Paulina Otylie Surys is a Polish London-based fine art and fashion photographer who combines phantasm of film photography and the beauty of painting to create exquisite images. Her first book, a monographic album, was recently released by Paulsen Editions.
When did you begin taking pictures? What was your first camera?
‘Polaroid Landcamera 210 was my first camera. I bought it in 2003 and I did a series of hand-tinted peel apart Polaroid landscapes for my screen print project. Afterwards, I did not experiment with photography until I bought my first Lubitel. This is when the adventure started; I had finally found my medium, and I realized that it was exactly what I had been looking for. I have never returned to painting but I do feel that I have successfully blended it with photography.’
Describe your style in photography. What are your usual subjects and themes?
‘I take photographs of things which are often unnoticed by the naked eye, or shoot subjects in a way that they are not commonly seen. Once photographed, these details will be understood in a, possibly infinite, variety of ways, depending on the viewer. They will create the final piece in their own minds. Mythological symbolism can be a tool for controlling such subjective viewing.
‘I am aware that my photography may seem weird, perhaps even aggressive to the viewer. I can be rather domineering when shooting in order to provoke emotions in the subject, to get to know them better.’
Amongst your numerous film photographs, which is your favourite?
‘I think the most exciting projects are always those which are yet to be done, existing only in my sketchbook as a brief. I am always very excited about them, especially if they are connected with my personal interests. For instance, recently I have been exploring a fusion of photography, religion and science and have also produced a project on exploring the concept of beauty which will result in a show and my second book in 2013.’
Who or what influences your photographic style?
‘I appreciate good photography in any style and using any technique. However, among my early influences I would name Margaret Julia Cameron, Nadar, Joel Peter Witkin, Jan Saudek, Paolo Roversi, and Irina Ionesco. Most of my influences are derived from classical paintings, literature, history, religion and mythology. Sometimes though, it can be simply a location or person that triggers the idea for the shoot.’
What makes analogue photography more special?
‘I personally find analogue photography extremely creative, it is just fascinating; the feel of it, the smell and touch. It’s the magic of chemical reactions, of recording objects and people in a unique way. A photographer cannot avoid giving each of their images an individual touch that no other can truly emulate.
That is not to say I am against digital photography, I have worked with this medium in the past; I just never enjoyed it as much as analogue. Digital images can be so perfect and glossy (especially if combined with a high key flash light) that they can lose some of the unnamable essence that appeals to me so much. I really enjoy the texture of hand printed photographs. The grain which, depending on the treatment, can be smooth or very big, is what gives the works their individual characters and strengths.
‘I work in a black and white and colour darkroom, and am experimenting with other alternative processes such as wet plate collodion (hand coloured photographs on glass and metal).’
What words of wisdom do you have for young/emerging photographers?
‘Do not be afraid of making mistakes and works you consider failures, the best works always results from experiments. Sometimes it’s hard to continue when you fail or have people trying to put you down, but you learn to get over it; it only makes you stronger and better. The photographer’s personality and mental strength is as important as their creativity.’
Aside from your website, do you have other creative online, offline projects? If none, what creative pursuits could you explore?
‘I have just had my first book published by Paulsen Editions and the launch is in Paris during Paris Photo from November 14-17, 2012. There will be also a launch in London at the end of November.
‘I am also preparing for my solo exhibition (February 2013 in Kensington & Chelsea) and have just finished the brief for my second book.’
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