Times of Youth

Monika Stojak | Interview

Times of Youth: For those who don’t know about you and your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi! I’m Monika Stojak, born and raised in Poland. I’m a recent graduate with a Master’s degree in Scandinavian Studies, fluent in Swedish. I’ve been interested in photography since 2007, started off as a portrait photographer, two years ago decided that I want to try my hand at landscape photography and it turned out to be my thing.

Times of Youth: What does photography mean to you?

My attitude towards photography has evolved throughout the years, from photography being a way to spend my free time, through being a time consuming passion, soon to be a semi professional way to make a living to finally being a hobby that, despite being strongly attached to it, I have a rather laid back approach to. I take photos because I like to make my life a little prettier and I also take pleasure in people enjoying my work. But I won’t lie, I would love to travel, take photos and be on a payroll for that.

Times of Youth: What style(s) do you specialize in?

Right now I’m developing my skills in landscape and astrophotography. I do portrait photography from time to time, but it basically means me taking photos of me.

Times of Youth: Who are your favorite classic photographers, and how did they influence your career path?

When I was into portrait photography, I wanted to be like Tim Walker (who’s not really a classic photographer, but I associate “classic” with analogue and that was never my cup of tea), but I soon realized that it’s rather impossible to pursue that kind of art in my backyard, with no horses to paint in pink or long haute couture gowns to dress my models in. Also, I have always been keen on developing my own style and tried to avoid being inspired by particular photographers. Instead, I treat photos as a whole, as a gallery where it doesn’t really matter who’s the author. But of course, I do have my favorite photographers, most of them are the Pacific Northwest kings of Instagram.

Times of Youth: As a photographer, which aspect is the most important to capture the subjects fantastically?

For me there are two things – one is the composition and the second is the story/mood. I’ve always been dissatisfied with myself when my photos turned out to be JUST ok, JUST pretty, JUST good. Cliché, but a photo has to have this “something” that will draw attention. A thought or a story behind it and an immediately tangible atmosphere. Composition is also of key importance in my photography. The image has to be framed symmetrically, or at least so that it doesn’t annoy my eyes. Carelessly cropped elements, especially body parts, are the worst!

Times of Youth: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

Maybe that you can’t please everyone? It took me a long time to realize that, first criticism was seriously devastating. Can’t lie, it still grinds my gears when someone openly expresses unfavorable comments about my work, but hey, at least it doesn’t keep me awake at night anymore.

Times of Youth: How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera onto the film, chip or paper in just the way you want?

Best ideas always come to my head when the shooting is already finished. Can’t help that. I try not to over-think my photographs, there’s too much of that in the other aspects of my life. It works perfectly with landscape photography as you can’t rearrange trees or hills. My only job here is to try to capture nature as beautifully and interestingly as I only can by adjusting the angle and post-processing the images.

Times of Youth: What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?

Adobe programs, Photoshop and Lightroom are a blessing. I do rely a lot on digital technology as it helps me create that special feeling. I treat an original photo as a product, a raw material to be processed and modified. Nowadays I tend to be quite faithful to the original colors of a photo, but there’s always that digital touch that I add to the image. I have never posted a non-edited photo and I don’t intend to as I openly admit that I consciously interfere in the way a photo looks to get from it what I want to communicate.

Times of Youth: Of all the conferences & workshops that you’ve been to, which has been the most memorable?

I’m a complete ignorant when it comes to conferences and workshops! Haven’t attended any, learn from my own mistakes and experiences.

Times of Youth: Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?

This is a photo that I re-edited four years after taking it which basically pushed me into landscape photography. Sure, there’s not much of a landscape in this photograph, plus there are people there, but this photo represents all I focus on right now when I photograph. It’s minimalistic, foggy and a little bit mysterious and involves people that are an integrated part of the nature captured.

One word answers:

1. What type of cameras do you shoot with?
Canon 30D, 18-55mm f/3.5, 50mm f/1.4

2. If you had to choose one lens which one would it be?
Would die for any wide-angle lens, most preferably 10-22mm.

3. What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
Do Photoshop and Lightroom count? Then I choose them!

4. How would you describe your style?
Simplistic, fairytalish, nature-oriented.

5. What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
I play a lot with Curves and Selective color.

Times of Youth: One of today’s main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photography and computer softwares to beautify the clicks; what is the influence of digitalization on your photography?

Enormous. I tend to see what I photograph in a different way than it really looks. I can see the fog when it’s not there, I can see other colors and I usually see that in squares. Digital software helps me get a little closer to a particular vision of a photo. Some beautify the clicks live, while shooting and I do this while post-processing. I say, go ahead, choose your way and don’t get personally affected if someone chooses the other one.

Times of Youth: Considering your potential, we believe that you have the power to bring a rational change in the world using your skills. If given a chance, what would you like to do to make this world place a better place?

Don’t get me wrong. Art is art and can make the world prettier and more enjoyable, and can be a powerful tide of making a statement, but I don’t see is a a political force used to change the world we live in.

Times of Youth: Do tell us how your admirers/fans can reach you to share their appreciation or feedback.

I’m on Instagram @monikastojak and Facebook: Monika Stojak photography. Feel free to comment or message me!

Times of Youth: Any advice you’d give to aspiring youngsters who want to enter in this field now or in the future?

Do your thing and don’t try to imitate others’ work, personal style defends itself.