Interview: Photographer Krzysztof Zapolski (Poland)
Can you tell us a little about you?
My name is Chris and since I’m not sure what I do I say it’s an art.
How and when did you get into photography?
That’s actually a funny story, because photography was never my cup of tea. I was all into sports but after a hip injury I had to quit sports and found myself with big hole in my life. My wife always joked that during holidays I take crooked photos, so she gave me her camera and said “Make use of your free time, maybe You’ll learn to take straight photos”. So I took the camera and was hooked completely. It was an instant love.
What does photography mean to you?
I’ve been a designer for 15 years and usually the things you do for a living (even the creative ones) aren’t the things that give you goose bumps. So I keep photography as my “creative backyard” where I can do what I want the way I want. I always keep in mind that every day millions of photos are taken and published on the internet, so I’m no special snowflake and my pictures have no deeper meaning. But they give me fun - and that’s fine by me.
Where do you get inspiration from? In my first year I was heavily inspired by Peter Lindbergh and did a lot of street lifestyle/potrtraiture. Then I moved to more weird stuff and now I’m inspired mostly by fashion magazines. I don’t follow who’s popular and what’s trendy on the internet. Just do my own thing.
Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.
I joke that I took the camera to learn to take straight photos, but never did.I like weird points of view, wide angles, crooked framing, unnatural poses. Friends say that they can recognize my photos without reading who’s the author and i take it as a big compliment. But I can’t say that I have one style and I’m “the guy that shoots this in that particular style”.My portfolio is full of completely different images since depending on the mood I can take some weird fashion shots, the other day it can be a delicate portrait or some kinky nude. I just do what I want.
Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?
There’s a saying “do the thing you love and you won’t work a second of your life” but I disagree with it. There’s this myth of artist-freelancer doing only the quality work. but from my experience, when You do something for a living, have a family and mortgage to pay, you’re often forced to do the things that make you cringe, but put the food on the table and keep the bank at bay. So I’m hobbyist by choice. I have a regular job that gives me decent money, but not so decent amout of creative fullfilment, so I keep photography as my creative sandbox. That way every photoshoot is special to me and I’m excited each time I take the camera.
Do you think in advance what you want in the picture ?
Definitely. I come to the shoot with drawings of the poses I want to shoot (simple matchstick drawings just to sell the idea). I prepare moodboards for the models and scout locations if shoot is going to be outdoors. Oftentimes I buy clothes in second-hand shops. One of the models I work with calls me “German car assembly line” and that’s sums me up pretty accurately ;)
Studio, on location or both?
I like the controlled environment of the studio, the comfort it gives - especially when doing stylized or nude fashion. But I don’t shy away from location. Especially when it’s a good one and I have an opportunity to scout it beforehand. In the end it all depends on the style of the photos I’m after.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
Most memorable one was also the biggest eye-opener. I was doing the shoot with the model I worked more than ten times before, but we couldn’t get the right shot, there was something wrong, but we couldn’t name what. Then our stylist said “give me a minute”,came back with 2 metres of wire, tangled it into shapeless form, attached it to the model’s head and that was it. That moment showed me that you can do great shot with pretty much anything, there’s no such thing as “stupid idea” and actually, the more stupid it gets, the more you have to do it. You have to be open minded and not afraid of failing. After all - it’s not a heart surgery and no patient will die if it turns out,that idea was actually stupid. But you have to give it a shot
Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?
To me camera is just a camera. I use various brands, analog and digital - and none of them is better than the other. Camera is just a tool. The real picture-taking device is photographer’s eye and his/her sensitivity. Without it You can shoot large format or Phase One and i will be worthless. When it comes to lenses, if I had to pick only one lens for the rest of my life it would be planar 50 1.7. It’s razor sharp and has quite a character. Maybe a bit conservative focal-length wise, but if it had to be only one, it would be fifty.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
As a hobbyist I’m not the person to give any business-related advices, but for me a good rule thumb is doing your own thing. Not trying to be like someone who’s popular at the time, not trying to mimic someone’s style. There are millions of photographers in the world and either you stand out or get lost in the crowd - and the best way to stand out is to do your thing the way you want it to be.
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