In the vast panorama of contemporary photography, some artists capture not just images, but souls, stories, and silent whispers of epochs gone by. One such remarkable talent is Karolina Urbaniak from Poland. Seamlessly blending the ethereal with the tangible, her visuals serve as an ode to the power of femininity, the allure of nature, and the timeless dance of light and shadow. Her journey from the nostalgic embrace of analog photography to gaining international acclaim offers insights into a world where each frame is a curated tale. Dive into an intimate conversation with Karolina, as she unveils her inspirations, processes, and aspirations, painting a vivid picture of her artistic universe.
Retro Kolkata : Karolina, how did your early experiences with analog photography and time spent in the darkroom shape your approach to photography? Could you share some insights from those early days?
Karolina : The hours spent in the darkroom and analog photography required a lot of patience. I learned to frame well because the film in the camera had a limited number of frames.
Retro Kolkata : You've achieved significant international recognition with your award-winning photos. Could you describe the process and inspiration behind one of your most recognized works?
Karolina : A year ago, after a trip to Luxor in Egypt and the Temple of Hatshepsut, a portrait of an Egyptian female ruler was on my mind. I'm fascinated by the biographies of strong, causative women who were able to reach for power in a world dominated by men. After returning to Poland, I began assembling the outfit and found a model with the perfect type of beauty. The dogs in the session are the exquisite Ibizan Hound breed. An old friend of mine breeds them. That's how portraits inspired by Egyptian rulers were created.
Retro Kolkata : Your images, especially in children's and female portraiture, are renowned for their distinctive style. How would you define your aesthetic, and how has it evolved over time?
Karolina : Two basic aspects fascinate me in photography - man and light. Over the years, I've shifted styles based on the model and my chosen light source. Portraits in Rembrandt lighting differ from those in beauty portrait lighting. The lighting choice dictates the appropriate styling and model.
Retro Kolkata : Winning the Child Photo Competition in 2020 must have been a pivotal moment for you. What did this recognition mean to you, and how has it influenced your career?
Karolina : Winning this competition didn't drastically impact my career's trajectory, but it brought immense satisfaction, especially since 2020 was a challenging pandemic year.
Retro Kolkata : Your studio in Łódź is celebrated for its diverse portrait photography. What's a typical session like there? How do you ensure your subjects feel at ease?
Karolina : During a photo session, I emphasize an individual approach to the person being photographed. I strive to meet their expectations and uncover their hidden desires. I avoid imposing any particular styling, as the model's psychological comfort is paramount.
Retro Kolkata : The allure of natural settings, like your garden, prominently features in your work. How does the environment affect your photography, and what constitutes an ideal outdoor backdrop for you?
Karolina : I conduct outdoor sessions exclusively during the magic hour. The location choice is determined by the session type. I have a special affinity for abandoned palaces and factories. However, to me, the most captivating portraits are shot in the studio.
Retro Kolkata : Your women's sessions traverse various epochs and styles. How do you settle on the apt style for a subject?
Karolina : For commercial sessions, I endeavor to meet the client's expectations. If they trust my judgment, I tailor the styling to their temperament and personality. When shooting for personal projects, inspiration often strikes during travels, movie-watching, or perusing art and literature. I then scout for a model that aligns with my vision.
Retro Kolkata : Could you delve deeper into the creative process of prepping for a session, especially your dialogue with clients about their hopes and desires?
Karolina : Most of my clients are women. In preliminary discussions, I gauge their preferences, favorite images, expectations, and the session's intent. Some are grounded, while others yearn for escapism, referencing vintage or fairy-tale styles. Lately, I've noticed a shift in women's self-perception. Many, irrespective of age, seek sensual sessions to showcase their femininity. I find this evolution heartening.
Retro Kolkata : How integral is post-processing in your oeuvre? After capturing the shots, how do you curate the final ensemble?
Karolina : For commercial shoots, clients heavily influence the photo selection. But in personal projects, I cherry-pick extraordinary shots that are emotive and singular. Post-production is vital, as it is for most contemporary photographers. However, I firmly believe that a stellar photo at inception is crucial before any post-processing.
Retro Kolkata : As you gaze into the future, what do you aspire to achieve? Are there specific ventures or artistic endeavors you're eager to undertake in your photographic journey?
Karolina : Currently, I'm at a unique juncture in my life, feeling both artistically and professionally fulfilled. A year ago, I hosted my debut exhibition. I'm not wanting for clients or projects; one might even say I'm work-obsessed.
Karolina Urbaniak is not just a photographer; she's a storyteller, a historian, and an artist. Her journey from the darkroom's silent confines to the international stage is a testament to her unyielding dedication to her craft. As we traverse the myriad landscapes she's crafted, from ancient Egypt's dunes to the heart of Łódź, we're invited into her world—a world where light dances with shadow, where every subject has a tale to tell, and where artistry knows no bounds. Karolina's lens offers us more than just photographs; it presents windows into souls, epochs, and dreams. We eagerly anticipate her next masterpiece, knowing it will be as enchanting as her journey thus far.