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Interview: Błażej Zalesiński (Poland)

Can you tell us a little about you?

I am 44 years old husband to my muse Marta and father of two wonderful kids Julia and Bruno. This one sentence describes shortly what matters in my life the most. I live in a small village close to Poznan, Poland where I have got a small, but big enough for my type of photography, studio. A portraitist that fell in love with photographs and films dated back to golden era of Hollywood.

How and when did you get into photography?

I think my first contact with photography was quite similar to many other photographers – watching pictures taken by my father and badgering him with questions regarding equipment he used, seeking answers to questions about the mystery of freezing time in frames. It was many years ago when Poland was ruled by communists and the most popular cameras at that time were brought from USSR. Poor quality but still expensive stuff. Though it was about sixth grade when I started to be interested in photography in general, I can’t say I was taking pictures consciously. I was just documenting family and my school life on films I barely could afford.

What does photography mean to you?

I do not like big words so I would try to avoid saying “a lot” ;-). I would love to say it’s a place for myself when I separate from the world around me. It gives me fragments of freedom and the time in which I can commune with beauty. It is beauty that I want to deal with, catch and keep in frames.

Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

I never thought about my style. I don’t even know if there is any. What I know is that I admire classic photographers that started their careers in first half of the last century, that I love the chic and style of golden era of Hollywood, mastering the light by the greatest portraitist of that time. This has big influence on my work without doubt.

Where do you get inspiration from?

The vast majority of my photographs are portraits. Simple ones. I think this is beauty that inspires me the most. I just try to show it in my pictures the way I see it. I do not seek inner beauty, do not try to catch somebody’s soul and show it in the model’s eyes if you know what I mean.

Think you in advance what you want in the picture?

Well, I guess I detoured a bit answering your last question and actually you have already known what I have been constantly looking for ;-) I just try to use light and shadow to show beautiful and glamorous side of a model I have in front of my camera. So yes, I think in advance what I want to achieve but also, I will tell you a secret – before I start to shoot I do plan and think about the session, but most of the photographs I finally end with happen by chance. They turned out to be a work of this unidentified, intangible relationship between a model and a photographer, a moment in which light, shadow and a model’s pose seem to perfectly harmonize. This is something you cannot predict in advance.

Studio, on location or both?

Both but with stress put on studio. Studio for many reasons wins – you can control the light, you spend less of precious time there in comparison to shooting outdoor –I have my studio in my house. But from time to time I do take pictures outside in available light, mostly during the moments when I do fashion photography. It’s a kind of escape from my typical photography that relaxes me a bit and gives me some perspective. Also my fashion snaps are always colour while my portraits are not. At least mostly.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

Definitely a hobbyist. Despite taking paid assignments I do not photograph for living.

What has been your most memorable session and why?

Each session brings something thrilling but yes, there is one special. I found a girl who did not do much posing before, something in her face attracted my attention and I couldn’t help coming back to her profile in one of the portfolio websites. Finally I made an appointment with her. I was very excited, but when I saw her after my wife and personal muse Marta had finished her make up, I was completely left jaw-dropped. She was just perfect! I made one of my best portraits then which I called Huckleberry Friend. She was not only beautiful but also had wonderful personality. I am still in touch with her. She lives in Berlin currently but I hope to have another photo shooting with her, soon.

Nikon or Canon? Favourite lens?

Digital camera brand does not matter that much as it does in analogue world. But if you are really interested I use mirrorless camera made by Sony. Sometimes, when I am not too lazy I shoot with medium format Bronica. Lens – it matters indeed. My favourite one is 85/1.4. I use it in most of my sessions.

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

As I mentioned earlier I am not a professional photographer hence I am not sure I am the best person to ask that question. If you ask how to start and develop your skills, there is just one answer – practice as much as you can, watch photographs of your favourite photographers, try to figure out how they took their pictures and ... copy them ;-) This is how the best painters learned their skills (and they knew about light a lot). Many times by following their masters and copying their works. After some time they developed their own, unique style. Important thing is not to feel discouraged at the beginning. As for the business – you must follow tips that concern not only photography but all other businesses. There are far more better specialists there to give you advice on this than me.

What do you think of our new magazine?

I found plenty of really good fashion photographs there. So many of them that I was surprised you found me, a portraitist, and asked to write a few words. Magazines like yours are good place for showcasing works of young and fresh photographers and get recognizable by greater audience.

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