“Societies and cultures nowadays have merged yet they try to preserve some particular values they have and this this can be incredibly confusing thing to experience for young minds particularly as this is the time when one seeks to find him- or herself yet it can happen that the surrounding environment does not organically accept you, that they will make you know – you are not like us.”
Meet Anna, a 21-year-old former Tourism student in Lublin, Poland. She grew up in a small, indistinct town known as Lutsk in Ukraine, studying music, fluent in Russian and Ukranian, as is the norm. Later on traveling and living in numerous European countries (Hungary, Poland, Romania, among others) in an effort to try to understand various cultures and meet different people. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.
“Artists are Aliens,” she says, “but so are everyone else, too,” she probably thinks. The feeling of not belonging, of being unaccepted or simply confused are the motives behind much of her photography. The themes–represented by the forms of young Caucasian women in mundane situations–running through these etudes (Burning, Fantasy, Solitude, Void) depict the isolated emotional state of the teenager grown up, of the adolescent ostracism that reaches into adulthood and beyond. Yet it goes a step further in removing the traditional rite of passage from its place of origin. Displaced from the motherland and speaking a foreign language, the glue that holds us together is capitalism. The irony is that despite the rampant commercial globalization evident in some stage in all parts of the globe, there are cross-cultural signifiers which will always maintain preeminence, that which defines a given culture, and push the stranger to the outer limits, e.g. “We can all share a laugh over a Coke and our new Louis Vuitton but I am still (Insert Appropriate Nationality Here), so Fuck You.”
“I have reached the conclusion that not always it is possible to truly become part of the environment, not always one is able to fully blend into one’s space and sometimes it is better to observe everything from one’s own world – silently, carefully, patiently.” Though not technically proficient, she has adopted the I’ll Be Your Mirror version of travel street-photography and adapted it to fabricated scenes involving aspiring arthouse fashion models. The photographs feel as off-the-cuff as they do rehearsed and staged. Do they subvert some kind of traditional depiction of the European female or is it more of the anonymity of the superfluous consumer? Hard to say, so I had to ask Anna some more questions.
Eerie Beauty – Interview with Anna Tea
HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?
ANNA: When I was 14 years old. That was a 5mgpx digital camera, a present for my mum’s birthday. She agreed to give it to me to take photos of my friends during walking.
HESO: You have a distinct portfolio, turning traditional ideas about beauty, fashion and commercial photography on their head, giving many of them the look of grainy street photography.
ANNA: For me is very hard to say if I am a fashion or a fine art photographer. The line is sometimes invisible, I just do what I feel I wanna do or even have to do. I didn’t attend classes of photography where I could know what I do and see the difference in styles, know more about techniques, but I took photos instinctively, with no teachers around, no classes, no lessons. In fact, nobody can teach you to feel and to think. Also, while traveling I take photos, but I can’t say that I am a travel photographer, it is more like “not to miss the moment”. For memories.
HESO: Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.
ANNA: I use only digital camera, but in the future I am thinking of trying analog, just for comparing. As for me, I do not see any importance in gear, brand, price, etc. The important should be the idea and how artist presents it. I also like taking photos on my iPhone, sometimes I combine sets of photos taken on phone and camera, and for sure, not many people see any difference.In my opinion, there is no beauty; there should be intriguing thing in personalities, people with zest, what I find inspiring! Click To Tweet
HESO: Many photographs have the feel of an art installation piece. Almost like a sculpture? Is this purposeful? To what end?
ANNA: Sometimes I feel calm and the photos look like sculptures. Sometimes I feel like burning inside and I want to make a fire. Photography is a way of meditation, reducing stress or keeping the feel of balance. I do it more subconsciously, on level of emotions, that I cannot control and don’t really want to. But lately I try to direct emotions toward ideas I have.
HESO: You get up in the morning, pick up your camera, where are you going?
ANNA: Every morning I say to myself: “This day is full of nice surprises.” And it is true! I pick up camera, when I already know what I will photograph. Before my shooting I prepare many things like finding the location, arranging models, preparing garments, sometimes I agree with make-up artists and hairdressers. And I like more shooting around 4pm or even later at home (I have small studio). Morning is not the time for new ideas for me.
HESO: Some of your photographs seem like stills from some film that hasn’t been made. Is this intentional? Do you like film? What particular genres? Favorites?
ANNA: I can spend the whole day watching movies! When I was a teenager I watched really many films, like every day. So, yeah, maybe it influenced on my photography style, it came earlier. My favorite directors are Jim Jarmush and Tim Burton. Films I can watch hundred times are “Leon Killer”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Night on Earth”.Life is full of interesting things, I don’t have time for thinking of what to do. Click To Tweet
HESO: Some of your models are not the typical “Beautiful”, which is a good thing. What do you want to portray when you photograph the female face or body?
ANNA: Almost all models I found by myself when I was at school, now they are my close friends. I share ideas with them, I tell them stories and secrets, so the process of taking photos turned to be like a soul time. I don’t really think that they beautiful or not, it doesn’t mean anything! There are as many opinions as there are people about what is true beauty. In my opinion, there is no beauty; there should be intriguing thing in personalities, people with zest, what I find inspiring!
HESO: Who are your favorite photographers?
ANNA: Tim Walker, but I don’t really have time for following any photographers.
HESO: What do you do when you are not working?
ANNA: I am studying, I am traveling, sometimes paint, sometimes watch movies, read books, go to concerts, hang out with friends. Life is full of interesting things, I don’t have time for thinking of what to do.
HESO: What is your favorite food? If you could eat with anyone, alive or dead, in any time period in history, in any place, who, when and where?
ANNA: My granny is my favorite chef! Everything she cooks tastes delicious! The person who I wanted to meet but already cannot is Walt Disney! Could be nice to share my dinner with him, and my granny would be also happy to bake some fairy cakes for him.