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Interview: Photographer Ela Przybyła-Szpakowska (Poland)

Tell us something about yourself

Talking about myself is not easy for me. I am quite introverted. Photographing people gave me a chance to overcome shyness and taught me how to talk to people and coexist with them. I was born in Zielona Gora and I live here. The town is not too big and not too small, just enough for me. I love autumn, red wine, good food and music - music is something I cannot live without.

How and when did you get into photography?

When I was a child I used to draw a lot. However my inborn impatience did not allow me to finish drawings. The process of drawing was too long for me and that pushed me to discover photography. In high school some students played sports, others played musical instruments, I took photos of my class mates. At first I photographed analogically. After finishing studies I worked for different companies, but felt that was not what I wanted to do. I took photos all that time and one day it turned out that this is what I want to do professionally. I decided to take a risk. I thought:„now or never” and it worked out. I have been taking portrait and wedding photos for 10 years now. My hobby has become a way of life.

What does photography mean to you?

Taking photos for me means to spend time with other person, but also with myself. Photography gives me a chance to meet people and understand them. It’s a way to capture unique moments for people being photographed. For me, it is also a way to create and preserve imaginary visions that come to my mind. Such moments give me possibility to be around people. I take the most from their experience, wisdom and fresh ideas. I read a lot and I look at other masters work. Taking photos for me is search for esthetic fulfillment.

Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

My style is classic approach to portrait. I am in love with the old Hollywood light. I like black and white images of high contrast. I rather feel most at ease in dark and gloomy atmosphere, although I appreciate colours, sometimes colour makes sense and sets the tone of the image. I also like natural light that I use during outdoor sessions.

Where do you get inspiration from?

Observation is the most crucial thing, it is hard to find inspiration without it. Movies are perfect inspiration. I did not use to pay attention to lighting, play of lights, colour tone while watching. Nowadays, when I watch movies I pay attention to photographic details. Literature is source of knowledge. My strange dreams are also important for me. I study photo albums and I am inspired by classical way of portraying people e.g. Karsh, Hurrell.

Do you think in advance what you want in the picture?

Always, I do not like fortuity. I like to be well prepared for the sessions from the beginning till the end: make-up, proper outfit and the face.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

Paid professional

Studio, on location or both?

Both. I like studio a lot and I use it the most in the winter, when it is more difficult to take photos in the open air. I like natural light, so if only the weather is fine I go outside. I often use different locations for the sessions such as old houses, ruined palaces, industrial places.

What has been your most memorable session and why?

Many sessions are special for me. I get attached to people. Most memorable are people’s faces, sometimes their sacrifice while working with me despite cold or wind or heat or my ridiculous ideas. That they trust me and submit to my visions, this is what I remember the most.

What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?

Life and people.

Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?

Canon 50 mm 1,4 and 70-200 mm 2,8 I love it’s bokeh. I also like old Helios 44-2

What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?

Listen to yourself, listen to your intuition. Remember that it is you who take the picture, not the camera. Look for your own way to illuminate the set, to crop and to post-process images. Many people may tell you that your work is useless. Just remember to tell apart critical evaluation from pure malice. Listen to the people you care about. In the end ignore all feed-backs. You must be patient, do not give up and do not be discouraged. Being resistant and reasonable is also important– taking photos is dealing with people, and as you may imagine it is not always easy.

What do you think of our new magazine?

The Magazine is fantastic inspiration. It presents work of photographers living in diverse part of the world, as well as their different perspective on the photography. It is really awesome.

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