There is more to a person than meets the eye. In this interview, Agata Gąsek discloses how she sees the inner wonders of people, especially women, kept within their hearts. Personalities transcend into magical portraits with her film camera.
Here's how Agata Gąsek captures the essence of a person.
Hi Agata, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, what's the first thing you notice when you meet a person, whether a passerby or a new acquaintance?
Hello, thank you so much for having me. I think I'm a person that doesn't focus on details when meeting someone new, that happens much later. What matters is the overall impression. Everybody's different, there isn't one universal thing I notice first. What I pay attention to is the way someone speaks, sometimes the whole impression becomes different after I talk to somebody.
Most of your photographs are of women, portrayed in between raw and slightly fantastical. What do you usually look for when photographing them?
There always were strong female figures in my life. First my mother, then many wonderful women and the relationships which I've had with them played a really big role in my personal and artistic development. Most of them were artists themselves (including my mother) and they influenced me in many ways. I think that's why I'm so drawn to them when choosing objects for my photographs. What I look for is a character and personal style, some sense of realness, more than actual attractiveness. I find myself taking the best photos of the people I know rather than strangers. Observing them for a long time, interacting with them makes the resulting photographs reflect them better.
If you can take a portrait of any person you want right now, who would it be, and why?
There are so many people I would love to photograph, but the ones I'd like to photograph the most are the CocoRosie sisters - their music was a big part in my late teenage years, I remember listening to their albums on repeat for months, even during sleep. I adore their style and their music has already been an inspiration for many of my photographs over the years, being able to actually photograph them would be unreal.
Other than that there are just 'ordinary' people I meet and discover thanks to the internet, like for example Jonna Jinton, a girl and an artist that lives in a deep forest in north Sweden, making videos of her life close to nature and singing Kulning. Watching her life so different to mine yet so fascinating makes me want to go there and photograph it.
But as I said - I'm more interested in just ordinary people, of course, I would like to photograph some famous actors or public people, but that takes a second place.
If you could photograph one thing forever of the human body, what would it be?
I think it has to be the face, not so original, however, the face is the most versatile - it can look different each time. But if you are asking about something more detailed I'd choose to photograph arms. The net of veins underneath the skin reminds me of tree branches, my other favorite thing to look at.
What do you usually use in your work process (in photography)?
I always use existing light, when I take pictures I only have a camera and few items or clothing pieces with me. Right now I'm using mainly old, analog cameras since I completely used up my digital one, but that's not the only reason - I don't know what it is but there is certainly something magical about them. The atmosphere on film is denser and there is no bigger joy than picking up developed films from photo-lab after waiting for so long.
However as much as taking photos, I love post-processing. It allows me to make my photographs look exactly as I imagined and wanted them to look like. Rarely, but sometimes I decide to manipulate them a little more by adding graphic elements or combining them together. Also, I have a strict rule regarding my work process - nobody can see my photos before I do and before I'm completely done with them. Many people were very unhappy about it, especially the models, but that's just how I work. Yet another reason to love analog cameras.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Who are your muses?
Inspiration is everywhere - especially when I'm not trying to find it. It could be certain sounds in a song, my own memories, and even smells, like the smell of the first warm nights or soil after the rain, it can all bring images to my head. That's what I love the most about myself, I'm very poor at remembering facts and learning any theory, but my memories of events and feelings are so vivid, in my mind, everything connects to each other creating this one big amazing thing I can't even describe. So I try to capture this using photography.
Although recently I try to be more 'in the moment', be more sensitive to my surroundings, observe, try not to create something but to capture things that are already there, in that particular moment. I especially love using film for that. My recent muse is my grandmother, but taking pictures of her is quite challenging since she doesn't like to pose or being photographed very much, so I really have to be alert, being able to capture the moment is especially important in this case.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, who would it be?
I would love to spend a day on set with Gregory Crewdson, but more like a quiet observer. I admire his photographs, the atmosphere in them and how detailed they are. I would be honored to witness the whole creative process and take some lessons. The next person that comes to my mind is Arvida Byström because of how honest she portrays women and herself. I also love to collaborate with my friends that are photographers as well and I already have had many times in the past. I'm always looking forward to working on more projects together - I think it's a dream way of spending free time.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
Right now I'm preparing myself for the film school exams, but I also have a few ongoing personal projects. One of them will be about my childhood memories, I have been thinking about it for quite some time now. Also, I'm developing some films I shot during my recent trip to Florence, I used my new-old camera I bought so let's hope everything will turn out fine!