Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Interview #1 - Bella Kotak

Approaching Velocity is extremely proud to present its first ever blog interview featuring photographer Bella Kotak.

Bella Kotak is an extremely talented artist with a great imagination and an exceptional eye for photography and post-processing - and not a dSLR in sight.

What is your background to photography -when, how and why did you begin?

I've always had an interest in taking photos since I was very young: at first with my parent's film camera, and later when I was older and had my own digital camera. What I always loved to do was to catch moments and then later I used to love the reactions my photos got from my family. Once something is caught in a photo you feel that it is timeless and that memory is never forgotten.

What influences your photography?

My main influences would be art, music, and books. I've always been an avid reader and I suppose this has fueled my imagination. I like creating different worlds, and for me the way I can express that is through photography. Whenever I'm working on the post processing of a photo I've always got music on in the background, and to an extent I think that also influences what direction the photo goes.

Is there a particular subject that you find yourself continually returning to and photographing?

I'm currently undertaking a 365 project - quite simply a self portrait every day for a year. So lately the particular subject that I find myself continually returning to is myself. However when I am out and about with my camera I do find myself photographing faces. I like capturing unguarded moments when someone isn't conscious of their surroundings and are just themselves without pretence.

Many of your photographs involve you outside. Is this a conscious decision, your interaction with nature?

This is a conscious decision as I love working with natural light - and what is more beautiful than a natural surrounding? Being outdoors makes me feel more creative and free in what photos I want to take plus there is an energy that cannot be captured indoors under artificial lighting.

You have a quote on your Flickr profile page, 'Come play with me in my fantasy worlds where colours run free and randomness is rampant...'; how important would you say fantasy and imagination are to understanding and appreciating your photography?

I would say that it's always important to approach life and anything with an open mind free of judgement and preconceptions. I like taking a mundane everyday setting, item or prop, and transforming it into something wonderful and magical. It's almost like recreating life when we were young and there were no real limits as to what was real and what wasn't. Anything was possible (fairies, flying, santa :p) and it's this feeling of innocence and imagination that I try to convey with my work.

Do you have a format preference for your photography? How do you feel a film or digital approach makes a difference to your final images?

I've never really known how to work with film... it's an art form that has eluded me. The digital approach has really made a difference as I'm now so much more "free" in my style of photography and processing.

How much would you say digital photography and extensive post-processing applications has affected you as a photographer?

Like I mentioned, it allows me to be more free and creative with photography. It allows me to basically make good shots great and to do it quickly. I can create a work of photographic art in about 20/30 minutes. It's also what's got me hooked and always striving to be better and improve. Another thing about the perks of digital photography is that you don't need to an expensive dSLR to create wonderful photos. All my photos are taken using a Sony DSC-W130 point and shoot camera. Having a smaller camera should never be a deterrent.

The Internet has transformed the way people create, disseminate and consume art. How has this affected your photography?

I think it's a fantastic way to get started and later established. I was always keen on taking great photos and for the longest time the only people really seeing them were friends and family. Flickr has allowed me to get my photos to a wider audience, an audience that knows photos and can help you become better just by pushing you. No one can remain on a photo sharing website for so long and not improve. The good side to having a profile of yourself on the internet is that you are stepping out of the bubble of your own world and meeting and sharing with people who are as passionate (if not more so) about photography as yourself and this really does make me strive to be better. Creating a name for yourself is not easy among all the other millions of people but at the same time my philosophy is that there is no harm in trying and trying again.

You blend visual art and photography very successfully in your photographs. How do you go about from concept of a shot to execution of a photograph? Do you have any particular methods you use to capture an idea?

I don't have any particular methods. I always have a book on me for general day life jotting down. Any idea I do get which I think is fun and that I'd like to take is quickly noted down before I forget it. Then it's really a matter of getting on location or looking for the right location, setting up and just going for it. Sometimes I even get a completely different photo from the one I originally intended to take! The main magic happens in the post processing for which I use Photoshop CS2.

What do you like most/least about photography?

I like most how photography manages to capture moments and create images that relate to the viewer. That's really important to me. Least, I'm not sure. I suppose what I like the least about photography is how easy it is to take someone else's work and either relabel it as your own or completely steal someone else's concept and execution and call that your own "original" work and using that to make a name for yourself. This happens far too often and the problem is that it is so easy and who would know? It's also far too easy to just use photos commercially without credit to the photographer - there should really be stronger rules.

Does your photography say anything about you, or speak for you?

Yes I'd like to think that my photography says a lot about me as I do feature in most of them : ) Many of my photos sum up how I feel at the time or what thoughts were running through my head that day. I like to think of it as my visual diary.

In an ideal world, if there was anything you could shoot, regardless of expenses (money and time for example) what would you choose to photograph?

I'd love to get underwater and create worlds there. I'd bring a house down there and fill it with fabulous furnishings and people and children all living a weightless life!

Do you have a favorite photograph or photographer? Why?

I have lots of photographs that I love - most of them tend to feature people. As for photographers I love the works of Eugenio Recuenco, Howard Schatz, Eolo Perfido - there are lots more too!

In the future, where do you wish to go with photography?

A career in photography is the next step. I'm currently working up a website and am already pursuing getting jobs photographing for shops and with models.

I find with my photography that I am constantly learning from other photographers; with this is mind, do you have any advice for other young photographers as to how to approach the art?

To approach anything you have to start getting involved. I would say find someone who inspires you and see how they started out, and more often than not you'll see it was simply by just getting stuck in. At the end of the day, keep on with it and you'll only get better. Another important factor is to always remember to have fun!

You are the first person to be interviewed – even though you don't know who the next interviewee is, if you had to ask them something about photography, what would it be?

My question for the next person would be, 'What is your favourite time of day to shoot photographs?'

Thank-you Bella for your time.

See more of Bella's work at


If you'd like to be considered for an interview, or know someone talented, get in touch with Approaching Velocity at approachingvelocity AT explaining why and with links where appropriate.

AV #1 Stay cool - wear sunscreen in the sun, especially when it's windy. You know it makes sense.

Please respect our copyright.
Words (c) 2009 Bella Kotak / Nicholas Blake / Approaching Velocity.
All images in 'Interview #1' (c) 2009 Bella Kotak.

The Editor of Approaching Velocity is Nicholas Blake, who just is.