This month, PhotographyBB Magazine welcomes Eva Polak to the spotlight seat. Eva specialises in the unique style of impressionist photography; a style in which seemingly "painted" images are achieved completely in-camera. Eva is here to tell us more about herself and her photographic journey, along with a follow-up next month in which she'll be sharing some of her techniques with us!
PBB: Welcome to PhotographyBB, and thank you so much for joining us. Let's start by getting to know you better - tell us about yourself Eva!
Thank you very much for having me. It's a great pleasure talking to you Dave! I'm a very ordinary person with a great passion for photography and art. As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be an artist but never had any success with paint and brushes. I was told that I didn't have any artistic talents and I should focus on something else. But that urge to create stayed with me, causing a lot of frustration. I couldn't figure out how to channel that energy, until I came across impressionist photography. But let's start from the beginning.
PBB: How long have you been into photography, and can you tell us about how you first got started? Did you receive any formal training, or are you mainly self-taught?
It all started in December 2004 when my husband gave me a small digital camera for Christmas. I'm pretty sure that he's regretted it many times. I was spending most of my free time with my camera, always taking photographs, reading about photography or planning my next photo shoot. I was enjoying myself immensely and I even entered a few local competitions with some success. After a year or so, I felt that I was ready for my first SLR camera. I wanted to have more control and be able to experiment with shutter speed and aperture. I also started to attend photography workshops and presentations. I was having fun experimenting with different types of photography like landscape, PJ, portraiture, macro, still life, etc, slowly buying new lenses and other equipment. Books frommy local library helped, and also the internet added hugely to my photographic knowledge.
PBB: You have a rather unique photographic style (impressionist photography). How did you decide that this was going to be your area of expertise, and how did you become involved in impressionist photography?
By the Year 2007 I was a very competent photographer. On the one hand I was enjoying making images, but I also felt trapped and increasingly frustrated with all the "rules" of traditional photography. Around that time, I came across an advert for a workshop at the Auckland University, "The Art of Impressionist Photography". I was curious enough to enrol, not really knowing what to expect. I even did some study prior to the workshop about the Impressionist movement, just to gain an extra edge. That workshop really changed my life and my way of looking at photography. Almost from the first photo shoot I knew instinctively that this was what I wanted to be doing. Somehow everything made sense, as if I was born to become an impressionist photographer.
PBB: Where do you get your inspiration for this type of work? It looks like you spend a lot of time postprocessing the photos into these beautiful works of art. Does Impressionist photography require any special gear or processing techniques?
It may come as a surprise to you, but Impressionist photography doesn't really require any special equipment or extensive knowledge in post processing software. All my photographs are produced using traditional in-camera techniques. What you need is any camera with controls for manual settings. Because the majority of my techniques are based on a slow shutter speed, to get correct exposure you need to either take photos in low light or purchase a few ND filters to block the excess of light. That's all. In terms of post-processing, I limit it to adding contrast, saturation and cropping if necessary. As for inspiration, I find it all around me. I'm very lucky living in New Zealand. This is such a beautiful land, full of contrasts and extraordinary light.
PBB: All done in-camera, that's amazing! That leads to my next question. What type of photographic gear do you use?
I'm a true believer in "less is more". Knowing your camera is extremely important. When you don't have to stop and think about technical aspects of taking photos, then and only then can you start to truly create your art. So I have very basic equipment: I shoot with a Nikon D300 (only because it has the ability to take up to 10 multiple exposures) and four lenses: 18-70mm wide angle, 70-300mm telephoto, 50mm macro, and a 50mm prime lens. My favourite lens is my telephoto lens. With its smallest aperture of f/4.2, I don't need to use any filters, even in the middle of a bright summer day.
PBB: You are also the author of two books I see! Could you tell us more about them and how you got started writing professionally?
"At The Beach" is a collection of a variety of my images from the beach. After a year of nearly daily photo shoots, I had an extensive collection of photographs, and started to wonder what I was going to do with them. One of my friends suggested that I should create a book. So I did some research and came across a service called "Printing on Demand." I was very impressed with the quality of the result I received from the printer and I was happy to offer this book for sale through my website. As my photography was getting more exposure on the web, I received a lot of emails from people around the world asking basically the same question, "How do you do it?" So I decided to create an instructional manual, explaining how to use some of my favorite techniques. And that is how my "Impressionist Photography Techniiques" book was born.
Although the process of creating this book was very slow and at times extremely frustrating, I'm very grateful that I managed to do it. Every time I went on a photo shoot, I had to slow down and ask myself "What are you doing now? Why are you doing it?" What was just an intuition at first slowly started to gain same substance. With every photo shoot I increased my photographic knowledge. I wanted to make sure that anyone who follows these simple steps will get similar results and then, with experimentation, develop his/her own approach to Impressionist photography.
PBB: So, besides being the author of two great books, do you have a particular achievement in your career which stands out as one you are the most proud of?
I'm very proud of all my achievements, whatever small or big. I learned that every success, and failure for that matter, will shape you and allow you to go farther and farther in your life journey. Every step will lead to a new opportunity, every success will give you strength and courage to do even more, and every failure will make you wiser. But if I have to be specific, I would say that having my first, very successful, solo exhibition last June was without a doubt a big achievement.
PBB: What's next for your photographic future, Eva?
I've just finished translating my "Impressionist Photography Techniques" into Polish. Hopefully it will be available on my website www.evapolak.com in a few weeks. Currently I'm working on my third book. In it I'm going to share my thoughts and stories about my photographs and my creative process. I would love to launch it next year, together with my next exhibition. I'm also planning to run more workshops. But mostly I would like to simply just enjoy my photography. Just being able to create and being able to share my art with others is a great reward. Everything else is just a big bonus!
PBB: It's been great having you here and getting to know you. Before we finish up, based on your experiences, what advice could you give to our readers who are just starting out, learning digital photography and trying to find their own personal style?
I would say "Just do it!" Take photographs as often as possible. Learn from your success but also from your failures. Carefully study your own photos, and ask yourself a lot of "why" questions. Finding your own personal style is a lifelong, personal journey, so listen to your heart. As a great photographer, ErnstHaas, once said, "We see what we know until we know who we are, then we see what we feel." And most of all, enjoy your journey!
Here is the pdf version of this interview.