First of all, we would like to congratulate you one more time for winning the first place in the documentary category at B&W Child 2017 Photo Competition!
Q: Second Half of the contest was tough. We received a high amount of high-quality submissions. What is your personal impression of shortlisted photographs? How did you feel when you’ve heard the news?
A: Indeed. Submissions are really good. The first look at the photography (winner’s gallery) took my breath away. I don’t envy the jurors, it must be very difficult to choose from so many excellent works. The shortlist is definitely good. When I heard, in both cases, that I succeeded, it filled me with happiness – especially when I saw the work of others. It’s amazing to be part of so many great photographers.
Q: Can you tell us more how does it feel to compete in such a specialized contest? You’ve been entering our contest in both halves and your works were standing out in both halves of the contest. Can you tell us what’s your expectation when entering B&W CHILD 2017?
A: This year was the first time I registered for your competition. At the same time, I never thought I would compete in child discipline. But the idea immediately approached me for the BW. I’ve never searched for photos of children, it always comes out from the situation. I realized that I actually have a lot of pictures of children and some of them have the potential to reach out. Honestly, I didn’t know that so many excellent photographers appeared in the competition and that competition has so high level. After the first round, it was clear to me that it was a competition of real talents. Success in the second round really pleases me, I feel it as recognition of my work. I appreciate that I was able to excel. Every time I submit photos in the competition, I expect a potential success. I know they have the potential to succeed. There are not “blind shots”. I believe them. I also know that success is not guaranteed.
Q: Can you tell us more about your winning photograph “Train Girl”?
A: The success of “train girl” is very pleasing to me. Very nice memories are attached to the photograph. I took this photo at Colombo Fort train station. It was my last day on Sri Lanka after two months, I was waiting for a train for 2h. I’m sitting on a bench and a train with this beautiful little girl stops right in front of me. As the train was offering her for a photo. I remember her very well. She had a bright orange dress and the train was dark red. I immediately took 3 frames. Everyone had another expression. A little bit later, nut seller walked through the station. The girl wanted a package of nuts, her mother refused – perhaps because she didn’t have money, I do not know. I pulled out the last money and the bought three packages for her. She was excited, her eyes shining with happiness. The train was moving slowly, and she smiled at me and said in English “Thank you”. A truly beautiful memory.
Q: This year, you were one of the runners for the Grand Prize on our contest. Judges were fascinated by the fact that you manage to incorporate brilliant composition, unusual angels, touching stories and pure technical brilliance…something we don’t see that often in documentary photography. That being said, please share with us your “secret”. We cannot wait to hear more about the way you see the world. How do you notice the unique scene, the decisive moment that is worthy of capturing?
A: That’s an interesting question. But I’m not sure I’m able to answer satisfactorily. I take photos very intuitively. I don’t think too much. It’s an immediate reaction, communication. Everything is very fast. It’s sort of mirroring. If it wakes up my visual reflex- I react. It can be anything. Composition, an extraordinary moment, body language, beauty, shadows, and light. I don’t think if it’s the right angle or not. It’s a mix of what can awaken my attention – every photographer does it differently. I don’t think it can be learned – it’s about individual perception. Learn the basics of photography – everything else is just about how you perceive and see things.
Q: Your B&W editing style is simply beautiful! If you don’t mind, please share with us some details how you edit your work and which software do you use for your edits?
A: Thank you. I don’t use too much editing. I don’t like it. In my photos, I only modify what you can do in a photo room. Contrast, shadow, light, cropping – if necessary. Very basics. Editing doesn’t take me much time. I’m using the Lightroom, probably outdated. If you don’t edit your photos too much – you don’t need something modern or hi-tech program- and it is an advantage I guess.
Q: Can you tell us more about you? When and where you were born and raised? How old are you? How and why did you start doing photography?
A: I was born in 1983 in a small town (Chomutov) about an hour from the capital. And here I live. My interest in photography lasts for many years. I am into photography since I was 21 years old, but back then it wasn’t so important- it was an only interesting medium for me, nothing more- the real interest that culminated with obsession began when I was around 28. At 3 am I was imaging a fictitious situation, and I was thinking how I would compose, what lens I would use, etc. I knew that photography is my way of self-expression and self-realization. I knew I want be successful in the photography. At my thirty/thirty-one, I began publishing. Maybe it’s strange, but Helmut Newton was really the first one who open the doors of photography for me. He is the reason why I started shooting and thinking about photography. My first photos were Nudes. Over time, my primary interest in photography has focused on a completely different genre. I still take pictures of the nudes, rarely, but with enthusiasm.
Q: Is photography your full-time occupation?
A: For the last half of the year I am freelance as a photographer, but after returning from abroad, I can not continue in full-time. I would like, but the documentary/street scene is very difficult today. Especially in the Czech Republic. Money can be found in sterile beauty, studio photography for magazines. Demand for documentary/reportage photography is very weak in this contrast. So photography is a half-time job in a classic way. But in my personal way is it 100% full-time job.
Q: Which camera bodies and lenses you use the most?
A: I think the technique is overestimated. I have nothing extra-Nikon D5200. Mostly use two bodies with short lenses. Fixed 35 and 24. I don’t like long lenses, it’s impersonal. Almost cheating.
Q: Who and what do you like to photograph the most?
A: Easy answer – people. I really like people and their moments.
Q: Do you photograph often, or every day or you wait the right moment to happen in order to take your camera?
A: If I’m on the road, of course, I take pictures every day, taking the camera with me everywhere. At home, I don’t shoot every day, for example, I didn’t take pictures for almost a week now – it is a very long time. Usually, I have a break for two/three days. BUT – I pursue photography every day – reading books, studying a photo, watching all the resources that extend my knowledge about photography. Here is not a single day without a photography.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Old Masters. All classic photographers who were able to respond honestly and sensitively.
Q: Who are the photographers that you admire?
A: Really many. From war photographers to fashion photographers. I appreciate Czech documentary photographers – world’s top- for example, Koudelka, Kratochvil, Cudlin, Kolar. I love photos of Cristina García Rodero-brilliant, Fan Ho, Marc Riboud, Erwitt, List, Bresson etc. Magnum photographers are clearly my inspiration.
Q: How do you organize your travels? How often do you travel? How do you decide what country is going to be your next destination to document? How does those travel impact you as a persona and as a photographer?
A: I organize my travels very simply – I make money, buy a ticket and fly. That’s it. I travel as much as possible, I could be on the way nonstop. I travel for a long time – a month or two. I try twice a year. My choice is a purely emotional affair – it must attract me. I love Asia and the East, they have the atmosphere that I love, completely different worlds and that attracts me. My opinion may change every day. It’s always alive. I’ve always been tempted by hard conditions, it is much closer to me than comfort. Traveling and discovering new places naturally shapes personality. Grow as a photographer and as a person. That’s the impact of traveling.
Q: If you didn’t win the documentary category on our contest and if you had a chance to take a role of the judge, who would take the first place in your opinion?
A: This is a hard one. I was attracted by photographs “Innocence” by Yan Zhang and “Train Time” by Ana Fernández Quirós. I really enjoyed photography in the Portrait category – amazing stuff, an extremely good category. I have to mention the shot of “Safia” by Mahdi Eshaghi – beautiful work. This one could fall into the documentary category.
Q: What’s your opinion on social media and how they impact photographer’s career? Do you think that social media maybe distracts photographers from art and creativity since it’s quite demanding and time-consuming?
A: I think the effect of social networks is huge. Social media can help the photographer to great success – no doubt. The question is how you can use them. I don’t belong among the photographers who use social networks too much, I don’t even have a FB page with my photos. I use Instagram and Pinterest. Soc networks are amazing in connection and inspiration, but it’s a two-way street. If you watch too much work of others, you risk that you are losing your own creativity and view on the photography. It also has a second line – when you have a big overview of the work of others, it can literally depress you – out there are a lot of great photographers. You don’t have to know about all of them and you don’t have to know how they are taking pictures. It’s important to keep your attitude to the photography and not to be influenced by the work of others. Protect your bubble. Protect your view of the photography.
Q: Why is so important to enter quality photography contests in your opinion?
A: Quality is important everywhere. It increases prestige and gives you the opportunity to stand out. First of all, it’s motivating for photographers for their future work.
Q: Your favorite quote?
A: The ability to move from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
Q: Principles in life you live by?
A: Work hard and be nice to people.
Q: What would be your advice to other photographers?
A: Don’t buy a new photo equipment – buy a book about photography. It will give you more.
Marcel Kolacek on Instagram.