SPOTLIGHT: Paulina Surys

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got in to photography?

My name is Paulina Otylie Surys and I am an art (and fashion) photographer. Before taking up photography I had been studying painting and graphic techniques at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, Poland. In my fourth year I took up a screen print faculty and then took my first photograph to use as a main layer underneath painting and drawing. Afterwards I came out with a landscape project on hand coloured peel-apart Polaroids, I also did Polaroid transfers and emulsion manipulation (Polaroid 600). Afterwards the price of instant photography went up so much that I moved to negatives; I work both in a traditional black and white darkroom as well as in a colour one. I work with my photographs throughout their entire journey, from the concept for a project and the set design through to executing the idea: shooting and processing negatives (colour or black and white), hand printing in the darkroom and, finally, hand colouring the photographs (here my techniques as a painter are most important to create a successful hybrid of photography and painting. In the 19th century, the process of colouring was left to the miniature painters).


– The Four Horsmen of Apocalypse – DROME magazine Catastrophe Issue (Issue 20)

Why have you decided to work in such a traditional method and how has it affected your career as a photographer?

I decided to work with analogue techniques for many reasons. My background as a painter instilled in me an appreciation of craft, something that made analogue techniques naturally appealing. The traditional analogue processes have an organic feel to them and yet, more than this, there is a feeling of something alchemical, something magical occurring; you are bringing forth a creation from the mixing of vapours and liquids, metals and light. I have recently started working with very old techniques such as wet plate collodion which, along with other techniques such as duegerrotype or ambrotype, capture the presence of a subject in really magical and otherworldly ways.

When I first started some people would laugh at the non- glossy, old fashioned photographs; I started doubting, I tried digital, succeeded in a few shoots but never saw the results as anything that had any real connection to myself. They were detached and impersonal, sterile almost. So I went back to where I came from with an even greater appreciation for it. From this point photography started to become more personal, I began to shoot for myself only. Photography is a vital part of my life, I cannot see myself being departed from it, even if sometimes I swear I don’t want to continue; you cannot easily depart with your right hand or, rather, the mouth you speak with.


– La Jeune Fille et La Mort – SIMONE magazine, France

Do you feel pressure to join the digital age? How do you think this would affect your style?

No, not at all, especially after I gave it a little try. I greatly admire many digital photographers and their work, it just didn’t work for me. Also, I would miss the meditative nature of working in the darkroom…and of getting my hands dirty with paint. I cannot relate to computers whereas I do have attachments to objects and spaces.

Are you working on any personal projects at the moment? Tell us about it/them?

Yes, I have been working on my first book, a Monographic album which will be published by Paulsen in October 2012, a compilation of works (A2 hard cover, with one loose print which can be framed). I am also working on my exhibition projects.

There is another book project to come after the first album is published, a collaboration with the brilliant sculptor, Pascale Pollier. It will be a project about the worldwide and timeless act of mutilating or deforming the human body, of which countless methods have been devised over time, in the search for beauty. The project will be finalised with a series of photographs and, later, an installation and possibly a short video.


– Alcyone [The Brightest of The Pleiades for DEW magazine Eatern Issue]

What would you say is your biggest photographic aspiration/goal?

I would love to master several photographic techniques, but it’s rather like Don Quichotte’s dream. Once you realise the amount of work one has to put into it…

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