A.TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
I am 43, I was born in Poland where I received my education from preschool to my doctor’s degree. Initially I was working as a professor at the University in Lublin, where I am from. In 2000 I left Poland. I was living in USA, the Philippines, Indonesia and recently in Kenya. During that time I was a researcher and a consultant, a teacher, a manager in a photographic business and of course a photographer. Apart from photography I like traveling. I saw over 60 countries on 5 continents. Some of those from the bicycle saddle. Long biking trips is also my hobby. Mountains are my another big love. I spent my 40th birthday on a top of Imja Tse in Himalayas, 6189 meters above sea level.
B.WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER?I can imagine many worse job’s that one where I have to look at beautiful girls wearing beautiful clothes, but seriously speaking I never really dreamed about being fashion photographer. As it often happens in life, things just happen by accident. In my case it happened about 6 years ago in Jakarta. There was a need for fashion photos showing wedding dresses .
I was working as a wedding photographer so it was quite a smooth shift. When I was starting my adventure with photography I was exclusively interested in nature. I thought people are boring but today I am a bit bored with nature but find photographing people, models – very refreshing. I realize that what attracted me to the nature photography in first place, is actually present in any kind of photography. Namely, it is a challenge of showing something in a new way, differently than many others before you. Considering number of photographers and pictures taken since 1800 it is really huge challenge.
C.WHAT QUALITIES MAKE A GOOD FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER?
An eye for details, understanding how to use light (either natural or in the studio) in a way to enhance beauty of a garment and a model. At least this is my goal. I believe that if I achieve this artistic goal I will also help designer sell her/his clothes, which is the ultimate, pragmatic aim of fashion photo sessions. Fashion photography is a team sport. Therefore good fashion photographer has to be patient, tolerant and have social skills. I noticed that good mood, ability to make a joke even when everybody are stressed when things go wrong, can help a lot. Nature photographer can be a grouch, fashion photographer has to smile.
D.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A PHOTOGRAPHER?
I can’t believe it, but it is exactly a quarter of a century already! However as I already mentioned, I was starting as a nature photographer (being a geographer and traveler). I must have pointed my camera towards models for the first time about 10 years ago.
E.TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE SET UP FOR YOUR PHOTO SHOOTS.
Do you want me to give up my secrets here? Ok, let me reveal some of my “tricks”. I am a Canon guy. Over a years I gathered few cameras and number of lenses. For fashion shoots I use Canon 5D2 usually with 70-200/2.8 lens attached. Fast telephoto lenses have very narrow dept of field, which results in nicely blurred background. After all model is what viewers eye should focus on. At times I use rather unconventional lenses for fashion, like fish-eye,to obtain unique effect. Light is very important for photographers. We need a lot of it, but direct sunlight is not flattering either. Therefore need for use reflectors to light up shadows on model’s face. I also use speedlamps with softboxes for the same purpose. Good results can be achieved also by putting model in the shadow created by diffuser. It turns harsh direct sunlight into much softer and dimmer light. Unlike most photographers, during events I use speedlight designed for …macrophotography. I found it creating much more pleasing results, as it lights up more evenly the whole area. Flash lamps mounted on the top of camera tend to leave one side of a picture much darker then the other.
F.HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
In my opinion I am still looking for it. On the other hand I think there must be something in my pictures that is characteristic. Perhaps it is tendency to combine nature photography with fashion. One session from Kenya which I particularly liked was in 14 Falls with Deliah Ipupa
Unfortunately in most cases sessions have to happen in the city (financial reasons). I also like to use unusual places, often considered ugly, like workshops or ruined buildings
But I am gonna leave judgement on my style to the audience.
G.ARE YOU A SELF TAUGHT PHOTOGRAPHER,DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY OR DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR?
Self taught! I was too impatient to read books or attend courses when I was starting. I just grabbed camera and
started to shoot. Interestingly, my very first pictures are not that bad. Due to the poor camera quality they are slightly blurred in the corners, time is turning them more and more yellow, but when it comes to rules of composing pictures even my first roll of film (ORWO made in East Germany) shows that I instinctively understood at least golden ratio rule. This is why I believe that you either have it or not. If you have it, you don’t need courses. If you don’t have it, even courses and books won’t make you good photographer.
H.WHAT IS THE LAST IMPRESSION YOU WANT TO LEAVE IN YOUR PICTURES?
Are designers gonna read this? (laughing). If so I am gonna say that impression should be: “I want to have this dress!” But jokes aside, if I manage to make an outfit and a model look so good that others would like to look similarly then my job is done. It would mean I have skills to sell literally and figuratively speaking fashion to the clients. Isn’t it why fashion designers are being paid? It is increasingly more difficult task though and requires more skills, more interesting ideas for the shoot and better equipment.
I would be very happy if my pictures would be able to move viewers for a moment to some better, more beautiful world. Give people a moment of rest from every-day life with all its frustrations and stress.
I.WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT COMES WITH WORKING IN NAIROBI?
My biggest challenge is finding interesting and safe venues,for which I would not have to pay. I don’t know if fellow photographers have the same problem, but I was asked few times for ridiculous amount of money to be able to take pictures in certain location. I also miss old towns that can be found everywhere in Europe. Those old buildings with narrow streets, small staircases, brick walls are perfect for fashion photos.
It is very difficult to buy certain equipment here. Every time I need something ,I am forced to order it from USA, Asia or Europe. I get so frustrated when something would gets broken. Other than that sessions are pure pleasure!
J.YOUR WORK IS COLLABORATIVE.WHICH STYLISTS,DESIGNERS OR MODELS HAVE YOU WORKED WITH ?
I have only worked in Kenya for one year so the list is not very long yet. One of my first models are not well known. I had a session with Tatianah who recently became second runner in a Face of Nairobi 2013 beauty contest and Veda who is also second runner in Miss Tourism 2013 contest. I have also worked with accomplished models like Deliah Ipupa,
, David Woods,
whose pictures were lately published in True Love magazine. I had very enjoyable session organized by The Bow Tie Events with Shamim Nabil, Miss World Kenya 2012 and Pinky Ghelani
I have also worked with models from Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa.
When it comes to designers my last work with Shenu Hooda and Martha Jabo(UGANDA) ,Galina Tatarinova (RUSSIA) and Kenyan designers like Leah Akinyi, Maria Ndegwa and Mohammed Bana.
Stylists i have encountered with during my work are Njanja Kimani, Ciku Kiarie, Lorraine Akinyi, Rose Ntongo’ndu and a young taleted make up artist I had fun working with,who is originally from Thailand called Toony.
I.DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR THOSE WHO ARE LOOKING TO GET INTO THE PHOTOGRAPHY INDUSTRY?
Be persistent, don’t give up, keep trying. Be reliable, punctual and consistent. One failure can ruin someone’s reputation. Think about the results, not the money you gonna make.
M.WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU AND SEE MORE OF YOUR IMAGES?
My pictures were published in magazines in Poland, USA and Indonesia. Lately Asian Weekly published my photographs in Kenya. They can also be found on calendars and postcards, some albums and student books. I was an author or co-author of a dozen of photo-exhibits, but probably the easiest way to see my work is on the Internet. I am trying to keep my website www.radekartphoto.com up to date but actually found it easier to present my work on Facebook (facebook.com/RadekArtPhoto)