Interview: Anja Papuga, photographer
Anja is a Slovenian photographer, currently based in Piran. Born with a keen eye and a sense of beauty. She cherishes slow quiet mornings, wavy days by the sea, long walks and good talks. Her work is like a collection of beautiful moments, untold stories, and feelings with bits and pieces of her heart.
She began her visual journey in children’s theatre where she soon switched from performing on stage to photographing the actors and behind the scenes. Devoted to photography and finding ways of self-expression through theatre and poetry.
You can find her here:
- What inspired you to become a photographer? What were your first steps?
I never really asked myself if I wanted to be a photographer. It felt natural to take photos ever since a young age whether it was on my phone or a camera. I remember my brother asking me why I needed to photograph everything? Honestly, I still don’t know how to answer that. I guess I try to capture the beauty I see all around me. The surroundings are demanding my attention, it feels as if the moments are capturing me and not the other way around. However, shooting with my phone were my early steps, but indeed my grandmothers influence showed later on. The photos she had taken on her analogue camera were different, they touched me. I really admired the way she was travelling around the world and capturing the diversity of life in all its forms. When I was seven years old, I asked my grandma if she would take me on a trip with her someday. She said yes and kept her promise. In 2017 we went to Thailand together. I got her old digital camera and immediately fell in love with it. After that trip I decided to buy my own camera and started creating my future career. She inspired me to travel and observe the planet from my own perspective. Different places and cultures influenced my work and I found my creative space in photojournalism.
- Are you a professional or an amateur photographer?
Sometimes I find it very difficult to distinct between a professional and an amateur photographer, because I have seen so many great photos taken by those who have none or very little knowledge about photography. I wouldn’t put myself in any of those categories. I rather say that I am a visual interpreter of my own reality. And I must admit that for me, learning to master all the functions and tricks is a never-ending process.
- What is your favourite subject to photograph?
Definitely people. I like to get lost in the streets, observe and capture unconscious states of strangers. I noticed that especially old couples attract my eye. I find rare beauty in them. On the other hand, I love taking portraits and I am intensely devoted to capturing art performances and artists. Their unique way of expressing emotions overwhelms me. What draws my attention towards the source of that force is rather mysterious. I guess it’s because art reflects the inner state of the artist and not the state of the external world. And even though I capture the emotions of my subject I find a reflection of myself in them.
- How would you define your photographic style?
I would say it is expressive, cinematic, storytelling and harmonious in a way. There are many factors that influenced my style because I always loved to read, write and be engaged in various forms of art. I think life experiences influence our own artistic style. If you observe a photo attentively, you can sense something about the photographer. The act of photography is much more complex than just pressing the button. You bring to that act all the places you have seen, music you have heard, books you have read and people you have met.
- John Wanamaker said: Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I do not know which half. Do you gain your clients by advertising or in another way?
Nowadays having a website is practically a rule, so presenting your portfolio to clients is not a problem. But standing out in a flood of excellent creators with your own authentic style and getting customers is much more challenging. Usually I get my clients by word of mouth or I reach out to them.
- What would you do differently if you would start again?
I would connect with other photographers earlier.
- A professional photographer is also an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have many things in common. They read a lot. What about you? What are your favourite books?
I feel the need to spend some time alone every day, read my books and drink a cup of coffee. It helps me stay in touch with myself and create space for my creative genius. Reading is essential part of my day-to-day life and so is writing. It frees me to express myself, gain clarity and come up with new ideas. Different books draw different feelings out of me. One of my favourite inspiring writers is definitely Hesse. I like to reread his novel Demian. Otherwise, I like to read about human psychology, biographies, novels and travelogues. I should not forget to mention my love for poetry as I also write it myself. Sometimes I get a chance to perceive inspiration from a photograph. These poems are very precious to me.
- What was the best advice you have ever received as a photographer? Do you have any advice for other photographers?
When you are passionately committed to something, it will always shine through your work. And if you want to succeed you must always work a little harder, push a little further, and strive to be better than you were the day before. I would add that it’s important to be patient in capturing the right moment and whatever you do, never step on your own values because of money.
- Which photographers inspire you?
There are many, but three of them came to mind first:
- Sally Mann
- Vivian Maier
- Peter Giodani
- What makes a good photographer in your opinion?
Knowing that you will never know everything and being able to look on everything with curiosity and open mind.