Interview With Paulina Otylie Surys for A Shaded View On Fashion

Read my interview with Paulina Otylie Surys for A Shaded View On Fashion  here.

Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,
It’s hard not to look at a photograph by Paulina Otylie Surys and be anything less than captivated. Among the sea of newcomer photographers, Surys manages to stand out thanks to her trademark rich use of colour and the hauntingly eerie effect of her images. Currently showing her work at Rivington Design House as part of the Mythologies exhibition, it’s evident that a distinct talent such as Surys can only be kept an insider’s secret for so long…

First off, how did you become involved in photography, from the initial spark to studying it?

I took up a screen print faculty during my studies in Poland. I started taking polaroids as the base for graphics and I immediately became extremely interested in the photography side of this. It was love at first sight (I had never owned a camera as a child).
What can you tell me about your most recent body of work, Pecavi? What was the narrative and thought behind it?

Peccavi (in Latin – ” I have sinned” ) is a collaboration with haute couture corset designer Sian Hoffman, styled by the super talented Irene Manicone. We have decided to give the series a quite distinct, erotic vibe.

Eros, from Greek Mythology, corresponds with the subject’s yearning for ideal beauty and finality. It is the harmonious unification of, not only bodies, but of knowledge and pleasure For Plato, Eros takes an almost transcendent manifestation when the subject seeks to go beyond itself and form a communion with the objectival other: “the true order of going…to the things of love, is to use the beauties of Earth as steps…to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty”. The subject seeks to go beyond itself and form a communion with the objectival other.

How do you go about manipulating the images? What techniques do you use and how do you decide on things like the colour and composition?

The composition of the photographs is principal for me and colour is simply part of it; it builds the balance. My work is based on 19th century techniques, embellishing the photographs with waxes, oils, toners and photographic dyes. I am also starting to work with wet plate collodion (also ambrotypes and tintypes).

Do you think that photography needs to have that manipulated, otherworldly effect rather than just being a realist portrayal, or do you find this just being a preference of personal aesthetics?

I would rather say it is a very personal preference.

There is something almost ancient and magical about your pictures, would you say that these are themes running through your work? If not, what would you say lies at the basis of your work and why?

It is my personal interpretation of the conception of the ‘real’, opening the new, or forgotten to reality. Some works contain no textualisation, however recently I have been working on few more conceptual projects.

Would you consider yourself a nostalgic person in terms of your work? 

Yes, I certainly have a nostalgia for years before my own. I really admire the love and precision with which things, both artistic and commonplace, were once made.

Some of your photographs are reminiscent of paintings, what artwork would you say inspires you?

I am stimulated by works of old Italian masters, old Russian and Greek icons, medieval tableau paintings…there is a whole world of inspiration for me.
How do you see women represented in your work, is there a certain underlying message you want to convey?

I’m not sure. I suppose I see my work as reflecting how I feel and see the world as well as an attempt to reflect the mind and presence of the model. I am trying to make a connection with those who I photograph, to reach further into them. Certainly these meetings can have powerful results, it is usually a very intense experience.

Being London-based, how do you find the city inspiring your work?

Generally, I find it far too sterile and modern. However, in my rare moments of spare time I like to to take walks and always take delight in coming across some relic or sight of London’s past. I was also very lucky to meet some extremely talented and creative people here, which certainly aided to my work.

In what ways have you seen your work develop since you started out?

I constantly develop new techniques and try to push myself forward. I have recently learnt a lot about the technical aspects of the negative, print and studio light (I have a great teacher – Roy!) but I am still far away from perfection on this matter. I utilise my mistakes and experiment a lot with different mediums and different ways of developing and embellishing the prints.                                                
What does photography mean to you personally?

It is a form of expressing my fascinations and obsessions. A way in which I can further investigate and discuss subjects important to me.
Are there any other artistic mediums you use to express yourself? 

I was studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, in Poland. I also did a faculty in screen printing, graphic arts, painting on ceramics and had some basics of sculpture.

What photographers have inspired you in terms of their work?

I like the works of Julia Margaret Cameron, she was heavily criticised in her times for her moody, blurred works, but how beautiful they are. I also adore Joel Peter Witkin, Sally Mann, Irina Ionesco and Georges Méliès.

What are your dream collaborations and projects?

My dream projects are both happening and forthcoming; the exhibition in New York (currently on at Rivington Design House) as well as exhibitions taking place soon in the UK, France, Italy and possibly Greece.

I am currently working on my monographic album (A2 format, hard cover) which will be out in November 2012 (launched at Paris Photo). The photographs will be shot exclusively for this project, using various alternative techniques including collodion. I see this as a collaboration with many other artists (stylists, sculptors, prop makers, designers, etc.) under my direction. It will also be available as a limited edition, both editions will be containing an A2 reproduction print.

Paulina Otylie Surys is currently exhibiting in Mythologies at Rivington Design House, 129 Rivington St., New York, N.Y. 10002.


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