Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in photography. What inspired you to start taking photos?
I’m An, I’m a Ukrainian person residing in Meanjin, Australia. I grew up fascinated by my family’s collection of photographs – sepia and gelatin silver photos from the USSR.
When my parents were growing up, photographs were a luxury and way to document snapshots of time. To my parents, the photos were a portal into a story, a prompt for a vivid memory. I loved showing them a photo of themselves from years ago, and seeing the memory come to life. Photographs have always felt magical and tactile. When I was fifteen years old, a department store near my house was closing down, and everything was on sale. That’s when I bought my first DSLR camera, and started taking photos of my life. I bought my camera to parties, holidays, walks around town, nights out with friends.
Even though people have come in and out of my life, and times have changed, the photographs hold memories and snapshots of what life was like at that time. Something objective, that leads to a story. Come to think of it, it’s been eleven years since I bought my first camera, and the world has become a very different place.
Everyone has a unique style. Can you describe how you would define your style and what visual or conceptual elements characterize it?
When I photograph landscapes, my style of photography is dream-like and liminal. I photograph landscapes and edit them in a way that evokes a certain kind of atmosphere.
When I photograph people, my style is vivid and fun. I love to capture people and convey their uniqueness and style.
I enjoy the editing process in photography, and augment some of my photos with drawings and photoshop magic, to further convey emotion through the photographs.
Photography has the power to tell stories and convey emotions. Can you share an experience in which one of your photos had a significant impact on people or on yourself?
I’ve worked as an event photographer for eight years, and it’s really significant for me when I show someone the photo I’ve taken and their face lights up. Or when they decline having their photo taken, but I convince them otherwise, and they like the photo (and sometimes, want more photos). I love showing people how beautiful they are, and knowing that they feel the same way!
What has been your most challenging photographic project to date and why?
My most challenging photographic project to date would be Augmented Reality- my first solo art show. It was challenging to have everything curated, completed and printed on time. I have over 30,000 photos in my catalogue, and felt overwhelmed as it was my first project. I was pretty happy when I hung up all my work, and had so many people come through the studio to see it.
Technology and photo editing tools are constantly evolving. Can you tell us about the techniques and equipment that you consider essential for your work?
I use Lightroom and Photoshop, they’re my essential tools. I have curated some presets on Lightroom that give my photos their colour profiles, and the program is great for easy bulk edits. Photoshop is my tool for creating photos that are beyond this reality, overlaying, masking, duplicating… I can get lost in the world of Photoshop. I have a little tablet that I use for really detailed work. My augmented reality drawings are created by hand and scanned in, then overlaid onto photographs via Photoshop.
There are many genres in photography, from portraits to nature photography. Do you have a favorite genre in which you feel most comfortable or enjoy shooting the most? Why?
My favourite genre of photography is definitely photojournalism, which I try to channel during my travels. I think part of the reason I’m always wanting to travel, is to take more photos, and collect more experiences that I can travel back to in my mind. I love anthropology and exploring new cultures, cuisines and places that exist beyond the place I call home. Otherwise, I enjoy going on adventures with my friends, and taking photos of each other. I love being in front of the camera just as much as I love being behind the camera.
Can you share an interesting or unusual anecdote you’ve experienced while taking photos?
I do a fair bit of urban exploration. There was an abandoned mansion I came across with a friend when I was walking through streets I hadn’t walked through before. We scaled a fence to get into it, and tip-toed around a giant hole in the floor that dropped through to the ground floor. It was super risky and we were proud of ourselves for being so game. The mansion was gorgeous, and my friend and I were in awe of it. We had some quiet moments of contemplation, and took photos on our phones. We made our way through the overgrown backyard and realised there was an entry on the back street that didn’t require any scaling of fences, it was totally open. We laughed about it and vowed to come back.
When we came back, the roof of the house was missing. The demolition had begun. We took photos anyway. That house is no longer there, but it was so beautiful.
Many photographers find inspiration in other visual artists or everyday life. What are some of your sources of inspiration?
My dreams – they are often vivid and tactile.
Childhood – the vivid colours and wonder that comes with being so fresh to the experiences of life. Exploration and adventure.
Friends – I have a network of beautiful creative friends, who inspire me with their own art and vivacity. They are beacons of inspiration during times when motivation is hard to find.
Art – going to art galleries and taking time to process how different artists’ works make me feel.
Novelty – discovering new places, doing new things.
Photography is a visual medium, but it often has a conceptual background. Have you worked on photographic projects that address specific themes or concepts? Can you share information about one of those projects?
Yes, my first solo show was called Augmented Reality, which is a mixed-medium project featuring edited photos. Most of the photos had drawings over the top of them. Here is the description for the project:
We take photographs to capture objective reality. Sometimes, the world looks different through the lens of a camera than through the lens of the eye. Our perceptions are influenced by many factors like feelings, thoughts, past experiences, illnesses and drugs. Augmented Reality is a debut showcase of An Kzvna’s work, featuring altered photographs that represent her personal experience of existence.
What inspires you when creating new images? Do you have a ritual or creative process you follow to find inspiration?
I go through waves with my art, sometimes I focus on photography and other times music, writing or visual art. Travelling always inspires me to create new images, so do other people. I don’t have a specific ritual or creative process, but this question definitely inspired me to come up with one (thank-you!).
For aspiring photographers who may be reading this interview, what is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received in your career, or what advice would you like to share with them?
No one else has lived the life you have lived, no one has the same experiences as you. Everyone on this planet has a unique story to tell. Believe in your art with your heart and soul, and keep creating. Don’t let other people discourage you from pursuing what you want to do. Share your art with the world.
Recommend us the Instagram account of an artist that you like their work.
Wiktor Stribog (@wiktorstribog) is one of my favourite artists, who works with mixed mediums to create eerie worlds
An Kzvna is a Ukrainian artist residing in Meanjin, Australia. She works in the mediums of photography, music, visual art and writing.