Art photography requires a complete understanding of the essence of beauty, absolute technical precision and exceptional passion for a harmony of light and shadow. Adding the importance of human dignity, humility and tenderness unfolds the cardinal virtue of perfection in art. Last time, I experienced similar feelings when passing through the Sistine Chapel in Vatican, admiring the Paris Louvre or Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Somewhere at the airport, pictures of Zuzana Valla, a member of Ashford Photographic Society in England, certainly, caught my attention. I said, inspiring, she is surely on the right path to a great understanding of art photography.
Today, I am honoured that Zuzana has found a moment for an interview during which we reveal why her photography charms the audience and what principles influence her perception in artwork.
Photography brings interesting life stories and adventures – what do you consider as the most significant period of your photography career so far?
Last year, I experienced incredible moments of pure coincidence. My uncle mentioned to the editor of SARM (a popular lifestyle magazine in Slovakia) a few words about my photography artwork. The editor was pleased that the uncle had brought it to his attention and published a nice article about me. Whilst reading it on the sofa, I received a call from TV MARKIZA (one of the main TV channels in the country). They wanted me to participate in two tv shows – TELERANO (similar to “Good Morning Britain”) and REFLEX which presents interesting life stories. You cannot imagine how excited I was. However, it didn’t finish here. A manager from a creative hair styling studio in Bratislava – YOU HAIR STYLING – watched the morning tv show. Since the studio was planning a great national campaign with famous Slovak actresses, she contacted me with a fantastic offer of being the official photographer of the campaign. I couldn’t believe to it, amazing, it felt just great to be recognized within the industry.
Being a philanthropist and art lover, I was very happy to spot a sort of “classic art touch” in your photographs, especially in portraiture; why classic art inspires you?
During a childhood, I loved all movies with kings and queens living in the medieval era. What would it have been like to be a medieval queen, I asked myself many times. I also dreamed of riding my horse and having a proper queen´s cloak, thus I played only with my mum’s blue satin bathrobe. Well, as a child, I was very curious into all medieval – how people ate, what they were doing or which hobbies they had.
Today, I also admire castles and manors. I have a favourite one in England, too. When I want to relax or just lift up my mood, I go there, I sit and imagine lives of people at that place hundreds of years ago. So far, I have found only one disadvantage of living in the medieval age – they used only fireplaces to heat up a castle, so it must have been very cold, I thought. I am always cold, so I think I would be frozen.
How does photography affect your personality, values and believes?
I truly hope that I will never change. My greatest wish is to stay the same Zuzana with the same values and believes – respect and humility. Moreover, I am meeting many spiritually based people with a sense of creativity who show me new perspectives and impulses in order to think differently, to work harder and get a fantastic inspiration to deliver the artwork to the audience. Touch wood, I have been very lucky to meet those fabulous people.
You are a perfectionist in all details. Having seen this not only in the photographs, but also your approach to clients and fans assured me, with a rock solid confidence, that you care about your career; however, what do you want to achieve in the next three years?
The goal has been already set up – to be a freelancer, a full-time professional photographer. Every person is gifted, unfortunately, this is vanishing into thin air by the time. Nevertheless, once rediscovered and properly developed, it could generate an endless energy through the Universe, provide a life-time optimism and satisfaction to a person. Well, I do consider photography as my gift, it is the thought that counts. What’s more, I do believe that smart people long for a harmony between private and professional life.
Communication skills have always played a significant role in your emerging photography career, so how would you describe British photographers, or better said, how people within the professional community have acknowledged you in England?
Frankly, I hadn’t known many photographers in England before I joined the Ashford Photographic Society. I felt lonely in terms of art, I wanted to debate about it and know opinions of professional community about my artwork, however, I didn’t have any opportunities. Consequently, I joined the Society which was the best decision I ever made. I feel so welcome among the honourable members. They are very nice people, intuitively supportive and progressively responding to all trends in Britain and overseas.
To illustrate, they organize photography competitions, discussions and lectures. Finally, I feel I have found a great foundation for the future progress, especially, I am thankful to all pieces of advice which have helped me to move on and deliver good quality artwork – to me, it is the highest accolade I could receive. Moreover, they always mention my work in articles and spread a word about me, how sweet.
Zuzana Valla is mostly considered as a fine art portrait photographer; can you please reveal your secret when it comes to an approach to models? What makes you respectable and charismatic whilst achieving desirable results?
I have always been an introvert, very quiet and shy when meeting new people. To confess, it takes some time to get a bit closer to a person for me. However, I couldn’t be hidden inside the box if I wanted to photo shoot good models. I needed to do something about it – to break through fear and self-doubt.
I started to look at people differently. Perhaps, there might be some fear to get in touch, but on the other hand, it could be a perfect model, so should I ask? Since that time, a new chapter has commenced – to politely ask unknown people if they could consider being a model. In the streets, shops, tube stations or galleries, I just asked.
Firstly, they stared at me awkwardly, but when I showed them photographs on my mobile phone, they got more interesting and started to speak with me. Well, I found most of my models like that. Secondly, I like choosing models by myself since I can see a final output within a minute. For example, I experienced some photo sessions when I did not pick up the models and it all went down the hill. Despite the fact that people liked the pictures, I was not happy, I missed something I couldn’t describe. It just confirmed that artwork shouldn’t be forced to be completed.
Thirdly, there were times when I had some discount codes in order to help people to get nice pictures. However, those clients were the worst, always complaining, often coming with completely different ideas than agreed at the beginning and not appreciating anything I did for them. I stopped all discounts.
The life of a photographer is not the easiest, the equipment is very expensive and time-consuming photo editing reminds me a separate science department – are you doing all alone or do you have any help to make things easier for you?
I wouldn’t be able to sign under the artwork if I had some external retoucher. All artwork is done exclusively by me and I want to continue in this style. Certainly, there are some commercial projects for clients where I found my husband´s skills very essential, especially his attention to details. A wedding photography, for example, the husband picks the best shots and I edit them. So far, it has worked brilliantly.
I cannot forget on my sister who has supported me since the day one. Her understanding and charisma have helped me to overcome many obstacles.
What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
Actually, there are three I would like to mention.
Exhibition in Paris – ImageNation Paris 2017
Gold medal – KCPA (Kent County Photographic Association) competition
Co-work with You Hair Styling and Katarina Benkova Slovakia.
Have you experienced any “faux pas” during a photo shoot?
I can’t remember anything funny or worth of mentioning. Minor ones, such as pulling models hair, splashing some water to her face or requiring poses during which she couldn’t breathe (a bathtub photo shoot) always happen.
What is a main source of your artistic inspiration, where it all comes from?
I never plan my photo shoots in advance, because they always end up differently than I wanted. I get depressed. Therefore, I prefer a very open conversation with a model during a photo shoot. We go to a photo shoot location, we observe everything, try poses, experiment with some new ideas and enjoy a great time. In other words, searching, trying, thinking and photographing.
Any dreamed photography destination you must go to?
Paris, absolutely! I even would like to live there. There are, however, some tasks to complete before it happens.
Do you have any photography idol you follow and admire?
Evelyn Bencicova. Nobody ever caught my attention like she did. I can look at her pictures for 20 minutes and asking how? Her work is getting deep down into my soul. I just love her art.
What do you think is the most difficult about photography?
To me, definitely, technical aspects of it. Until last year, I took all the pictures using a “Sport Mode” on my camera. Since I bought a new camera, I have been learning all the settings it has. Well, there were some anxious moments when the camera slept in the corner over night, but otherwise, the education has showed me some new possibilities how to master photography in much better and sophisticated way.
How do you understand the Slovak photography and photographers? My experience tells me that there are really talented ones, mostly working abroad.
I really don’t know many Slovak photographers, but those few l know, they are more recognised abroad then at home. I personally think this is due to a size of the Slovak population which equals to a half of London only. Consequently, the amount of opportunities cannot be that significant over there. Moreover, all good quality brands have their photography done by the photographers from the Western Europe or the States. However, I still believe in Slovakia and talented people living there.
Who has come with the best photo of you so far; please, don’t tell me that your mobile and selfie.
Haha I just wanted to say selfie. But okay, it is my husband of course, then my sister and my cousin. l think it is because they know how picky l am and what l like Anyway, have you ever seen any photographer with lots of his/her portrait pictures?
If you were not a photographer, what would you like to do?
Singing, acting, fashion designer and poetry.
Your life is pretty open, fans can follow you on the Instagram or Facebook, contact you anytime. How do you deal with being popular and which message would you like to send to your fan club?
l don’t really think l am that famous yet. l am always very happy and honoured when people like my work and l appreciate every comment from my fans.
The message: Thank you for following my work and liking the artwork I put all myself into. Many of you have been with me since the beginning, what a delightful feeling warming my heart. I really appreciate your loyalty, you have stayed with me when I tripped on the curb and fell down, celebrating when I achieved a success. My fans are the greatest I could ever wish for. I am happy and honoured. Loving Britain, being here and creating the artwork mean endless happiness to me, again thank you guys!
I perceive Zuzana´s pictures as natural grace of aesthetic beauty gently framed within technical design and signed by an artistic spirit underlining the feminine touch of perfection. The harmony of light, colours and composition create unforgettable experience in a Paris Haute Couture style fashion show in which her photographic talent shines like a lovely sequin dress.
Believe me, it is not that easy to get an invitation to Paris Fashion Shows. Thus, I am delighted that Zuzana Valla offers a wonderful invitation to everyone interested in her beautiful photography world. Let´s discover it!
The article was authorized by Zuzana Valla on 18. 7. 2018