I’m Agnieszka, a street and portrait photographer based in Warsaw, Poland.

I studied film and television production at The National Film School in Łódź, but I have always felt a need to fulfill myself as an artist. I started my journey as a self-taught photographer during my studies, when I decided that I would write my BA dissertation on the topic of war photography.

Even though I had never studied photography before, holding my friend’s camera for the first time felt very natural and I knew this is something I had to pursue.

Now I’m a an actual photography student, developing my skills and technical background.

My photos tell stories of everyday life, the grace of ordinary people. I try to get close to a person, capture their soul, their essence by pressing the shutter button at the right moment. For me photography is a way of finding beauty in this world and in myself.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

My number one rule is to do everything with love and respect. When I photograph a person, an animal, or even simply nature I want them all to know that I’m there with a pure heart and that I really want to bring out the good and the beauty in them. We should always remember that as photographers we are guests and in order to get a good capture, we need to act like ones.

The second rule is: don’t overthink and trust your intuition. You have the skills you need, so stop thinking and just be in the moment. Analogue photography can be helpful here, because not being able to see the effects on the spot makes you more focused on the subject. I try to apply that rule in digital photography as well, but it’s much harder.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

It’s very important  to choose the right technique and tool for a particular shoot. I can’t imagine some of my photos being made by a digital camera or I regret not using medium format for others, because yes, it makes a difference. The lenses you use, the colors you create in postproduction, the film you put in your camera, it all matters. It’s hard to describe one perfect combination, because it always depends on what picture you are aiming for.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

My trip to Iceland was the moment that changed my way of thinking and I never looked back. For the first time in my life I decided to go somewhere and by myself. Inspired by a friend I started searching for work camps  related to photography and within 5 minutes I had booked the entire trip. I learned so much about myself, met amazing people from around the world and traveled to places that took my breath away. In presence of such beauty it’s hard to take a picture, so I was struggling for a couple of days before I really started capturing much more than just landscapes. I finally felt like a photographer  and was ready to work hard, because for some reason I was given this talent to look at the world in a specific way. I followed the Robert Bresson quote: „Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen”.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

During my trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina I met a man. While I was walking down the street, he smiled at me , waved and asked if I wanted to go inside his house and meet his lady. I didn’t really think much of it and accepted the invitation. After realizing the house he had led me to was empty, dark and in ruins, I was expecting to see a dead woman (the „lady”) and worried that he might attack me. It turned out the lady was his hen. A bird. He was so excited to show me his home, garden, animals and he wanted to share the most intimate story about loosing his family during the recent war. He didn’t know English or Polish and I didn’t know Bosnian, but we ended up having the best conversation about life. What I learned back then was that we miss out on many experiences, we don’t get to meet a lot of beautiful people, because of our fears and lack of knowledge. It’s hard to find a line between putting yourself in danger and exploring, being open to what the world has to offer.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

I’m never objective and I don’t really believe that anyone is. I don’t know how to photograph a place, a person without knowing their story, forming an emotional connection, or even forming an opinion in most cases. As I mentioned before, my rule is to make every project with love and respect, so I try to understand what or who I’m about to capture.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

It’s related to portrait photoshoots and it’s very trivial, but I always ask the photographed person to shake their head, look down and then raise their head quickly. Believe me, after that the face changes immediately. It’s also good to take , as I call them, „silly shots”.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I shoot with analogue cameras: Canon EOS 50E and Olympus Pen EE-III. For digital it’s Canon EOS 6d MARK II. I usually use fixed focal length lenses like 50mm, 35mm, but if the project requires different lenses I just rent them. I plan to purchase a medium format analogue camera in the near future. It’s been on my wishlist for a while.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?

Both. For a long time it was me choosing my customers, because I needed to build up my portfolio and I was mostly working for free. Now, if I have an idea for a photoshoot and a particular person that would fit perfectly, I make the call. Otherwise, I just wait for clients to contact me.

Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?

Absolutely  not ! I met amazing photographers that were just 15 or 16 years old and I’ve seen 60 year old people deciding to learn photography and starting their careers later in life. I don’t really look at people through the prism of age. If you have something to say, if this is your way to express emotions, to show your perspective on life than do it.

What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?

I had to cancel some of my photoshoots at first, but after a while I started meeting with people again. I think the pandemic has made us more open about our emotions, we started talking about our fears, what we miss, what we couldn’t appreciate before. For me an honest conversation is the first step to take a good portrait and in a way the change that appeared in people had a positive impact on my work.

Are there any books you would recommend?

There are so many good books for photographers, it’s hard to name one. When you go to photography classes, they will always get you to read Sontag, Barthes etc. It’s all very good, but , especially for those trying to find their voice, I would recommend „The Soul of the Camera” by David duChemin. You can open it on any page and read a sentence that will change your way of thinking.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

I’ve always participated in different forms of art throughout my life (theatre, music etc.) and I think that these forms intertwine all the time. When I read, watch, listen and understand references  in art, after a while they automatically appear  in my own work.

I think It’s important to keep your mind open and believe that every little thing might inspire you. Answer to every calling of your creativity. If you feel you want to write a poem or learn to play an instrument then do it. Learning new skills and expressing yourself in different ways can have a profound impact on you as a photographer.

Agnieszka Zielińska