Interview with Kamila J.Gruss – One of the best portrait photographers in the world

Meet the Polish Photographer Kamila J.Gruss

17 mins read

Please welcome Kamila J. Gruss! Emerging child photographer from Poland and the rising star of portrait and fine art photography!


 “Hello Darkness My Old Friend” by Kamila J. Gruss – Honorable Mention in the Fine ArtCategory at B&W CHILD 2019 photo Competition, First half


Q: We can’t wait to find out more about your  photo! Can you tell us the story behind it?

A:  Have you seen the Dark series? It sucked me right in with its inexpressible power. I was under a spell of its atmosphere, the scenery, the background music (among others, Soap & Skin, which I love!). But, most of all, the story that blows my mind from the first episode. I am a person who likes to lose myself in imagination when having a walk around the city… I see magical people and magical places. It is imagination, that allows me to create a child’s portrait. A portion of beauty, a dose of a scare, a pinch of a mirror reflection. A portrait filled with mystery and delicacy, fragrant with forest haze and darkness.

“Dark” by Kamila J. Gruss – The Winner of the Fine Art Category at B&W CHILD 2019 Photo Competition, First Half


Q: People had a chance to get to know you in the interview we did a while ago. Did anything change in your life and career since the last time we spoke with you?

A: Photography is my passion, my way of catching my breath. It is a part of me, which I love to get lost in. I love to be surprised by photography. It’s a place where I do get to create versions of realities that resonate with my sensitivity It is precisely when I enter this sphere, I rest the most.

It’s always about the photos. When I am in a process of creating, photographs are the last thing on my mind. I “create” them in my mind just before I fall asleep. Being “in the moment”, observing nature and all that is around me, seems to be an endless source of inspiration. Small details I focus on, somehow end up being the content of a picture growing and maturing within me. The part of the big photo I will paint one day.

What has changed since the last interview?

Well, I started approaching people who intrigue me, people I would like to create a portrait of. Several times, I met people that I could not just pass indifferently. A while ago, I would have bitten my tongue, not say a word and regret it for several months. These days, I am a lot bolder. Even if they do not want to be a subject of my work, I try to exchange phone numbers, just in case, they change their mind one day.

If I may, I’d like to send my regards to Paulina, who I hope, will eventually give in and let me capture what I saw when we first met 😉

“Nadia” by Kamila J Gruss, – The Winner of CPC PORTRAIT AWARDS, March 2019


Q: You’ve become one of the best-known portrait artists in the world of child photography. What do you think is the most important thing to consider when shooting portraits and fine art? Is there any advice you would give to people who want to start doing portraiture?

A: I believe, the most important thing is, to analyze both, your own work and work of others. Testing what does work and what doesn’t? Where can the improvements be made? Without analysis, it is hard to grow, learn and move forward.

Personally, I love creations of Paulina Duczman, Ewa Cwikla, Oliwia Major and Richard Wood. I spent a lot of time contemplating, studying, analyzing the details of work, of the photographers whoes work I love. I analyze possible reasons and aims of techniques used, wanting to get to the bottom of the way they think and conclude.
I wonder what light they have used and why? The same applies to accessories, clothes, hairstyles, backgrounds and colors. Photography shows me a piece of the soul of a photographer. Kind of a fingerprint that cannot and should not be copied but used as a pointer, directing towards a source of an inspiration of the particular author and source of a beauty, one can feed ones wondering soul off.

“Babie Lato” by Kamila J. Gruss – Honorable Mention in the Fine ArtCategory at B&W CHILD 2019 photo Competition, First half


Q: We are witnessing the rise of child photography, there are so many new photographers in this genre. What do you think about the current scene of child photography?

A: There are a lot of great photographers around the world. When I admire work of someone new, someone who’s perception shines a different light over a children’s photography, it sometimes takes my breath away and inspires me greatly. We all photograph the same subject but we do it in a billion different ways. I love both fairy-tale cadres and dark ones too, I love life style and reportage.
Amazing variety of the perspectives, from which we look at our children, delivers magical and diverse creativity.

 “Parfum” by Kamila J. Gruss, Poland – Honorable Mention in the Fine ArtCategory at B&W CHILD 2019 photo Competition, First half


Q: You are creating in both B&W and color. Which technique do you prefer?

A: It depends on the frame. In some photographs, it feels that it must be color, because it adds depth to story, while in other, I know, the colors would only draw attention away from what’s most important. Color enchants and captivates the senses, while B&W is souls’ whisperer. It’s really hard to answer clearly. I believe, I balance on this thin borderline and sometimes lean in one-way, other time, the other way.


Q: The process of selecting photographs after shooting is sometimes crucial. How do you choose the photos you’re going to edit? Do you go with a feeling or you tend to analyse the photographs in detail?

A: At the very beginning of the process, I choose a photo that immediately screams to me “this is it!”.
Then I just pay a lot of attention to whether there is something I missed while shooting, bits that can and should be improved. Sometimes the picture that immediately triggers my admiration, is not entirely correct but I usually stick to it, because it evokes an emotional reaction within me. Once I start to work on a chosen photo, I then always try to refine every little detail of it. If I am unable to transform the picture, so it matches my vision, whenever possible, I study to learn how to achieve the desired effect right anyway. Sometimes, however, I have to put the project away for later and get back to it, once I have learnt the process and know how to get to where I want to be with particular picture.
As a school child, I drew with a pencil a lot, sometimes I worked on several paintings for several weeks, refining every detail. It taught me patience and accuracy, a very useful skills that help me to create these days.

© Kamila J. Gruss


Q: Who are the photographers you look up to?

A: I love so many that it will be hard for me to list them all here. In photography, I love diversity
and I think, we can learn something from everyone. After the photo DARK, you can certainly see the inspiration of Ewa Cwikla, who is an amazing person and artist. I was lucky to be able to learn from her. Lee Jeffries, Marcel van Luit, Sacha Marcin, Dmitry Rogozhkin or Alain Laboile, they all give me goose bumps. I also love well-written books, beautiful music and art. Those often take me to other dimensions and inspire tremendously.

© Kamila J. Gruss


Q: The community of Polish photographers is very strong and inspiring, we had so many amazing entries from Poland this year! How come is child photography so popular in your country? How important is it for you to be surrounded with such an amazing talent?

A: Being a part of this group, is one of the best things that happened to me. I belong to the community of mothers, who one day, stated that they want to photograph their children beautifully. Many of us started our adventure with photography after giving birth to our first child. It seems to me that we wanted to combine motherhood with personal development, and that way, create souvenirs of our beloved ones. At the beginning it was just an idea and probably many of us would quickly get bored, if not for the support and cheering of other moms, we share within this community. We love our children; we love photography and this love we try to infect other moms.

We have different groups on Facebook; like ‘Swing with your Kid photography’, or ‘Through a mother’s eye photography’. We share our staff there, and also the leaders arrange challenges on a given topic. There are groups like ‘Kadrografia’ as well, where we subject our pictures to critics of our friends. It’s very important to have someone you can ask for an advice, tips for improvements that can be made, how to avoid different kinds of mistakes. Moms that I know so well and with whom I am friends, are filled with both warmth and ideas. I am very happy that I can be part of this very inspiring community.


Q: Do you have a quote you live by?

A: I trust, probably the most important one is; “Live and let live”. It’s so hard for me to see, how much hatred is around us. We differ in skin color, sexual preferences or religion, or lack of it. I studied German literature, and I wrote my master‘s thesis on the autobiography of Oswiecim survivors. With Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a Jewish lady, who played cello in the orchestra, in Auschwitz, I was able to talk on the phone. I am so terribly afraid of human injustice. Since I have children, this fear has become paralyzing. We are all here for a short while, so let’s respect each other regardless.


Q: What do you think of “opponents” in The First Half of B&W Child 2019 Photo Competition? Do you have any favorite photographs from 2019 contest?

A: It’s hard for me to say which one of my favorites is greatest, when each of them is amazing. I can’t look at the photographer I know and see only this one photo. In my head, I have all their work and all the magic they share with the world. Oliwia Major, Anna Salek, Mariola Glajcar, Ania Wibig or Mina Mimbu, are all an incredible artists.
If I had to choose, however, a few frames that shocked me, they would be “Reflections” by Natalia Chingina. (When I look at this photo, I get a wing, swirls in the magpie and I don’t know where the bottom is, and where is the top? What is right, what about sleep?)
“After the Fight” by Chen Yu Fang, “Dinnertime” by
Zhiyuan Shen
, “The Eyes of Love” by Xiaolian Zhang, ”Share Each Others Fortunes” by Ruiyuan Chen and last but not least: “Fun on The Stairs” by Anna Sas-Milewska.

I would love to thank my family, my mother, my husband and my beloved children once again. I thank also my dearest friends: wonderful and very inspiring photographer Maja Lia <3 (She supports me with all her heart. Thanks to photography I was able to meet her, which I consider to be the greatest success and honor.) and her awesome husband, the amazing artist Mira Lutynska and beloved sisters Ola and Karolina and my dear brother Bartek.

 Thank you Child Photo Competition !

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Collage of bw child photographs

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The 2nd Half of B&W Child 2019 Photo Competition is open for submissions!

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