Joanna Gazdziak is an 18-year-old Polish aspiring creative person. She is currently a second-year photography student at Exeter College with the hopes of her work reaching some of the biggest fashion magazines in the future. Her project "Simply Saturated" focuses on bright colours combined with fashion and portraiture photography. The intention was to create magazine worthy shots with people who are not models.
Interview with Joanna Gadziak by Olya Petrakova (Maketank)
Olya: Would you mind sharing how you create an atmosphere for your photography session?
Joanna: I try to make my models feel comfortable as they possibly can because I've been [a model] and I know it can be really frightening. [I use] people that I've had contact with before. Whether that be a friendship or even just a conversation about something we're both passionate about. I feel like that brings people together, especially in the creative fields. Because there's just something about two artists who are passionate about something coming together on a shared, common goal. I find it really special.
Working with models that are not as confident maybe as I'd like them to be, as much as that would be a challenge, is also really rewarding. At the end of the shoot and during the shoot, I show my models some of the photos and they gain confidence in themselves because they see it's not as bad as they think it is! I try to do everything I can, to show them the progress. I ask them how they're feeling about it and I like them choose what the music is for the shoot.
Olya: Do you choose poses before, or do you find them naturally?
Joanna: It depends on how much experience someone has. I've had some people come in where I thought that they weren't models, but as soon as they got put in front of the camera, they just completely lost any restraint that they had. But sometimes they need a little bit of guidance. That's exactly what people say makes them comfortable at a shoot. I give them a few ideas, but we kind of like ease into it and we see what works and what doesn't. Then we try to use some of the things that did work and try to switch up the things that didn't.
Olya: Can you tell me a little bit about your choice of colours?
Joanna: My tutor said I'm actually going to be a legacy in college because [before my project] we only had black and white backdrops. We didn't actually have any of the colors that we have now. I think I brought forward six colours into the palette. I get really happy when I see someone’s just used the yellow background! Think about commercial [fashion] photography - you always have outfits shot on a white background.
I’m really happy that I learned [how to light the background]. I was helping out on a shoot with Harry Cooke once and he was teaching me and showing me how important it is to light the background. How long it should take. It's not something I paid that much attention to before, but I can definitely see after that workshop is that I've started paying a lot more attention to it. If I wanted, like, a burgundy I just wouldn't light the background or I'd have it really, really low. But if I wanted a bright, saturated red, I'd light it accordingly.
Olya: Did you retouch any of your photos?
Joanna: The models aren't retouched, but if background had a hole or a stain, I'd just erase that. I'm a massive perfectionist so it doesn't work for me if there's something dirty. I [try] to stay away from the retouching - if I'm going to take a photo, I want to compose it and have it perfect because I won't take the photo unless it is perfect. I don't really see the point in retouching something if I'm trying to work with real models because then I'd just make them unreal.
Olya: What about makeup?
Joanna: It depended on the model really. I don't have a set make-up team because everyone at the college is really busy. Makeup artists charge quite a lot of money and I [don’t] really have the equipment for that - I couldn't get hair stylists. There were a few shoots where one of my friends, [who is] also a model, would help me. She just came along and did hair and make-up.
Some of the models did the make-up themselves, I just told them what kind of thing I wanted and where I'd found inspiration on Instagram. There were some outcomes where it was a little more crazy, and some where it's a little bit more toned down and that's what I like because through that you can also see their identity.
Olya: Whose work inspires you?
Joanna: When I was doing [GCSE Art] there was this one photographer who I really liked - Antonio Mora. He merges portraits of people with landscapes, he makes that into one composition.
As I said, I was so happy to work with Harry Cooke because I've been looking at his work and I really like it. I felt quite shocked and inspired by the fact that I think he went to the same college as I did, a few years ago and then he went to Bournemouth University, which is quite local as well, and the fact that he's worked with places like Vogue.
I've found that my aesthetic is more edgy, kind of like a teenager thing. Some people can find fashion quite over the top but that’s exactly what I like about it. it's the fact that it's just another challenge and you've got to make it mean something - put it in a way that people wouldn't have looked at it before. Like, there's kind of something really striking about having, for example, a beanie mixed with a massive shirt.
The same with a really big pop star at the moment: Billie Eilish. She’s always worn hugely oversized clothing, ever since the start of her career. She's got so much respect for it and just the fact that you don't need to show the whole body. That's exactly why I love fashion and the control that you have over it. Just when you thought there could be nothing new, Billie Eilish comes along and it's like a whole new genre, almost, to what a person can be.
Olya: How was it for you, coming from Poland? Do you find there is a difference in how teenagers dress or how they perceive themselves here vs Poland?
Joanna: I haven't found Poland to be quite as fashion orientated as it is here. In the UK I've had a whole kind of identity change. Just because I've been put in a position where I can choose what I like and what works for me, and be able to show how I feel on a given day just through my clothes. Poland, overall, is quite conservative with what you wear, so if I was to wear ripped jeans to a family event that would not go down well! I bought a denim jacket once and I showed my nan and she was just like 'why would you buy a broken denim jacket? You can't use it - it's got holes in it!' and I was like 'well, this is fashion!'. People appreciate something different and something new here. People try to blend in a lot in Poland…it's like a whole other world here.
One thing I like about Poland is how they try to keep everything so raw and straightforward. This is how it is, here’s no changing it. I really value that because I feel like that's a lot of where my personality comes from as well - I'm really honest with people. I like of say things as they are.