In this weekly interview-series SLR Lounge features amazing photographers from all around the world. Every Sunday we interview a photographer whose work pushes the boundaries of our profession to create images that are emotional, edgy, original, and most of all capture a unique moment in time. We hope these interviews will inspire you, and will help you learn more about these great photographers. On this last Sunday of the year, we interviewed Joanna Kustra, a polish fashion photographer, who currently resides in London:
Name: Joanna Kustra
Location: London, UK
Your website or portfolio: www.joannakustra.com
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started with photography?
My adventure with photography began as a hobby. I bought my first digital camera when I was 22 and started shooting my family and friends. I soon ran out of family members to photograph and I started to look around for interesting faces in the modelling agencies.
In the meantime I studied German Philology and Linguistics but I quickly realised that being a professional photographer is what I actually want to do.
Where did you grow up and what were your earliest creative interests?
I grew up in a small town in south-east Poland. Since I was 7 years old I was learning to play piano and oboe – that’s how my friendship with art began. Although I spent most of my youth practising music I also wrote poems and painted.
I think that being raised in a small community which strongly cherished its traditional art was important in forming my artistic personality.
If you wouldn’t have become a photographer, what would you be doing now?
I studied German Philology and almost became a teacher, however music was always my great passion and I could also become a musician….
How would you describe yourself as a photographer?
There are two things which are equally important to me as a photographer – light and subject.
The perfect lighting is very crucial as it creates the desired mood. I like to think that my photography is simply like painting with light. Probably that’s why most of the time my inspiration comes from paintings.
I am also a great fan of beauty and aesthetics. I love to capture people showing their most attractive side, obviously, from my subjective point of view.
Are there any artists/photographers you look up to?
There would be a long list of photographers I admire, but if I must choose top 3 I would pick:
– Richard Avedon, for elegance and emotions;
– Nick Knight, for pushing boundaries creatively and technically;
– Paolo Roversi, for admiration of classical paintings and mastering natural light.
Why photography? What is it that makes it so intriguing for you? And why fashion-photography?
It will sound very prosaic but I found in photography a great way of expressing myself. Fashion photography is about showing things in most beautiful and attractive way which simply works for me.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It’s hard to point to only a single source. I am definitely influenced by other photographers, clothing designers and other artists, especially painters. I am browsing tons of pictures daily to be up to date with fashion trends.
How did you find your style as a photographer?
It surely didn’t happen over the night. Because I am self taught photographer it was a long process of testing and experimenting.
One of the style-shaping factors would be definitely traveling and learning about other cultures. Moving to London certainly had a great impact on my style.
What photo/photo-series are you most proud of at the moment? Why?
I am quite critical about my work and when looking at my pictures I always find something that I could have done better. To quote Imogen Cunningham “Which of my photographs is my favourite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”
However If I must choose, I would probably point at series called “Paintings”, because with this photo-set I discovered my love to painterly light and shallow depth of field.
Walk us through your workflow. How do you prepare for a photoshoot? What happens during the photoshoot? How much time do you normally spend editing photographs?
First there must be an idea, if it’s a personal project it’s often an inspiration or a trend. I do some internet research and I prepare a mood-board. Then I look for a creative team and contact modelling agency. A good model is crucial to me as he/she is going to “sell my photographs”.
Before the shoot there is a final discussion about the details of make-up, hair and the mood of the photos. I test the lighting set-up on my assistant while the model is being prepared. Depending on the project usual shoot lasts around 7- 8 hrs.
I like to have everything in control so I edit pictures myself. I think that selecting the right photos is the hardest part, because they all need to fit together as a story. Process of choosing and retouching set of 10-12 photos usually takes me around a week.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers out there, looking to achieve success in fashion photography?
There is a great competition in this industry, a lot of very talented young people. That’s why it’s very important to find your own vision and develop a style that will differentiate you from the others.