PORTRAITS

Micky Modo | London

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When did you first become interested in photography?
As a teenager. I was a bit of a rebel trying very hard to express myself and eventually through photography I found myself.
I was very much into alternative music which provided me with a lot of inspiration. Art was also a big influence: Frida Kahlo, Gustav Klimt, Modigliani, Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Tamara de Lempicka, Francis Bacon to name a few..and of course other photographers like Paolo
Roversi, Sarah Moon, Richard Avedon, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, Man Ray, Henry Cartier- Bresson, ... and films .. Fellini, Orson Welles, Antonioni, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Tim Burton.

I discovered your work via Instagram. Your women portrait series is terrific and the pictures are very strong! How did the idea come up to start a project about Women?
I was working in Milan and just met with two talented ladies Claudia Nesi and Daniela d’Ortenzi, style and make up @ Pervinka. They had an interesting background working with fashion designer Romeo Gigli and we immediately clicked. We decided to create a series of portraits of women that went beyond fashion. Strong women, interesting and talented women with a definite style.

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Some of the images look like Frida Kahlo, Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn. Is there a connection?
We wanted to take inspiration from the past, from Art, History and Culture but we wanted to recreate a modern version of these characters: Tina Modotti, Frida Kahlo, Elisabeth I, Tamara de Lempicka and the Marchesa Casati all have a definite style and they are strong, independent and talented women.

Do you have a certain workflow when you start a project like this?
Well, I normally do but this project started as a personal project and then took a life of its own. First, the portrait of Tina Modotti won the Women in Photography International (WIPI) Award and got published in the 25th Anniversary Book in the US. Then as a series, they won the IPA (International Photography Award) in the Fashion category. The project also got published in Stile In and Vogue.it

I then decided to take it further and create art pieces for each individual portrait in collaboration with Italian graphic designer Spire. The art project was very well received and took us to various exhibitions in Italy and in London. The art pieces are now on sale online at Saatchi Art, Fine Art America, Rise Art and LumiArts.

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In 2008 you won a collaboration with D della Repubblica in Milan and worked with fashion designer Romeo Gigli. Had this collaboration have an influence in your photography?
Absolutely. D della Repubblica gave me the opportunity of getting published and make myself known. Romeo Gigli is such a great talent, a true artist. He and his team believed in me and he gave me the freedom to interpret his new collection.

How important is it to hear your inner voice as a photographer?
Very important. I always try to listen to it and follow my instinct.

You work as a full-time photographer. What advice would you give young female photographers who are starting to become a photographer?
To be flexible and diversify within the industry; never stop shooting personal projects; network!

Are you already planning other photographic projects?
Yes, coming soon..

Final question. Is there any female photographer you admire?
Sarah Moon, Tina Modotti, Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark, Cindy Sherman, .. 

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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:)

Alexandra Bochkareva | St. Petersburg, Russia

Hello Alexandra and thank you for submitting your beautiful Portrait series. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hello, Nicole! Thank you too for your interest to my works :) I was born and grown up in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), now I live in Saint-Petersburg (Russia). From my early childhood I fell in love with art through drawing and painting. In the period of study years and work I forgot about it for few years, but after giving birth to my daughter I started it again with a help of my dad's "Zenith", my first shots were made on film.

How did it come that you mostly shoot portraits of redheaded and freckled girls?
I'm freckled myself, but it wasn't the reason from the very beginning as many peoply ask me. I just started to notice that redheads are unique for me - pale skin, bushy eyelashes, freckles, bright eyes – these all are very importrtant details of my portraits. My first freckled model was my sister, I love this type of appearance, so I’ve started to shoot redheads more than others.

In another interview you said that the models Polina and Alice, you work with, are kind of muses. What makes it so special to work with them?
Alice is  the fox, which worked with us :).  This was one of the most difficult and amazing shootings for me. It was very cold and windy weather, Alice didn’t want to play more than 5 minutes, but I tried to do my best, they (Polly & Alice) were very inspiring.

Your images are very well composed. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Thank you :) I even do not know, maybe this sense came with practice of drawing. I try to shoot from different angles, to select the most appropriate point of shooting – it helps me.

Do you have any advice for taking portraits?
Love what you do, don’t be afraid to experiment and get critique from viewers. Learn and practice today, tomorrow and ever!

What do you enjoy most of being a photographer?
I like that through photography I can express my own point of view about beauty, I work and collaborate with different interesting people, I build my own fairy-tale brick by brick. And it’s wonderful.

Do you have any role models that your photography is directed towards?
This year I have work a lot with Polina (Polina Partsevskaya, model, St-Petersburg). But I don’t think that I direct something special for her, vice versa, she's just one of the few who is emotionally and visually fits the most my ideas

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Russia. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
I can only say about the portraitists, because this genre is interesting for me. I like very much the works of Ulduz Bakhtiozina and Katerina Plotnikova, they are very inspiring.

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Irene Hälley | Zaragoza, Spain

Hello Irene, thank you for submitting your work. Tell us a little but about yourself.

Hello! Thank you for giving me the chance to do this interview. I’m a 21 years old self-taught portrait and lifestyle photographer from Zaragoza, Spain.

How did you get into photography?

Someday, I found a slow motion video made by some guys. I was impressed with the image quality, so I started researching which kind of camera they used and found out that for that work different photographers used the same kind of cameras. I realized that I wanted to do the same.

What does photography mean to you?

Disconnection and expression. I don’t think about anything else when I have a camera in my hands. I just capture moments, feelings... I would say that sometimes I try to tell a story through a single shot.

Most of your work are portraits… What do you like about photographing people?

I think that portraying people can somehow show the essence of each person. I like to see that essence when I photograph them; how they express themselves, how they talk, what they like, how they feel... I try to capture all these things when they’re in front of my camera. I love that.

Your portraits are characterized by their very minimal composition. How did you come up with it?
Well... actually there is no composition - nothing is prepared. Everything is natural, totally improvised. I focus on the subject and there are only few cases where I try to include more elements if they help me to achieve a better atmosphere in the scene.

Do you think simplicity is often more important than complexity?
I usually prefer simplicity, but I’ve seen very complex work that compositionally and conceptually I find very interesting.

Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
Of course. There are so many photographers around the world that inspire me in many ways. Artistically and visually I am very interested in the work by Rebeca Cygnus; the poetry of her images are magical. In terms of editing style and portrait, photographers like André Josselin, Robert Marcillas, Irene Rudnyk, Azulclaritocasiblanco, Pollography, Marta Bevacqua, Ezgi Polat, Alessio Albi, Miss Complejo... Their work inspires me a lot.

Can you tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Spain?
We have excellent photographers here. There’s no doubt that. A lot of young people are learning by themselves and doing incredible stuff in diffrent areas of photography. We have nothing to envy about foreign artists, but it would be great to have the same photography culture that other countries have.

What is the biggest compliment you could be given for your pictures?
When the viewer feels what I wanted to express and introduces himself into the image in the way I felt at the moment I took the photo.  That’s the biggest compliment it could be given. That is the final purpose behing all my work.

Dina Dubrovskaya | Saransk, Russia

Hi Dina, thank you for submitting your work. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Hi, thanks for having me! I am 25 years old and I am a self-taught portrait and documentary photographer from Saransk, Russia.

When did you first become interested in photography?
I started taking photographs about six years ago, when I was at university - I was really into self-portraits at the time. I guess that’s when I got interested and started looking at works of different photographers trying to recreate something I liked in my own pictures.  

What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a perfect way to tell stories. I have a long way to go before I learn to tell a story with a single portrait.

In your project „Instant yearbook" you are photographing the pupils of small village schools in the region of Mordovia. How did you come up with this idea?
I live in Mordovia which is a region located in Central Russia and my family initially comes from one of Mordvinian villages. When I was a child I used to spend every summer living in this village and I could see how different life was there. When I got older I didn’t visit so often, but every time I came I felt inspired to show what I saw, to transform my love for this place into something tangible. Then once I got a chance to visit the local school and look inside this little isolated world and see its few inhabitants. The kids were amazing – open and funny, bright and rebellious. That’s when I had the idea of visiting more villages and more village schools, taking portraits of the pupils.  

Can u explain us how different life is in small villages in Russia compared to big cities?
I am not going to talk about economic side of the question, I am just not a person to do it. In villages you more than ever feel the importance of human relationships, the history of the place and of the country is more palpable, everything is more naked and raw – these are important things for which I keep coming back to villages.

How does village schools differ from schools located in cities? In your description you wrote that some of the schools will be closed to the lack of students.
Yes, unfortunately it’s true – several schools I’ve visited are going to be shut down because there aren’t enough pupils. This is something happening all over Russia, not only here in Mordovia. Some of the schools I’ve photographed are really tiny having only about 30 kids as their students. I find that it creates a special atmosphere which I appreciate when I come to photograph. Everybody knows each other, older kids help first-graders, teachers are your next-door neighbors – they are all in this together. They always take pride in what they have and what they create and I feel so honored to be allowed into this little world.

Was it challenging taking portraits of children? Did you give the kids any direction?
I love working with kids and teenagers and I’m so used to it now that I am afraid I will have more troubles taking photos of adults J I usually try to photograph the kids exactly as I find them, though from time to time I suggest a place which is better lit. I talk to children a lot while I work, usually about their school life in general, about their interests, pets and friends. I tell them to smile if they want to and some of them do, but some (especially boys) prefer looking serious and businesslike. This always makes me smile.  

What is your goal with this project?
I always send the photos to the schools so they can have something like a yearbook, which is especially important for schools that are going to be closed soon, I think. But I’d lie if I said this was the main goal of my project. For me it’s all about discovery - travelling to isolated places and meeting new exciting people.

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Russia. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
I admire Russian photographer Olya Ivanova who works a lot with documentary portraiture, she’s amazing!

Do you have any upcoming projects that you like to share with our readers?
I am going to continue with “instant yearbook” for a while, but I’ve also been thinking about going back to my village and working on a bigger project there. Hopefully it’ll work out.