!lewicka is a diverse photographer and the founder of #Abstractography (chatroom page :devabstractography) on dAmn, a chatroom for abstract photographers to meet and chat.
Basics and Background
Name and location?
My name is Martha Lewicka and I am a native of Gdansk, Poland, currently residing in Oslo, Norway.
How long have you been practicing photography?
I am not quite sure when I started, but the first picture I was really working on was taken in 1997. Though I cannot say that i had been taking pictures for eleven years now, cause not always had I cameras or films to work with. And from that period I still have all my sketches with ideas for pictures, that I sometimes go back to for inspiration.
Do you have any formal training in the arts?
I learned everything myself, from old books or experiments. I still have my first book about photography that I bought at the flea market. It was published in 1968, but I still go back to it from time to time. Later when I already had some experience in photography I had a two semester course of advertising photography during my studies.
What cameras are your personal must-haves on a shoot?
Each camera that works and is right for the certain job is a must have. For journalistic pictures I use Canon DSLR, for macro I still use my first camera - Zenith B with UMTZ rings. For a taste of craziness lomographic Supersampler. For a bit of old feeling my grand grandfather's prototype of Adox Sport from 1939. I love having a lot of cameras and using them all, each for a different purpose.
How did you come to embrace the genres you prefer to work in?
The first picture I took in 1997 was actually an abstraction, so it was natural to continue exploring this field. [link]
Later because of my music interest I started to take pictures of concerts and musicians. Now I am starting to explore other fields too, like landscapes and portraits. I like learning new techniques and moving forward to new fields of photography. I learned that my journalistic approach can be very useful with abstractions, and the other way around, so I try mastering as many fields of photography as possible now.
Art and abstraction
Do you have a favorite abstract photographer? If so, who and why? If not, who is your favorite artist in general?
I have too many favorite pictures, but just to give you a clue I prepared a small and very incomplete showcase of my all time favorites. [link] And believe me I would hang them all on my walls if I had enough space.
What does abstraction mean to you in photography?
Photographs in general capture visual reality, while abstraction with its loss of reference and context questions that reality. It is a different way of seeing everyday things, it is looking for the deeper layers and emotions created by non-objective shapes, colors and patterns that might bring out diverse reactions from the viewer. It is asking the audience questions about visual reality, and it is giving the audience an unlimited amount of correct answers.
Do you find influence from other mediums?
If I can call books other mediums, then I would say I find most of my inspiration in books and essays on philosophy of photography. Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Walter Benjamin, Juliusz Garztecki to name just a few authors that inspired me the most. While I love looking at traditional art for example, it never made me think so much about why I take pictures and where I want to go with my photography as those books did. And the more I understand that photography is not only capturing the moment, but has many more layers of meanings, the more I see around me and the more inspiration simply come out of myself.
What kind of in-camera manipulations do you perform to achieve abstract effects and impact?
Custom white balance, long exposures, zooming in/out during exposure, slide sandwich, double exposure, 2nd curtain flash synchronization, stroboscopic light etc.- but those are only techniques to master, I most often prefer using out-of-camera tricks. I like building my shoots from scratch, and then using intermediates, reflections and loss of scale tricks to achieve abstract effects, where in-camera manipulations would just help getting correct exposure.
What suggestions would you give other photographers about harnessing light to create a desired mood in their imagery?
First of all I would like to remind them that taking abstract pictures is not hard, but taking fine art abstraction photographs takes time and practice. I would also suggest that snapping each and every pattern they encounter on their way can sometimes kill all creativity, therefore it is sometimes better to compose abstractions before going out with a camera. The rest is up to them, their technical knowledge, creativity and awareness that macro pictures of bugs are not abstract at all!
Words of wisdom
What advice do you have for beginning photographers?
The professional photography market is competitive so my advice will be in such manner too. Nowadays, almost everyone can have a camera, but most cases even desire and drive is not enough to become professional. If you are absolutely sure you have natural eye for photography and a vision of your work specified then devote all your life to pictures, or start considering yourself advanced amateur.
What advice would you give to professional photographers in a rut?
Remind yourself what photography is about, leave all the fancy equipment you have and try to take just one shot with some old camera, trying to capture all you know about photography in that one shot. Maybe if everyone would do that from time to time we wouldn't have "professionals" working for newspapers for example that do not know how to compose a picture.
What advice would you, at present, give yourself 5 years ago if you could reach back in time?
I would advise myself to stop believing that time of old photographic masters is still lasting. I didn't seem to notice that the photographic world has changed. Realizing that earlier would help me a lot in my career.
What do you hope people find in your art? Or, what do you hope they definitely don't find in it?
I hope they can find a lot of variety, but still be able to recognize my style immediately. I try to surprise people with each next work I do. I also hope people do not find my pictures flat and boring, I would like to send my personal message with my works and I hope people are able to read it.
Who is your favorite deviantART photographer and why?
Since I joined dA in 2004 (as ignis1349) I met a lot of great photographers, some became my friends, some I admire, but giving a list of them would be quite impossible, cause I am sure I would omit someone. Thus I just invite you to my collections [link] and choosing your own favorites from there.
What is your favorite image of your own, so far? Why?
Somehow I still really like two triptychs I made in 2006. Both of them were created the same day, and both of them cost me a lot of work.
First one was made using back light that was just a simple desk lamp, 3 kinds of flowers, wet baking paper, deformed glass and a lot of struggle to keep all that together during the shoot.
The second one was much easier to do technically, but much harder to compose and make it look more that just a flat piece of fabric. Both of them somehow portray my everyday mood and some parts of my character, as well as my approach to photography.
What is your preferred subject (people, objects, places, etc) and why do you like to shoot that subject, whatever the style?
I like variety, so I guess I cannot say I have any preferred subject. I either have an idea for picture or not.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
I love all kinds of ice creams, really, I am an ice cream maniac.
If you could be any other person, who would it be and why?
I am pretty comfortable with who I am, but if I could I would like to live in different times, somewhere at the beginning of the era of photography
Anything else you'd like to say?
I would simply like to thank *kubicki for being the first person who complimented my work and made me understand that photography is what I want to do in life, and also to ~Thunra and ~MissNoizz for introducing me to dA, and all the people I met here.
!lewicka has been so gracious as to lend #Abstractography to this project as the dAmn headquarters for Abstract and Surreal week. Be sure to drop by this week to meet her, myself, and many other abstract and surreal photographers here on deviantART!