A constant motivation that we see through this section is that every day we are able to share a huge amount of emotional data with someone. Even when we live in a digital environment, there’s nothing unreal in emotions and that’s exactly what we perceive along as we enjoy each page of her mesmerizing portfolio.
With a casual beginning in the field, photographer VAIVA HAWKINS is the perfect example of how to put emotions above the technical noise.
We got an unexpected approach to her work but our conversation was nothing strange, in fact, the complicity around us it allows us to initiate a delicate and honest conversation. Born in the lands of Lithuania, this current resident of Berlin shows us through images that sensuality is a quality that lies in the observation and not mere temporal enjoyment.
Words by Gianfranco Peña
Hello Vaiva, this is not the first time we get in touch with a part of your work. In fact, the past year we published a short note from an editorial shoot with model Ieva Kurmyte and yes, was easy to us determinate how good you are shooting freedom girls with a mysterious aura. Are these types of photographs always been your favorite? Why portray women, what do you perceive in each of them?
Oh, Ieva is actually my cousin 🙂 I think it’s always easier to photograph someone you know personally because you feel more comfortable around them and they feel the same around me.
In general, I think simplicity has always been my style, so the freedom that you feel probably comes from that fact. I don’t push too hard either myself or the models, I just want them to feel natural and not forced. And of course, not all women feel like that, you not gonna have that connection with each and every one of them.
That’s why I always say that modeling is pretty much like acting. To make a good photograph, something interesting/special has to come from the model and it’s my job to see it and capture it. And when it’s working for both of us, I feel like I’m straight away in love with that person and the way she presents herself.
To make a good photograph, something interesting/special has to come from the model and it’s my job to see it and capture it.
And I guess I always see so much more variety in female models than in male models, so that’s why women are predominant in my photos. But I shoot men as well, mostly musicians, which is another passion of mine, I just don’t advertise it so much, because it’s not my primary focus.
Even when the scenes you choose are wonderful, they still feel like very achievable people. What is your opinion about conceptual works, where overdrawn images seem to be a rule? Do you think this could distort an authentic photograph?
If you mean that if the photograph is staged on purpose to achieve and show a certain idea then no, I don’t think it distorts an authentic photograph. I think it’s just a different kind of photography and it’s for you to decide whether you’re into it or not. As much as I like to shoot as freely as possible, sometimes I also have to plan, look for a suitable location and prepare, especially if it’s fashion editorial.
Let us know you a little more. With this level of sensitivity that is manifest in you, what was your first approach to photography? Was this a natural choice or did life lead you to it?
Life naturally led me to it, but it just happened sort of by accident. I just moved to the UK, to this small town to live with my then boyfriend, now husband, and I couldn’t find any job and didn’t have any friends, was going a little crazy… And then my husband’s friend was selling his camera and we decided to buy it because we didn’t have one at the time. Since I was jobless and completely bored I started taking pictures just to pass the time more than anything. It was just pictures of myself mostly.
Then I moved to London and I knew quite a few people there, so I started photographing them. We would just do makeup and get dressed and just go around the area and take pictures. It was really bad now that I look at them, haha, but it made me realize that this is something I really love doing. Then in 2011 we moved to Berlin and I started contacting modeling agencies, so they would give me real models to shoot and it just took off from there.
In this epoch where apparently advertising rule the world, is there still room for independent ideas? How limited is working with commercial parameters?
I think I’m still at the stage where I’m not really limited or forced to shoot something that’s totally clashing with my own perspective. I’m not sure how it will be in the future if my work progresses and I’ll start shooting for well-known magazines (if that ever happens) or just clients in general who have a certain idea and you’re not allowed to change it even a little bit. But I hope that whatever happens, I will still be able to bring my own style to it, so my authenticity won’t be completely lost.
I’m not really limited or forced to shoot something that’s totally clashing with my own perspective.
Let’s get technical, Can you describe us your regular photo setup? Do you have any favorite camera?
If I work in my ‘home studio’ as I call it, or somewhere inside it’s pretty simple – just background, 1 or 2 studio lights and my camera. I normally use my Nikon D3000, which I’ve had for nearly 10 years now. If I shoot outdoors I also take my Pentax P30, which is an analog camera that used to belong to my father in law. It’s pretty old, but I love it like crazy! I love everything about it – the colors, the texture, the feeling you get from it, the whole process. If you get it right It literally feels like the photo is alive, you just can’t stop staring at it, the light is so beautiful. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m totally fascinated by it.
According to your opinion, How important is a formal education in times like these?
If you work in a field which is art related I don’t think formal education means that much at all. I honestly think it’s one of those things that you either have it or don’t. I’m completely self-taught and I just learned everything on my own, just through lots and lots of practice.
What is your dream photo session?
My dream photo session used to be for Vogue magazine with Kate Moss as a model. I always thought that if I ever got to the point where I’m shooting for Vogue, then this definitely would be one to cross off of my bucket list. But now there are so many amazing magazines and models! I absolutely love Self Service for example. If I got to shoot a fashion story for them with Anna Ewers or Molly Bair as models and styling by Venetia Scott (who’s not just a wonderful stylist, but also one of my favorite photographers), that would be one to remember for sure.
And of course, let us finish this interview asking one of the most important things. How is your creative process developed?
I think it depends really. Sometimes I have no idea whatsoever and it only comes to me when I’m actually with the model and I can see what she’s like in front of the camera, how she’s behaving and if I’m clicking with her sort of speak. It just happens there and then most of the time. Other times, particularly with fashion stories, you need to have an idea first.
Then you look for the right model that would fit that idea and the right stylist, hair and makeup artist, location, outfits. It’s a lot of work and sometimes the end result turns out not exactly what you thought in the first place. It’s just what happens – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
If I would be completely satisfied with all of it, I wouldn’t progress any further.
But I guess for me the most important thing is that if something doesn’t work, I always want to make it better next time. You always try to learn from your mistakes. I can honestly say that there’s a very small amount of my photographs that I still like to this day. Most of it – I just can’t stand it! But I guess it’s pretty normal, if I would be completely satisfied with all of it, I wouldn’t progress any further.
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