In today’s technologically driven world, the existence of the point and shoot camera may be the best thing since sliced bread (only rivaled by the smart phone) for most of us. It allows us to capture memories without having to know too much about the mechanics of the camera. However, for some, those inner workings of a camera in addition to how they react with the external environment are where the magic of taking photos lie. They find a joy in using such a complex machine to produce a realistic representation of what one has imagined in the minds eye or what the naked eye may miss in a fleeting moment. It’s an art, and not one that comes easy to many.
Petra Rolinec has been chasing this joy for over 5 years and prolifically so, one glance at her work attests to this. I came to know her through one of my friends and even had a chance to work with her in an under water shoot. She has the perfect mix of passion, professionalism and that little bit of crazy determination that’s needed to make something stunning out of something ordinary.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Petra Rolinec and I am photographer hoping to be a true visual artist one day.
When did you fall in love with photography?
I can’t even remember, I always loved images. When I was a child, the family camera was something sacred, only to be used by the parents or my older sisters. I loved it when pictures were taken, but I loved even more getting the pictures back from the lab and getting lost in the images, they were not very good images, but they told the story of my family.
I didn’t really know that this could be a career, I thought that to be a photographer one has to be like a superman, not something for normal people. And it was not something my mother was happy about. She did allow us to go he path we chose, but she would have preferred if I had chosen to be a doctor or engineer. And I do love science as much as I love art (I truly believe that both speak the same language) but there are more dangers, more temptations to choose the wrong (unethical) path in science so I decided to go with art.
What style of photography do you favor?
Style? I don’t really favour a particular style. I try them until I am getting bored and I move on. You will see that my work changes constantly. What is really important to me is that the work is good. It drives me crazy when people define themselves through their cameras… There is nothing special in buying a big camera, anybody can do that, it is special how the camera is being used.
How does your photography style reflect your personality?
I am ever changing, I cannot stand boredom and I love life. I truly hope that my love can be seen in my images.
Recently I read somewhere that pictures should not be taken with your mind, but with your heart. This really reflects how I feel.
What are some of your favorite types of shoots to do?
I love fashion editorials, because they allow me to be wild. It is a very artistic form of photography (when done well), actually probably the only commercial form of photography where one can live out their own creativity.
What do you love most about the medium of photography?
Its beauty. How one can draw attention to certain things. That I can make people stop and think, maybe let them forget reality for a beautiful moment.
How do you keep challenging yourself as a photographer?
By comparing myself to the best and seeing how far I still have to go, by listening when people criticize my work, the more they tear it apart the more I learn. I try everything, especially the things people tell me I can’t do. Sometimes they are right, then I move on, but most of the time it turns out that the limitations I have (in equipment, location, or whatever the reason is they told me it wouldn’t work) work to my advantage.
What are some of the things you dislike about being a photographer in general?
I love being a photographer but the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harry (or Tebogo, Tshepo and Thato) think they are photographers is annoying. There was a time when I tried to help, when I would explain what they need to do better and I got lynched (it was very unpleasant). I drew away from them and rather don’t say anything at all to them anymore. So now the call me elitist or racist.
But the part that really drives me crazy is when they attack models I work with. One of my models was cussed out for only working with foreigners just because she declined to work for free for people whose images she felt were not good. This truly saddens me.
What misconceptions do people have about photographers that you wish to dispel?
The bigger the camera the better the images. Its the oldest misconception and it is still alive. Another one is that the camera takes the images, but it kinda goes hand in hand with the first one.
A lot of people think that all photographers do is ‘snap snap’. I spent every single day of the past 5 years occupying myself with photography. I didn’t wake up one day and was as good as I am. It took time, dedication, a lot of suffering, heartbreak, sacrifices but mainly I had to learn every single day and I am still learning. It is my profession and some people look at me and think that all I do is take a picture in a second and spend the rest of my day lounging around, that really hurts. I have worked long and hard to be where I am.
What are the personal highlights of your photography career?
Too many. I have been truly blessed. Being published is always a highlight. Being told that I am an inspiration is exhilarating. Being recognized and greeted with huge smiles by strangers who have seen my work almost brings tears of joy to my eyes. But I think the most amazing moment was when my mom said ‘your pictures are pretty’. She does not give compliments easy, especially when she does not approve of what I do, so these few words meant that she finally made peace, that she understands my choice and that she is proud. I only heard that last year.
Which photographers inspire you and/or your work?
All of them. The good ones inspire me to be better, the bad ones inspire me to be better 😉
But really inspiration is not something that comes from people. I am rarely interested in who took a certain image, rather I am more concerned about what the image evokes within me. If it makes me stop and think then it also inspires me. But the real inspiration comes from life. When I see somebody do something with love it inspires me. An actor whose eyes shine with joy during his performance, a writer who can make me enjoy a book about the technicalities of cars (I have no interest whatsoever in cars), a scientist who explains the latest developments in string theory, the look in a mothers eyes when she looks at her children.
A big thank you to Petra for indulging in my fandom! 🙂