for doing street photography - lots of interesting people and scenes where you can capture human behaviours and emotions. Female photographers - I’d recommend Xianfang Zhu - the way she captures rain in Hong Kong is mesmerising.

How do you see your photography evolving over the next years?
I’m into people. I love people. This may be a little far off but I’m hoping to work on projects that speak for the minorities in the near future - maybe a project on special needs kids - who knows haha. Right now I’m still focussing on learning, being better both in my skills and knowledge of photography, reading photobooks, connecting with other great photographers, and sharing what they love and what I love about photography.

Daria Amaranth | St. Petersburg

Hello Daria, thank you for submitting your beautiful portrait series. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Hello, Nicole! Thank you so much for your attention towards my works, I really appreciate it and I can say that it is great to me to be published in such an inspiring magazine dedicated to women:) I was born in Russia and I live here as well. I am enchanted by different spheres of art – singing, literature, cinematography, music, painting, perfumery art but only photography has become the main field for expressing something important to me.

How did you get into photography? Did you have any formal education in photography or are you self-taught?
I took some photography lessons two years ago, but then there was a long break and only last summer I realized that photography is exactly that kind of art in which I have much more inspiration concerning possibility for self-expression and I began taking pictures more often than before. So most of all I am self-taught but I think that works of great artists and photographers are the best teachers.

What do you like about photographing people?
People faces can reflect silent stories without words, they help me to convey magic, mystical, melancholic atmosphere and also depict my own vision of unconscious life and beautiful, strange, unknown aspects of imaginary reality and at the same time the real world of confused feelings, fears and hopes.

Your portraits are very poignant and very well composed and each seems to tell its own story.  Where do you get your ideas from?
Thank you so much) I get inspiration from movies, paintings, songs, literary characters – ideas come to my head one by one in an abstract way and then I see the contours of future photo-shooting. But very often ideas come unconsciously and after that I visualize different stories and symbols which I get from my imagination. I really think that some secrets and mysteries shouldn't be solved because their disturbing beauty and mysterious charm are much more important that the key to the riddle.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I think now that this is something intuitive, but I believe that my love towards painting and cinematography has played a big part.

Do you think simplicity is often more important than complexity?
Yes, I do so, but I can also think – which can sound quite paradoxical — that something that seems to be simple is much more complex and deeper than may look like at the first sight. This kind of complexity which is hidden among simple things is wonderful.

Do you have any role models that your photography is directing towards?
If we speak about some traits of character, emotions and atmosphere I can say that there's always some mystique mood and incompleteness that attracts my attention and which I try to implement in my works in a harmonious way. As for particular people, I have been trying to analyze my own preferences towards appearance of models which I photograph and I've come to conclusion that they always remind me of such dramatic, melancholic, clouded, surreal world in which emotions, feelings, vague and strange memories are turning into elements of reality. Sometimes I like another mood – the sense of theatrical expression (as for visual side) but the emotional aspect remains the same.

What inspires you?
Besides movies, paintings, books I can get inspiration from a woman's face as well, they can be so different and so inspiring. A face of this or that girl helps me to convey my idea in such a way in which I see it in front of my eyes – she's like an actress in a movie who creates the particular and necessary atmosphere for her heroine.

Are there any work of female photographers in Russia you can recommend?
The works of Anna Danilova are remarkable – her photographs look like paintings, colours are perfect and images are great to me.

What is the biggest compliment you could be given for your pictures?
The words about mystery atmosphere in my works, the presence of meaning in them and their similarity of tones to painting, these kinds of comparison sound like music to my ears:)

Annika Kreikenbohm | Hannover, Germany

Hello Annika, tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hi Nicole! Thank you for the opportunity for this interview! I am 28 years old and a self-taught photographer from Hannover, Germany. Also, I am currently doing my PhD in astrophysics in Würzburg for which I study the extreme regions around black holes in the center of galaxies.
As for photography, I was fascinated by photos for as long as I can remember. I got my first reflex camera for christmas when I was 15. It was an analog one and I remember throwing away many rolls of film while learning how to handle it. I was just not very successful getting the correct exposure. Nevertheless, I tried to learn as much about photography as possible by studying the work of famous photographers. Until 2011 I had never shown my photos to anyone else but my friends and family. When I went to Spain for a traineeship in 2011 I explored the country through my camera lens and started my photography blog.

You are a self-taught photographer and working currently on your PHD in astrophysics. Both seems to be different worlds. What does photography mean to you?
Yes, these disciplines do seem very contradictory. But if you think about the motivation for pursuing these passions they are not that different anymore. Both astrophysics and photography are ways to discover our universe and communicate with eachother. While science tackles the problem from an analytical and rather exterior point of view, photography is able to explore the emotional and interior side of our world.
 
In astrophysics, we deal with very fundamental questions like "where do we come from?" or "how did and will the universe evolve?". It is curiosity that drives us. Science gives us the wonderful opportunity to explain our observations of the world. I think there is a misconception about science: many people regard the natural laws of physics as some kind of hard truth. But in my opinion it is a tool to design a concept of our world. It is actually a very creative process. The concept not only describes the things that we see but also allows us to discover new phenomena. We then come up with experiments to test these concepts.
 
For me photography is very similar. I am curious to observe the world that I live in. Like many others I started doing street photography. But photography is much more than observation. For me it is also a tool to express. My background as physicist certainly shaped my perception of the surrounding. Like in my series "space warp", which puts reflections in cars in the context of Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Lately, I am using photography to study. In my first big project "The world of thoughts" I interviewed a number of people about their way of thinking and portraited them within these worlds. It was a wonderful project about learning how the minds of other people are set. Those projects are my own little experiments and telescopes.
 
So both my passion for astrophysics and photography are driven by the same engine: curiosity and the urge to communicate our observations to other people.

Your submitted amazing photos of your project „elements of capoeira“. How did you get the idea for this project?
Capoeira is brazilian martial arts which is a mash up of different cultures and people from Africa and Brazil. This mix of influences created a very unique style among martial arts. It is very artistic and may seem like dancing sometimes. I wanted to capture these movements. When I got the opportunity to work with stroboscopic lights the idea for this project was just around the corner. 

What would you like to express with your images of the project?
First and for most I wanted to express the beauty of Capoeira movements. The project itself was a study. What kind of shapes are hidden in the movements of Capoeira? Most of the movements you see are attacks in the form of kicks or hooks. But because of the almost playful execution in Capoeira they appear as part of a dance. Music is in deed a very important part of the Capoeira culture. Because of this influence it is often described as a mixture between martial arts and dance: a battle dance. This symbiosis is something that I wanted to show.

The images of „elements of capoeira“ are very well composed. Can you tell us a little bit about the set up?
The set up itself was very simple. Besides the camera and the Capoerista there was just one source of light that was able to produce stroboscopic flashes. Typically, Capoeira is played by two participants. It is like a conversation between both Capoeiristas in which every movement is closely intertwined with one another. But I wanted to study the movements in the most basic form. Thus, the isolated set up of the Capoeirista in front of a black background.

What was the most challenging part of taking the shots?
Definitely the technical set up. It took us a long time to find the correct orientation and viewing angle of the camera with respect to the layer in which the movement took place. This was of course different for every single movement. And not every kind of movement was suitable. In order to avoid too much overlay the motion had to take place rather perpendicular to the camera. Furthermore, every movement has its own speed. So, we had to adjust the number of flashes per second. These ranged from five to thirty flashes per second. And you can imagine that these were quite challenging conditions for the Capoeiristas to perform. It was a wonderful group of Capoeristas who put a lot of effort and free time into the project as well. I am very thankful for that!

How would you describe your photography?
I am still in the process of learning and experimenting. Hence, it is hard for me to assign a certain style to my photos. Lately, my work has become quite conceptual which is certainly influenced by my work as a scientist. When working on big projects I spend much time on the planning and preparation of the image. However, in the moment of shooting everything is very intuitive. Usually the final photo has gone through an evolution from what I had planned. But other projects are about observations in the streets. The common aspect of my photography might be, that I try to isolate an everyday topic or item and then sometimes put it in a new context. Our perception of the world is heavily influenced by habit. Changing the context can change your experience.

Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
The very first and greatest inspiration was Henry Cartier-Bresson. He is the master and I support his theory of the decisive moment. Then there are many other professional and amateur-photographers which inspire me like Thomaz Farkas, Steve Curry, Vivian Maiers or Lauren Demaison to name a few. Another important photographer is James Balog. While Cartier-Bresson taught me to observe, James Balog and his project "Extreme Ice Survey" inspired me to use photography to raise awareness. It demonstrates that photography and art in general is not just a tool to produce beautiful things. But it can play an active role in shaping the world we live in by raising awareness of problems and solution. So philosophy, science and politics are all inspirations for my work.

Are there any plans for upcoming projects?
Besides finishing the PhD there are a number of projects I'd like to pursue in the future. Two I am very excited to start working on. One is more of a technical experiment to portrait people in a cubistic way. For the other project I'd like to investigate the different kinds of self-control. On top of that, I'd like to try some projects in documentary photography.     

Thanks a lot for the interview and good luck with your PhD.
Thanks again for the opportunity!

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Amy Kanka Valadarsky | California, USA

Hello Amy, tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

If you had asked me this question four years ago, I would have replied I am a software engineer, three years ago the response would have changed to “Goldsmith“, now I dare say I am an artist.

I am an only child; my mom was a highschool teacher and my dad an engineer. Growing up in a home where education and pragmatism were kings, the only relevant career path for me seemed to be medicine, engineering, or law. For a short period I entertained some thoughts about architecture, but these were cut in the bud by remarks like "and how will you make a living?"...I was always good at math (I would better be with my mom a math teacher ...) therefore studying Computer Science was the easy path to take, a path I followed for the next 25+ years. One day, in my late forties, I realized home runs smoothly, children have grown up, and my life centers for 20 hours a day, 7 days a week around emails, meetings, and flights around the globe. It was at this point that I decided I want something more, and registered for an online class of jewelry design. This class led to 3 years of Goldsmith studies...and the rest of the story continues in the next answer ...

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?

In order to sell my jewelry online, I had to photograph it. Very quickly I realized my photos were not good enough, and the ones taken by experienced photographers, were technically great...but were not a true expression of me. I started to shoot obsessively, determined to improve technically as well as capture the essence of my pieces, not just their details.

For my 50th birthday by husband booked us on a photo art trip to Venice, Italy. This was the first time I experienced the world as seen through the lens ... and I fell in love.

Your submitted photos of your project „Misthaven“. How and when did you get the idea for this project?

I think it is a bit the other way around, the idea found me...As you can see from my work, nature was always at the core of my art. I took me a while to realize that when I photograph nature, I am looking for reflections of my internal world rather than beautiful flowers. The same realization struck me when I was shooting nude models. While everyone was looking for the best angle to capture the models, I was looking for images expressing the excitement and fear of being fully exposed. When I was processing the images from this shot, the story was staring me in the face. This was the beginning of „Misthaven“, my enchanted forest.

Your images are very poignant and well composed. Do you first look for a framework for the composition or do you use your instinct?

A little bit of both. When I select a particular angle, I work by instinct, but once I find it, I start composing the image shifting positions slightly until the frame and especially the light are right. In „Misthaven“, I discovered how the square format crop can further strengthen the composition.

Why did you choose to photograph in B&W?

I always shoot in color. At first, I look at the images, and I am captivated by the color. It is only later, when I start piecing the images into a story, that the color becomes a distraction. It draws attention to itself, focusing the eye on the physical rather than the symbolic. That’s when I start looking for the right way to translate the image into B&W.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?

I have no doubt that some of it is the imprint of the very classic education I received, traveling with my parents throughout Europe. When others visited amusement parks, I was spending hours in the greatest museums of London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Athens getting acquainted with Rembrandt, Rubens and the Impressionists. Van Gogh was my dad’s favorite artist, Rembrandt was my mom‘s.

Since I became interested in photography, I am immersing myself in the work of the best photographers I can find. This goes very well with my obsession of books ... I have a mini library of photography books now.

On your website, you can find a lot of inspiring quotes. In which way have poetry or paintings influenced your photography?

I think the biggest influence paintings had on me is in the understanding of how light can turn the most mundane setting into pure poetry. Rembrandt’s portraits, Van Gogh „Potato Eaters“ and Monet’s haystacks are some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen.

As for poetry, about a year ago, when I was preparing for my first trip to Japan, I encountered the Haiku form of poetry and became a big fan of its simplicity and depth. I am far from being able to achieve this clarity in my imagery yet, but this is something to strive for.

What do you enjoy most about being a photographer?

The freedom to experience the world on my terms and at the same time getting to know myself better.

The luxury of getting up in the morning, see the sun shining through the morning mist, forget all the things on my to-do list grab the camera and lose myself in the light. A couple of hours later, the to-do list is still there, but I am a much happier person.

How do you see your photography evolving over the next years?

I hope I will never stop learning, never stop experimenting. I want to look back at the work I have done in the last 6 month and feel this is my best work yet, and the next one will be even better. I think at some point, color will reappear in my images, but for now it is waiting patiently in the shadows.

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Venelina Preininger | Tokyo

Hello Venelina, thanks for submitting your work to women in photography. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Thank you for your positive response and for this interview invitation. Photography has always been very present in my life. My father was a photography lover and I was used to seeing developed film rolls, pictures and photo albums as I was growing up. I always felt there is something magical in the transformation of moments into pictures. Another influence has been my grandmother, she was a great storyteller and was always showing pictures when speaking about all those fascinating events and people from the past. So to me photographs were part of the family life yet something magical that transcends the limits of time. Later in life, I felt the need to create my stories in a way that overcome different language barriers. So photography was an intuitive and natural medium for that.

What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a way to create, express, feel and communicate. It allows me to see and appreciate the gifts of life. In a way I take more from life through photography and I can give more back through the photographs that I create. I feel free yet connected to myself when photographing.

You worked for over 10 years in finance before you decided becoming a full time photographer. What was the reason to dedicate your life to your passion?
I guess over the years I have learned to trust life and my own intuition. Thus, I simply followed my inner voice. Looking back, I see how naturally the dots connected and converged into the person that I am today. I have read recently the following sentence: In art, as in love intuition is enough. I would say, in life intuition has proven to be the right guide and my intuition has led me to photography.

You are actually from Bulgaria and have lived in many places like Geneva, Zurich and London. Currently you are based in Tokyo. Do you feel that places have an influence to your photography?  For example - is there a different vibe in Tokyo, where you are currently living?
Living in different cultures has taught me adaptivness and openness. In that sense, I embrace the visual and emotional vibe of each culture and location and that impacts my work. It is a discovery of the world around me and at the same time a discovery of who I am from an altered angle. I see a different reality, photograph different subjects and often I create differently. For example, in Europe I was photographing mainly landscapes, in Asia I work predominantly with portraiture, street and conceptual photography. Then, some of the projects grew organically as visual tales - Tokyo challenged me and helped me to grow as a visual artist. I also invested time learning about Japanese photography and this has influenced me without any doubt.

Congratulations for winning the Silver Prize of the Fine Arts Photography Awards 2015 for your project GRACE. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How did the idea come up to that project?
Thank you very much! Coming from the world of finance I was used to see driven alpha female behaviour. Even in more female dominated fields such as fashion, design, marketing etc. women in the western world are business minded and determined. Arriving in Japan I was surprised and fascinated with the dreamy allure of Japanese women. Despite the economic and technological advancement of the society women seemed to have kept the connection to their soft, mysterious and somehow ethereal nature. The title ‘Grace’ came naturally to me as I found Japanese women intrinsically graceful. The camera recorded their faces and expressions in an attempt to understand the secret for their mystifying charm.

Why did you choose shooting „Grace“ in B&W and in Tokyo?
I work a lot in black and white – it is my intuitive colour pallet in photgraphy. Stripping out colours helps me to focus on the key emotion or message that I aim to convey with my photographs. To me the image feels special and more impactful when in black and white.

Do you think it’s important to take part at Photography Awards? And do you think it has an influence to the career of a photographer?
Photography in itself is a wide field in some areas such distinctions are more valued than in others. In general, industry recognition from leading institutions, organisations and competitions can open lots of doors. Distinctions and awards also give a signal for the value to art lovers interested in acquiring a photograph.

What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photogaphy?
A good photograph is a good photograph irrespective of the medium used to create it. So my focus lies in the creation of strong, evocative and compelling photographs. That said, I use both digital and film cameras. I like the versatility, speed and opportunities the digital camera offers.

At the same time, I love analog cameras. It feels differently when shooting film – there is a sense for mindfulness, slowing down. In a way experiencing the magic on each step of the process –hearing the sound the camera produces when pressing the shutter, winding the film, developing it, touching the images. It is special ....more tactile and somehow relational.

Above all, I love printed photographs more than photographs on screens. I try to print as much as possible both my digital and analog work.

What type of photography do you enjoy most and why?
To me a strong, compelling and evocative photograph is always inspiring and impactful – irrespective of its style, colour pallet or subject.

Do you shoot daily?
I do shoot nearly every day and rarely leave home without a camera.

Do you research and plan a project or is it that you wait and see what your work brings up?
Most of the time the projects emerge from my work, from what I see as a repeating element, from an idea, from what attracts or interests me. I try not to rationalise when shooting, I follow my instincts and enjoy working freely on the projects. That said, because I am mindful of the idea or concept I read on the topic, ask people on how they perceive it and depending on the topic I might do in depth research. In other instances I know from the outset what I aim to produce and look for the opportunity to realise it. When working on commercial collaborations planning and working towards a clear goal is a must. 

Which photographers have influenced your thinking and photography? Are there currently female photographers you like?
I had the privilege to work under the guidance of Magnum photographers Jacob Aue Sobol and David Alan Harvey - they helped me to grow as a visual artist for which I am very grateful. 

In terms of female photographers find remarkable the work of Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Olivia Arthur, Caroline Drake, Cristina Garcia Rodero, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Kounrtney Roy and many others.

What and who inspires you?
Life! Love for life!

What are your next plans?
I am working on my new series and preparing an upcoming exhibition. 

Thank you for your time Nicole! All my respect for your passion and dedication to women in photography! I look forward to discovering the work of many inspiring female photographers through ‘Women in Photogrpahy’!