Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Ziemowit Maj

Ziemowit Maj
London, UK

Since when have you been engaging in photography?

I have been working with film photography since my early teens, my father introduced me to it and gave me some basic equipment. Then at university I had a photography course as a part of my fine arts degree. Darkroom was an amazing experience, I can still remember that smell. Those were the experimental years, testing the limits of 35mm, or that's at least what at that time I thought I was doing!

And then, my whole kit got stolen. That was it. I stopped for several years.

June last year I got my dslr, and since then its been with me every day. I relearned the technique, and immersed myself in the streets of London. Photography has become the central medium for my personal work.

What makes street photography most attractive to you?

It felt natural for me to just go out and try to find images. As opposed to try creating situations. I'm trying to just look carefully at what surrounds me, and being a foreigner helps to work with that kind of approach, as then you are naturally curious about your new home.

Photo processing softwares, as I have found out not only throughout the features here on milkwithtea, can be a bit of a touchy subject: some artists reject post-processing as a whole whereas others regard it as a useful tool and gift to the artist. You seem to enjoy playing around with them: what are the pros and cons from your point of view?

I can only talk about my own work here, and for me it's an essential tool, which I must say I enjoy using. I do not feel an obligation to produce an objective record of reality, and I do not believe it is even possible. Hence, software is my digital darkroom, a valid stage in creating an image. I do not go out to shoot ‘high-contrast-black-and-whites today'.

Those decisions are made at a later stage, after carefully studying the frames I took. It is definitely a very different way of working than in the film days, one that is probably more difficult in some respects, surprisingly. It does require a level of discipline, and forces you to really look at your images.

The problem with software is  you can do so much that people get lost, so they just use lightroom’s presets to stay on track. Knowing your software is one thing, controlling it is another.

Being able to digitalize pictures seems to have led to an overflow of photographic material. How cope with it?

I think, maybe naively, that quality work will stand out from all the polished eye candy, and if there’s more quality work today than before, I’m happy to see meaningful images more often. On the one hand, it is more difficult for people to focus on a single image now, but on the other, dslrs are becoming so common that the basic understanding of photography is increasing as well. At least that must be a good thing.

Your photography work features strong contrasts and colours. What's your interest herein?

I am probably going through my rebellious phase again, ha ha!

You also engage in graphic design. What do you love most about creating illustrations?

I work as a designer and illustrator, and this is the place where I create things from scratch. That’s probably why my photography tends to be more based on observation. Illustration is the field where all the imperfections, mistakes and hesitations are embraced, which probably is what makes people feel more human. I find that graphic design sharpens my clarity of vision.

Typography is next on your list of expertise. Would you say that photography, graphic design and typography are simply different ways of communicating?

Definitely. Very different ways, with their own specific possibilities and limitations, but yes, in the end it’s all about getting your message out there.

You are based in London, a very vivid city for art, as some would argue. How has living there affected your work?

In a major way. It’s not so much about the works you get to see, as everything is online, but it is about the people you get to meet and interact with on a personal level. London is in a constant flux, people come and go, but their influence stays with you. A good place to be a vampire!

And which city would you love to have as the place of your second residence?

NY. But that’s a plan for the future, for now I’m happy here.

Look out on them streets. And take a look at his work!

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