First of all let me welcome Renata Apanaviciene, a photographer I have known mainly through online connections. I have met Renata only once in person and was struck by her artistic flair and smile... and as you can imagine we met in a photography exhibition!
Renata is a photographer from Lithuania and has been alternating her time between Malta and Lithuania. She was born in Lithuania, in Vilnius, which is the biggest city also capital of Lithuania. Lithuania is a little Baltic country, where plenty rivers, lakes, forest, birds but unlike Malta there isn't to much sun! Renata is a member of MIPP Malta and has achieved her LMIPP certification in November 2014.
Renata has been very helpful in immediately accepting my invitation for this interview.
So let's get started...
- So Renata how did you get into photography? Was it also your father's work?
I began my apprenticeship in Photography when I was a kid and I think that these first steps into the photography world were maybe the most important. Unfortunately my father wasn’t a photographer, he was a good policeman but when he had some free time he was always shooting with his camera - mostly portraits, so maybe that’s the reason why portrait photography has always been one of my favorite subjects. I remember from my childhood that we had a lot of cameras (analog), good ones, old ones, antiques, and my dad allowed me to use them. My father was not only a good photographer but also an inventor and I remember how he converted our room into a darkroom when I was still a child. I remember working on the prints as they were developing in chemicals and the magic of the pictures appearing on the paper. So since childhood, the memory of photographs being magical creations always stayed with me. Later I started to take photos by myself. I was fascinated by the possibility to immortalize the evanescent moments of life. My first subjects were family, friends and landscapes.
Later, when I turned 15, I received the best gift for my birthday – a small camera. It was simple and cheap, but at least it did its job. Photos of course were of everyday themes – school, portraits of my friends, my family, the city, the village. I shot in B&W and printed photos myself in my room. I have always been interested in photographic art and in the work of Lithuanian photographers (we have a highly regarded and well-established school of photography especially in B&W). I carefully studied also all of my dad’s notes and photo books.
After leaving school, I finished University, and started to work in an advertising company, later in big international company as an HR and Communication Manager… Although I worked hard but never stopped with photography and was always carrying my camera to various events and trips.
Moving forward 25 years.... my relationship with photography continues but from a simple hobby, it has now become my main occupation and deepest passion! And of course, now I have more tools in the digital darkroom. After long years working as a HR & Communication Manager and finding that photography suited my lifestyle better I left that company and started to study photography more deeply, opening a new book (not page!). I am finding it so interesting and colourful; so full of new challenges, knowledge, interesting people, different experiences and different faces.
I learned photography through a number of courses, various workshops in Lithuania, courses online and found great satisfaction in studying the art with some well-known and professional photographers in Malta. It was a good step up in learning outside my comfort zone and outside Lithuania, experimenting and practicing under different conditions. After a few years’ work, studies and private tuition I can only speak highly of them and I am sure that what I received is the best their experience and knowledge.
In several years I approached various Photography Associations outside Lithuania, and have participated in photo contests, competitions, received plenty awards, and I have held a number of exhibitions.
- What made you leave your full time work and plunge into full-time photography? How risky is this in today's world?
I am sure that people feeling good when they are doing what they like and they can achieve the best results when they are doing exactly what they like… so my example just confirms this truth… And yes, nowadays it is risky to be only a simple photographer. You have to be not only a good photographer, but first a creative photographer, good in sales, good in advertising, a hard working employee working 24 hours per day…
Nowadays we see a lot of 'photographers' walking in the street, taking pictures in different places, different events – with mobiles, various cameras, so to be unique is not easy…but it is possible. I have had great examples from my mentors. Those who can celebrate with champagne are those who are not afraid to risk…
- Why do you consider portraiture as your favorite type of photography?
Currently, I am mostly concentrating on portraits and my goal is to produce real portraiture photography. I do not mean a simple portrait of a model – after all, it is not very difficult to take pictures of a good looking model – but it is not easy to take photos which have soul and communicate a story.
Portraiture to me is a collaboration which, when it works, reveals some truth about the subject. I don’t think any portrait “captures” a person but it can reveal an aspect of their personality, a small essence of who they are at that moment in time. Light can describe a person in myriad ways and its most powerful medium of photographer has. Only when lighting is right can the real work begin. At that point the subject and I are free to create something that previously didn’t exist. So I’m working on it. And I like it even it is always big challenge!
- How do you define your style?
Actually I am not sure if I can describe my photography style in one word. Of course it is common, popular and maybe easier and more practical to choose one kind, one genre of photography and work on it. But I like to explore different approaches to photography so I am not aware of adopting any particular style. I do like a lot of other genres in photography as abstract, street, architecture, event photography as well.
Yet I wouldn’t call myself a street photographer, just because I like everything that is beautiful and interesting. I like to talk with the people in the street and I am always on the lookout for something eye-catching and special, even simple emotion, so that makes candid portraiture one of my favourites too.
I discover so many beautiful places when I’m travelling and try not to take just any photo, but to find a different viewpoint/angle. I have fallen in love with events photography (my favourite being fireworks). I enjoy architectural photography too although to me, small details are much more interesting (angles, lines, shapes, curves, colours, contrast, etc). And I love B&W.
- What books / resources did you find more useful at the beginning of your photographic career that helped you reach what you produce today?
Maybe I will not unique when I will tell you about Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams. But there are so many great photographers out there these days and it is hard to narrow them down to a definitive few. But I am always excited when I see work of Elliott Erwitt, Diane Arbus, also Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Irving Penn, David LaChappelle, Kevin Carter. I do not have any detailed recipe to which books you should read to become a better photographer (nowadays there is plenty of information on the internet, video tutorials, etc.) but one I know for sure- you have to practice a lot…
- What is currently in your photography bag when you go out shooting (camera, lenses, filters, tripod, triggers, etc)? Do you have different setups for different occasions or types of shoots?
If I have a possibility I always carry two bodies and 4 lenses (feeling more comfortable when I don’t need to change lenses), when I am traveling I carry at least one camera and 3 lenses... yes it is a bit heavybut not so much that I ca't carry it. For nature/ landscape I am using the Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8, NIKKOR 24–70mm f/2.8E ED VR…for portraiture - Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8, also NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 …and of course ND filters, tripod – everything that a photographer needs to have in his bag and carry it (of course it depends where I am working – in a studio or outside) you newer know what you will have on your way that day… Anyway I find that the right lighting and composition is far more important than the sensor for the photo that I like to take.
About different setups for different occasions or types of shoots – yes, it exist.. one thing is to take photos of fireworks, you need special settings, practice, good location and good weather, another- to take photos of architecture, not enough good camera and lenses, need right angle, right light…for portraiture in studio – again…right light, right lenses, right settings, even right poses. All that is coming from long practice…
- If your whole photographic collection was burning, and you could save just one photo you took, which one would it be and why?
- it would be my family photo...here we start all our main career - as humans...and most important in our life not to become good or best photographer but to be the best to ones that we love...
- Which is the photo which took you the most time and effort to take?
- I can share with you two photos ... it depends ... from one hand - the photo with the model with the powder - took time to take because I needed the right light, right pose, right position of powder, the right settings to catch movement, right expression of model..
On the other hand, this one below also took a long time to shoot...when I saw the place, that painting on the wall in one little sardinian village I understood that I needed person nearby... but i didn't know that this village so small and there not so many people living there, so I had to wait for around 2,5 hours for one person it was longest time to spend for one photo!
- What are your thoughts on the next evolutionary steps in photography for the future?
I think that photography has become more and more less photography and more something about painting, drawing, you need more technical skills and more time on the computer; even in the street photography I notice more simple snapshots instead serious photos taking stories… sometimes it is strange that people today have more possibilities, more good equipment but less time to be creative… I think at the end, photography will always be an art, even though there will always be technological improvements.
- I particularly like your black and white photographs. Do you process your images in any way? How much does post-production play a role in your photography?
Yes, I don’t like so much post processing, but I edit my photos using various presets, even converting to B&W. I like B&W and think that Black and white images appear to be more timeless than color images. A lack of color in a photograph often accentuates the light and shadows. Backlit subjects and dramatic shadows are brought to the audience’s attention quickly in black and white images. People see the world in color, and a rendition of the world in monochrome makes us pause and look closely. Removing color from a picture helps the viewer to focus on a subject’s emotional state. In my opinion B&W portraiture lets others see the subject’s face and read his or her eyes without distraction. So when I am working in B&W I am trying to show more true emotions in portraiture, more reality in the street, etc.
- What advice would you give to new photographers to improve quickly and effectively? What advice would you give to more experienced ones?
Practice. To know what he/she wants to achieve in photography and work. . Always look for feedback, comments, good or bad ones, learn, fix mistakes if need be and work again!If photography is all what you want, all you want to live for, if its your passion – don’t stop…Don’t stop learning, creating and again – work…always work in your way! The best thing what photography gives me is that I haven’t two similar days. And I’ve met so many interesting people on my way… the worst thing would be to stop doing what I like :)
- What are your future goals as a photographer?
- My target is to finish Portraiture Photography studies in NYIP and prepare my panel for AMIPP.
We thank you Renata for finding time to answer our questions. I am sure that a number of photographers will find this interview interesting and inspirational for their work.