i met Billy Howle over a year ago and took this quiet portrait of him then. actors are so incredible to photograph, they can easily tap into any emotion you’d like them to work with. it’s such a treat for a photographer.
a few years back i took pictures of Johnny in victoria park. the first one was published in a magazine, but i was looking at some outtakes the other day and loved the second one. it’s so natural. we were just having a laugh and he tried to look at me but couldn’t because the sun was shining right into his eyes. i miss looking straight into the sun and feeling the warmth of sun rays on my face, perhaps that’s why i picked that photo now - in the depths of this gloomy weather. anyway, since then Johnny has been working on some exciting projects acting-wise and he has also recorded another album. he’ll be touring with his band this spring, here are the dates, go see him, he’s great. that’s a nice tune from the new album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3feE_GCMcjc. (if i were to recommend one song though it’d have to be ’amazon love’ which he sings with his sister Lillie.)
JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
AGATHA A NITECKA: I usually skip breakfast. You got lucky today. This morning I had coffee, goats milk yogurt, fresh passion fruit & 3 madeleines. Very nice? I know!
JC: Are there any emerging photographers inspiring you at the moment?
AN: I have to admit that I’ve never really got too inspired by looking at someone else’s work. I do find other photographers work interesting of course. After some research I would say that at the moment my favourites are Thomas Albdorf and Fabien Seguin.
I’ve noticed that photographers from Russia often catch my attention, have a look at Tata Vislevskaya’s work, and Egor Rogalev’s especially his newest project - Fearing the 2014 Olympics. Then there is the intimacy and sun on the skin, from Spain: Carles Rodrigo and Natalia Herrero. Babette de Jong has a great eye too, she seems close to her subjects, yet she manages to maintain a certain dose of abstraction in her images.
JC: What is your current body of work all about?
AN: I’ve turned into an obsessive story teller. I always had a hard time featuring just one picture, or putting only one the wall. I naturally think in series. I must have at least two photographs published next to each other, I don’t find single images very engaging. For that reason I love having my work featured in magazines, or books, where there is a natural flow of pages which creates a narrative. Boat Magazine featured my little photoessay recently, shot in Sarajevo. June/July issue of Oh Comely magazine has just published my favourite portrait/fashion story so far, it’s kind of a story about natural light too. I’m now publishing my own fine art newspapers, see them here. All these projects are my little stories and reflections on intimacy, however abstract it may seem at times, it’s always there, somewhere.
JC: Any exciting plans for 2011?
AN: Yes, I’d like to publish a high quality, limited edition, of à la recherche de la jouissance perdue in a form of a book, maybe accompanied by an exhibition - that’d be nice, no? I’ll be printing more volumes of the love diaries too. Then, later on this year, a film by Andrea Arnold, Wuthering Heights is going to be released. I took pictures for the poster, the DVD, and an additional photo-essay; you’ll spot some lovely images in magazines, and all the papers. I’m dying to share those pictures, the whole setting was breathtaking, and I’m sure the movie will be a great success.
JC: What initially drew you to photography?
AN: Light. There are two things I always wanted to do. Firstly, since I was 5 years old, I wanted to capture the light - I used to build these structures using chairs, tables and white semi-transparent sheets. It didn’t necessarily work, but I figured out later on that a camera could do a better job. Secondly, I wanted to have the ability to fly and chase the wind - haven’t figured that one out, yet.
JC: What one piece of advice would you give to recent photography graduates?
AN: I would put on my Winston Churchill voice and say: never give in - never, never, never, never. Listen to him saying it once, and hopefully it’ll stay with you forever.
last time when i sat on dusdin’s studio sofa in brooklyn i asked to flick through his book of portraits. it was perfect. one image stood out for me the most, i got very excited, so dusdin said he’d give it to me and we decided to do a print swap. i posted him a nice handprint of a picture from my russian series which he picked and he has sent me my favourite image from the book.
It’s not often that black models are shot in soft colours. In fashion, pinks and pastels are reserved for paler complexions, while black models are mainly used to showcase the bold colours that make white skin appear washed out, or the leopard/zebra/‘ethnic’ prints in fashion that season. It might seem strange to complain about this in an industry where black models are chronically underused, and where fashion editors would sooner hire white models and black them up than get a black woman in for the shoot. In this context, the observation that black models don’t wear pink might seem the least of our worries.
But consider that colours like soft pink, baby blue etc. are commonly associated with femininity, delicacy, vulnerability, whimsy and play. While demanding greater numbers of models of colour on the runway, it’s also worth thinking about how limited and limiting the representations of black women can be. Styled as powerful, fierce, sassy, divalike, sexy or imposing, black women in fashion do not appear in their diversity. Where are the gentle, soft, vulnerable, gauche, fawn-like black models modelling pretty spring looks?
This lack is why Olympia Le-Tan’s SS13 collection, modelled by dancing black women miming into hairbrushes and wearing penny loafers and bows and Alec Wek pretty in Jasper Conran pink (as opposed to her oiled skin being used as contrast) were such refreshing fashion moments. And these shots of Alima Fofana also stand out for representing a side to black women that is all too scarce in fashion pages. We know all about black lady divas, but this shot reminds us of the soft edges, the vulnerable underside of that commonly presented face of black womanhood.
on my way to russia or ukraine i always stop in warsaw. whenever i take trains east i feel relieved when i arrive in berlin, that’s where the actual journey starts for me. i’m not a fan of efficient fast trains because i travel for the sake of it, i don’t want to get to the destination as soon as possible - berlin is where the journey gets slower. next stop is poland and warsaw has this wonderful main station where all my favourite slow night trains leave from. take your pick - prague, budapest, vilnius, minsk, kiev, lviv. and then further on to the real, raw and emotional places - st petersburg, moscow, odessa.
on my last trip a few months ago i’ve been introduced to Andrzej Georgiew (such a beautiful surname! of bulgarian descent). he lives and works in warsaw. what an incredible person. he’s known for his stunning b&w large format portraits which are then turned into theatre posters and book covers. from what i understand he works for the national theatre a lot, and photographs actors and directors, he’s had a few big exhibitions too.
Andrzej asked me to sit for him. i have never been photographed with a large format camera. it was such a beautiful experience. i don’t like standing in front of the camera, i feel lost and too exposed (that’s why i try to work gently and quietly with others). however, i loved sitting for Andrzej, with him it’s a magical process. i’m sure it’s mostly because of his personality and the way he works. he whispers to you and only talks in half sentences when he shoots. he almost ‘flies’ around his camera, like a butterfly. he does the most extraordinary things with his hands, you read all the gestures intuitively. i took two sneaky photos with my blackberry of him at work (the two above). i loved watching him work. it was like the most beautiful spectacle which only his sitters are allowed to experience.
no one can tell me now that what the photographer shoots with doesn’t make any difference for their subject. it makes all the difference! here’s my case again about shooting on film. it feels different! not just to the photographer but also to the photographed! the concentration is different, the connection created is so strong and unique, the whole process is different, the sound the camera makes is different. i could sit in front of Andzrej’s large format camera forever. looking into an empty lens for quite a long while made me feel very empty and suspended but in a beautiful way, i haven’t known a feeling like this before. for this, and the whole experience, i’m very grateful. thank you A!