Dear iDEALS, there is something rather striking about Paulina Otylie Surys' works! Born in 1979 in Poland, the London based fine art and photographer has recently she has launched herself as a fashion photographer. Not long after her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland, Paulina developed her skills and her distinctive style as a painter. Following her studies, she discovered photography to be her preferred medium for its unique ability to c apture a moment in time ; she could, however, be considered a photographer, painter and art director in equal measure.
Her works exemplify this juxtaposition of the old and the new; using entirely analogue equipment and early photographic techniques, she presents subjects in a thoroughly modern and innovative way (using, very often, items from fantastic contemporary designers that complement her own aesthetic tastes and interests).
Her work has appeared in numerous magazines such as VISION China, Vogue It online, FIASCO, IDOL, Vanity Fair, VOLT, TALK Be., Ballad Of...magazine, Collaboration with Mother of Pearl and Show Studios, DROME, The Ones 2 Watch. VOGUE.com, VOGUE It, The British Journal of Photography, TWILL Features: Calle20.es, Re-Bel, Ballad Of.., Fashion 156, 500 PHOTOGRAPHERS, FUTURISTA.com, K-mag pl, Strand Gallery, Deluxx, VELVET, The British Journal of Photography, Amateur Photographer, DROME, ASVOF, TWIN, VELVET (GEOT Venezuela)
FilepMotwary: Paulina you are a very young photographer, yet your work focuses on the past, characters that belong to historical tales, legends even. Why does nostalgia matters so much to you that it was your decision to give your own interpretation to it?
PaulinaOtylieSurys: Nostalgia, when used to look at the past, is like a filter, it softens everything and makes even very disturbing things bearable, it's forgiving.
A lot of my works, especially my forthcoming projects, are related to the body, death, violence and sexual tension. The circle of life really. It is a theme that seems to be natural to all of us, yet remains largely. The medium of my choice, hand coloured gelatin silver prints and wet plate ambrotypes and tintypes, filters the content, helping the images to appear to come from some unplaceable past age, hopefully filling the viewer with an imaginary nostalgia. Many people would avert their eyes from the subjects depicted in my works if they were shot in an unforgiving, documentary fashion. The technique of my choice makes the subjects sublime, creating a disturbing combination of beauty and the horrific.
POS:Yes, I am currently preparing a solo exhibition for the Richard Young Gallery in Kensington&Chelsea (February to April 2013) and am preparing for the launch of my book in Paris (14-17th november 2012), London (end of November 2012) and Moscow at the end of this year, as a part of the Paulsen Collection exhibition.
POS: I am really excited about it. It is a beautiful hardback, A2 format monographic album titled LIMBO. The book's presentation will be accompanied by a small exhibition of original prints.
POS:"Each precise object or condition or combination or process exhibits a beauty"(Whitman), whether what is being captured is idealised image or brutal reality.
Photography gives value to its subjects, making them equal; this is the most powerful aspect of photography. People believe in what they see, it depends on the photographer as to what he wants to expose as the truth.
POS: The first and most important part is the research I carry out on the brief's subject matter. From then on, I work closely with the team involved to develop my initial ideas. Often I will help with the set design and will direct my assistants in setting up the lights etc. I give very accurate directions to the models about the postures I want to see.
I will set them up as I would a still life; positioning their every limb, the folds of the clothes, their hair etc, with my own hands. After the shoot I develop the negatives by hand. I usually use black and white film but will sometimes use colour. I develop my monochrome films in deep tanks, which means I am in complete darkness and solitude for several minutes; allowing me time for reflection and meditation on both the forthcoming images and other things.
This part of the process is incredibly important for me, the negative is like a stencil and so many things depends on its' quality. I print my photographs myself, I occasionally tone or bleach them and than hand colour some of them. Every hand coloured image is a one off, a unique piece of art, impossible to replicate.
My photographs are carefully shot and hand crafted, the process is slow and resembles more the art of painting than contemporary photographic processes.
POS: My first hand coloured images were a series of landscape peel apart Polaroids which I took in 2003, in order to complete my project for serigraphy. I took them using an old polaroid land camera. The tinting was more dreamy and was particularly inspired by the colouring of Hans Bellmer.
POS: A lot of magazines prefer crisp, digital images but this sort of photography has become so ubiquitous that even good examples can be missed when flicking through a contemporary magazine; because of this, I think analogue photography can really stand out.
Many publications are, however, still reluctant to present artful photography of the sort I produce; for some reason they do not consider it strictly "fashion photography", there is still a trend for more documentary style imagery. I have done a few commercial jobs using digital cameras, I think successfully, yet I do not have the same enthusiasm or interest in this medium.
FM: How does your own personal heritage, your roots reflect in your work?
POS: There is a very strong influence, the experiences of my childhood are, to my eyes, apparant on my work. I was raised in post-communist Poland but luckily, thanks to my family (particularly my mother), I was raised with a lot of art around me. It was something very exclusive in those days, the art books were sold "under the counter".
Lots of things were strongly censored or banned in the post-communist block. This was a world where people were given pieces of paper stating how much dairy or meat they are allowed to buy, and even then, it was almost impossible to get them. Also, Poland's approach to religion is particularly devout and sincere and (despite the fact that my family have never been church goers) I had compulsory religious education at school and had to attend Mass. This has undoubtedly influenced my work.
POS:Yes, I studied painting and graphic techniques in Poland. My ability as a painter can be seen in most of my work since 95% of my images are black and white photographs that I have hand painted. It is also an enormous help when visualising composition and colour and in directing the model.
POS: I have started separating my fashion/advertising work from my personal projects, where I inevitably have greater creative freedom. I have plans for some big conceptual projects over the next few years, connected with the human body and religion.
I am starting the first one very soon and it will hopefully end up as a book (Autumn 2013), a series of big prints and an installation.