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Interview: Photographer Norbert Sokolowski (Poland)

Tell us something about yourself.

My name is Norbert Sokolowski. I'm a Polish photographer, living and working in Brussels for the past 12 years. Married to the same woman for 21 years J One child.

How and when did you get into photography?

I got my first camera "Smiena 8" at the age of 8 or 9. It was the beginning of the '80s and at that time in Poland it was really hard to buy 35mm film due to communism. So I played with the empty camera and I'd pretend to be the family photographer - because all I could do was create images in my head

My first real, consciously created pictures I made 10 or12 years later. Unfortunately not many pictures from this period have survived.

Then I had a very short affair with digital cameras, but it wasn't a happy relationship... there was something missing. Now I know that there was no chemistry between us :) literally hahaha :)

10 years ago I came back to traditional photography. I've worked with models since 2005 but my first sessions were digital. Now I work mainly with medium format cameras (Pentax 67 and Hasselblad) and Large Format (4x5" and 8x10")

What does photography mean to you?

Good question. Now photography is a huge part of my life and it gives me freedom – the freedom to create and the ability to create what and how I want. It also gives me the possibility to meet and collaborate with great people.

I enjoy the entire process of making a photo. But from the whole process the part I like most is when I'm with the models, creating and framing the picture.

4 Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

I think I am a photographer of femininity and sensuality, but it is really hard to say ... maybe my photos can say it better on my behalf.

Where do you get inspiration from?

Most of my pictures are made spontaneously and very often the models are my inspiration.

Sometimes it's the light and the way it plays on the model, sometimes details - like hands or neckline. Sometimes it's the location and its unexpected possibilities. But in general I'm inspired by women because they are very inspiring hahaha.

Think you in advance what you want in the picture?

Sometimes yes, but most of the time I don't because as I said, I like to work spontaneously and very often we change our minds and have ideas while shooting.

But I know what I don't want - a stressed model in unnatural poses.

I always try to talk (a lot) with my models while we are working, to create a natural, neutral atmosphere with no pressure from my side. It helps and then we always get the best frames.

Relaxed models are the secret of successful pictures :)

Studio, on location or both? Usually locations, but I like to work in interesting interiors. I'm not a big fan of studio photos.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

I put a lot of heart into what I do, but I do not make money from it, so yes I'm a hobbyist.

What has been your most memorable session and why?

Hard to say, all the sessions have been exceptional… I do remember one session when a huge hornet bit me in the leg. It was painful but funny hahaha

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

It has always been the people - the friends I've made during my photographic journey. They give me inspiration. And of course, the biggest names in the photography world inspire me, but I try not to look at their work too much to avoid copying them - but it's hard.

The truth is that most pictures have already been made by someone but if we are lucky, during our lifetime, we can create a few that have never been done before.

Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?

Hahaha of course Nikon, but seriously it's Pentax 67. For many years I have been working with medium format cameras and Pentax is my favourite. I use a Prime lens 105mm and some modified for example, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 180mm - this makes the gear very heavy, but "no pain no gain" hahaha

And as I mentioned earlier I also work with Large Format cameras but, because they are not very portable, mainly I work with medium format.

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

Don't focus too much on the gear. You can make perfect photos with an old scratched camera from the flea market.

The most important thing is to be aware of your feelings and follow your instincts. This applies to taking an individual photo as well as to the type of photography you pursue. Don't take a picture just because you feel you "have to". And don't stick to one style of photography if you feel a pull towards something else. Find what you're good at and what your passion is.

Early in your career, you can be focused on gear and think you always have to take a particular type of photo. As you become more experienced, you often feel something tell you that a picture is right or wrong and you feel comfortable or uncomfortable with a particular style of photography. It's important that you're aware of these feelings, follow them and avoid becoming mechanical and obsessed with process. You need to be aware and open-minded.

What do you think of our new magazine?

I love it J good job guys!

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