Admirer of sports photography Mila Štáfek

Mila Štáfek, Worker, Czech Republic

Should you wish to look at Mila Štáfek’s first week, you would have to browse through more than a thousand weeks. Mila is one of the members that joined the project in its very beginning, yet it seems as if it were yesterday when his week named ‘cycle’ arrived in the editor’s office. We were amazed how spontaneous and technically mastered his portrayal of his life was in the set of 63 photographs. And we were even more surprised when we found out that Mila is actually not a professional photographer. He then submitted 2 more weeks, both in black and white and in the same style that if they were left nameless, we would immediately realize it was Mila’s work. This interview brings you closer to a man with the soul of a skateboarder and the interaction between two of his greatest passions, sports and photography.

The time has come to find the 13th Week of Life Master. An unlucky number for some, but certainly a lucky one for Mila Štáfek, who was unanimously selected by the editor’s office to become the next Master. Why don’t you introduce yourself at first?

Besides the place of residence, date of birth and your profession, tell us more about yourself.First of all, I would like to thank you for the selection. I was delighted and have no problem with the number thirteen. Photography is very important to me and has become a part of my life. That is why I’m honored my work has been recognized and that I have been selected as a Week of Life Master. Once again, I want to thank for being chosen from such a selection of great photographers on WoL.
I live in the city of Chomutov with my wife and two children, Beáta and Šimon. Photography has influenced the lives of us all and I can say with confidence that I have full support from my entire family. Apart from photography, I work for a tire service owned by my family. Work, photography and kids consume so much time that I miss out on other things such as sort. It would be great if individual days had more hours.

You often show your family in your weeks. Being one of your main hobbies, what does your family think about photography and how did you get to it yourself?

They understand that it’s a part of me, I just have to know where the boundaries are. I can’t be wandering around landscapes, since my kids are starting to become these little devils after me so it isn’t easy on my wife. They are already snooping around my camera and my photography bag. I never studied any artistic school or even a photography course. A few years ago, my brother and I along with some friends wanted to capture some of our skate tricks and later, I documented some of our trips and events. In 2006, I got my first ever digital camera. It was a Konica Minolta and I replaced it only recently. I like artistic and sports photography, and on top of that, I frequently photograph children and weddings.

Your photographs are full of great images from skateboarding as well as other similar sports. Is it solely your interest that inspires you to photograph such sports, or is there a personal attachment?

I’m crazy about skateboarding and snowboarding. I’ve been riding both boards for about 10 years now and I can say that it has influenced my life a lot. I like photographing these sports and when it comes to obtaining a quality picture, I’m willing to do anything. I’d like for this photography to be more frequent.

Since you’re willing to sacrifice so much for a good picture, have you received any awards or acknowledgments for pictures from this field of interest, which is pretty much very limited in the Czech Republic?

Earlier this year, I entered 4 of my skateboarding photograph into the worldwide competition Red Bull Illume, where I reached the semifinals and ranked among the 25 best photographs in the Playground category. I even received a book containing 250 of the best photographs in the competition, including my own. That’s a great feeling.

You stated that apart from your family business, you photograph. Would you like to turn professional or is your current situation satisfactory?

I guess I like it as it is. Working for my parents has its pros and cons and when its low season, I’m rarely there. On the other hand, during high season, it consumes most of my time and I barely even think about photography. Being a professional photographer would only satisfy me providing I was able to photograph what I enjoy.

There are surely role models or photographers that inspire you. Please state a few names from the Czech as well as international pool of photographers.

There is a whole variety of incredible photographers and photographs. Concerning sports photography, I really like David Blažek, Martin Kozák, Fred Mortagne, and Blotto. The person who has helped me the most in my work was Vítek Ludvig.

You have entered three weeks in the Week of Life project and they are all black and white. Is there a specific reason? Do you for example photograph extreme sports in black and white as well or do you use color?

I like black and white and I think it suits my weeks. It’s probably a question of taste; a document can easily be in color, but I guess I’m fixated on black and white. I thought about documenting a week in color, but in order for that to happen, plenty of things would have to play up to such a decision. It’s mostly about the surroundings and my mood. As far as photos of extreme sports go, it’s divided in half. Some things are good in color and some aren’t. That is my rule. When you have two identical pictures, one in color and one in black and white, it immediately strikes you and one of them simply feels better.

You previously mentioned that you dealt with photography some time ago. That means you have experienced the analog era. Do you ever get the feeling you would like to go back to analog or has the digital world consumed you completely?

Yes, my beginnings were analog and it can’t be compared to today. Photographers had to think more and keep a cool head. Today, I don’t have to count how much film there is left and can experiment more. I think that the screenshots of the pictures I’ve taken on the display of the camera have moved me forward and I’m glad that technology advances so fast. We even had a dark room at home, but I must admit I wasn’t very good at it. I guess it takes a lot of practice. Analog is tempting, especially with large amount of noise, but it must wait for me a little longer.

Readers will be curios how you got acquainted with the Week of Life project and what went through your mind when you submitted your first week?

I found out about the project from my friend Zuza and immediately started the next day. I immediately thought it’s a great idea and jumped into it without hesitation. And you can see the turnout for yourself. I gained another habit and who knows when I get the impulse to photograph my fourth week. At the moment, I don’t have the sponsors Mr. Zika and Mr. Dvořák had to be able to photograph every day. It must be a tough task.

Humans are of inquisitive nature and thanks to the documented weeks, we can all take a peek into the lives of others. However, there is also a section comprising of celebrities or let’s say famous personalities. As far as this section goes, is there someone whose week you would like to see the most and why?

Everybody has the option to disclose as much information as he or she desires. Sometimes I am surprised how far people are willing to go and how much of their private like do they make public; it almost borders with exhibitionism. I am curios as well and look at all sorts of weeks that are interesting or when I find a great photo, I then look at the entire week. I am not sure regarding the celebrities. I would probably like to see the other side of the coin much more. I would probably prefer looking at sets from people who are in a bad social situation. These people have rough lives, unknown to many others. I think this idea would be unacceptable for a lot of people.

Weeks of Mila Štáfek

I’ve been pushing the limits of intimacy further, says Kamil Kašpárek

Kamil Kašpárek, Purchaser, Czech Republic

His first week was a clear favorite to be selected for the Editor’s Choice and after publishing his second one, we started to receive strong opinions in favor of his person to be included among the WoL Masters. There is no doubt that Kamil Kašpárek a.k.a. Kaspy belongs in this profound section. The way how he documents his life is an inspiration to all and despite capturing ordinary things and daily activities known to all of us, he manages to portray them in a new and original fashion. In the following interview, you can find out more about his photography beginnings, what he enjoys about it the most, and how he feels about revealing and documenting his privacy.

Towards the end of the summer holidays, we had the possibility to see your first week named ‘Kaspy’s first week’. Based on the comments, the week was a success and with the increasing number of quality weeks, the choice was easy when selecting the 12th Week of Life Master. Your profile shows only basic information, so if you would, please tell us more about yourself, as well as about what led you to photography?

First, I would like to thank you for being selected, you really made me happy. Back to the question. I come from the city of Mikulov in the region of the Pálava hills, but at the moment, I live and work in Brno. I am 26 years old and very happy in my role as a future father. I love nature, everything that lives and life as it is; I think that led me to photography. One fall day, on my way home from school in Pardubice, I suddenly felt the urge to document the beauty of nature we were passing. It was around the city of Česká Třebová and I remember the light, the atmosphere as if it were today. One month later, I became the owner of my first camera – the Olympus C-760 Ultra Zoom. The year was 2004 and I slowly started to acquaint myself with photography.

Your profession as a purchaser sounds interesting. One of the Masters is a salesperson and many don’t see the difference between the two. What is your profession about?

There is a rather huge difference, since I am more in the position of a customer rather than a sales person. Purchasing consists of ensuring that certain commodities are in stock in the warehouse or for wholesale of the company that later sells these products on the Czech market through their sales force. I purchase intermediate goods such as stainless steel and I dare to say that it is so specific, that you cannot predict its price development. The more unpredictable it is, the harder is my job, since you need to have just enough goods for the best price possible.

You use color as well as black and white in your photographs. Some of your weeks are dominant with color, some with b&w. Are these combinations random or is it a deliberate use of photography in order to express your feelings to the viewers?

At first, I indulged in live colors and loved all that was colorful, alive, joyful, but after a certain phase, I change my perception of the photographs and color is no longer enough to send the message across. Black and white simply has more ‘depth’, there are no colors to distract the viewers, letting the essence of the image stand out. I try to absorb the emotions of the photograph and if I feel that it needs to have color, it will be in color and vice versa. Photos can’t interfere with one another and I want them to act as a compact unit in terms of a day or a week.

A few days back, the photo topic ‘Intimacy’ was published on the website. Some members have many more weeks than you do, but have not appeared in the selection. Do you consider your photographs more intimate than the photos of others?

And where is your border line for what can be published and what should stay private?I don’t dare judge how private the photos of others are. What I try to aim for is for each photograph to be the insight into to my life and how I perceive my surroundings, what I go through, what I feel. Perhaps for these reasons were my images chosen for this photo topic.

I’ve been pushing the limits of intimacy further ever since I started photographing life. However, I always set the line which I don’t cross no matter what, since my main inspiration involves my wife, family, the place where I live and so on. The images can’t be vulgar or offensive. They should evoke the sense of what is dear to us and what we consider familiar; the only difference is that it’s all through my perspective.

As you have mentioned above, you are expecting your child to be born soon. This is clearly evident in your weeks. Are you deliberately capturing these moments of expectation, or is it all just a coincidence?

Now there is a good suggestion. I wouldn’t call it a deliberate series of photos, but I do try to document it so that we see how something so little can change a person’s life. I am looking forward to my new black background arriving, so that we can fully enjoy the ‘in the dark’ images. It would be a shame not to capture the beauty of female curves, so eagerly waiting to be photographed.

Now, the obvious question – How did you find out about the project? It is not the easiest of tasks to photograph an entire week. What kind if impulse made you join the cause of the project?

I heard about the project from Jan Nožička, but felt no need to join. However, I monitored how Week of Life kept expanding and it pulled me in with its diversity and overall idea. And when I tried documenting an entire day, I decided that next time, it has to be a whole week. Now, I’m documenting my 5th week and I have a feeling there is plenty more from where that came from.

Currently, there are 34 countries involved in the WoL project. Some countries are represented by a large number of weeks, some have a single set. If you could choose, which of the member countries would you wish to document and for what reason?

If I had to select one, it would definitely be Australia. The country of the Aborigines with endless deserts, tropical forests, The Great Barrier Reef, the underground city, the longest straight road in the world, Wave Rock, Road trains etc… It’s a fascinating region on the planet, where I’d go immediately if possible.

You have been photographing for some time now. You have surely found a favorite photographer, either from the Czech sphere or the international one. Would you be so kind as to share with us who your favorite photographer is and why?

There are actually many names I have been following. Locally in the Czech Republic, the first name that comes to mind is Josef Sudek for his still life, discovered places. The prototype for success is in my eyes Adolf Zika, thanks to his attitude towards photography. Then, Jan Sudek, although his photos are a little over the top. Ladislav Kamarád and his crazy traveling. From my surroundings, definitely Marta Černická for her artistic and unbelievably delicate portrayal of her images. And finally, Matej Kmeť and Ondřej Nosek for their portrait photos. From the international scene, it would have to be Sebastião Salgado. Additionally, I’d like to see the document Workers in its initial phase.

When photographing your weeks, you put together pictures from many different categories. Landscape, still life, macro, reportage, portrait, nudes, family photos and so on, together combined as a document of your life. The last category, family photos, is often forgotten and even purposely excluded in many internet galleries. In your opinion, how should family photography look like, so that it is interesting to a wider audience than just the family members and people around them?

I find the statement of Václav Havel interesting. I don’t remember it word by word, but he said that a photograph should be smarter than the photographer himself, for everyone to find their own point of interest.

Sometimes it only takes one to think about it from the perspective of a stranger and why a specific photo should be of interest to them. So, the approach is decisive, not the theme.

The WoL project keeps expanding and it is not only due to the increase of its members and their weeks, but also thanks to new sections. Do you have a favorite section and is there something specific you’d like to see on the website in the future?

I like to follow reportages, stories behind pictures and especially remote places. And it is exactly these weeks from distant countries that I would like to see the most on the website.

Weeks of Kamil Kašpárek

Black and White photography is closer to my heart, admits Sergey Poteryaev

Poteryaev Sergey, Engineer, Russia

Russian speaking members of WoL have been a boon to the project recently. We have witnessed amazing sets and taken on several great authors, among whom one clearly stood out – the young Sergey Poteryaev. His first week showed us what kind of photographic talent we are dealing with and proved it further with three additional sets. His talents left us no choice but to interview him, go beneath the surface and discover more details not only about him as a person, but about the places that have influenced his photographic journey.

The WoL project continues to grow at a fast pace. So does the number of WoL Masters. When this section was launched, future Masters had only one or two photographed sets. Then, as the project expanded, the editor’s office turned its focus to photographers who grew alongside the project and advanced in their photographic abilities. Now the focus is upon you, since you have been chosen. You’ve documented two weeks so far, stunning the entire editor’s office with the 14 days. You come from Russia from the city of Ekaterinburg, experiencing a huge boom in the project. Can you tell us something about yourself and the place where you live?

My name is Sergey Poteryaev and I am 22 years old. I’ve been in photography for 2 years.

The documentary genre is my favorite and I am trying to make it more lively and interesting. Russia is a huge country, there are so many fascinating things that even 3 weeks of life would not be enough to see and learn all of them.

As I can guess, people who keep up with Week of Life wonder what life looks like in my country. From now on, I hope to satisfy your curiosity.

Most of the world knows Russia as a large and beautiful country, with famous cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Your city is slightly more to the east. How are Ekaterinburg and its surroundings exceptional and what could tourists look forward to?

Actually, that is the question that I’ve been asking myself recently – What distinguishes Ekaterinburg from the other cities of the world? Unfortunately, I can’t find the answer yet, but I want to hope that the reason I don’t perceive the exceptional features of my city simply because I am used to them.

Ekaterinburg can be called a business city. A tourist won’t find it difficult to get to any stress he or she needs or to any place of interest.

One thing I can tell for sure is if a tourist decides to see the city he will be welcomed everywhere with Russian traditional hospitality.

You have shown city life as well as the countryside in your weeks. These two worlds are very distinct, not only in photography. What lies closer to your heart – life in the countryside or in the city?

Life in the countryside is spiritually closer to me. Every summer I used to stay in that village with my granny, I can say I spent my childhood there. As for the city, it is crowded and rich in events, which is good in terms of photography, but harmony can be attained only in the countryside.

A photographer tends to be influenced by the environment like nobody else; I hope you can see it in my village photographs.

The first week you have shown us was in color. The second set was black and white. Was this some kind of a trial or was it on purpose? Do you prefer expressive and colorful photography or lean towards tones of grey with a focus on the action in the images?

I would say I am for the integrity of the whole picture. I decided from the start that just life as it is doesn’t match my interests, so I made my mind to set myself some certain goals which could draw the week together into a single chain. A black and white week was one of the trials.

Judging by my sets on WoL, one could come to a conclusion that I prefer photography in colour, but it is actually not like that. On the contrary, I believe black and white photography is closer to me due to its expressiveness and laconism. It is easier to show the gist of the process depicted.

You have already shared with us the reasons why people should visit Ekaterinburg. Now we’d like to know what country and culture you would most like to visit and photographically document?

Not long ago, I came back from Istanbul, that is the place I had been really eager to visit. Hope that WoL members will like the pictures I shot there. I would love to continue getting to know the rich Turkish culture; I think this country, like Russia, hasn’t been captured to the full extent. The next destination I want to see very much is Odessa (Ukraine). I am planning to visit in the winter and to shoot this resort town without tourists.

You are still young, perceiving the world in a different way than older generations. Russia has changed a lot as a country over the past 20 years. It is clearly evident in numerus sets from your colleagues. People can freely become entrepreneurs and I am sure there are a lot of freelance photographers on the market. Tell us about the options and possibilities a beginning photographer has in Russia – education in photography, starting a photography business or just an open world of digital photography for the masses?

Unfortunately, in Russia we don’t have much higher education in photography. There are 2-3 places where a young person, who is serious about photography, can go to study. A Russian photographer advances not owing to education, but despite its absence.

Mainly, you study by the process of communication and the exchange of experience with photographers who are like you.

The market for photo services is large the advertising businesses, wedding photography, the fashion industry. Documentary photography isn’t the way to earn a living in my country. Yet there are a lot of people interested in how Russia is. They want to see good shots about Russian life. Anyway, it is not all that bad, every year we can observe some very interesting documentary photographers.

Only rarely does a person earn a living with documentary photography, no matter where you are in the world. Nevertheless, people enjoy it and try to document life from their individual angle. Is there anyone, either from across the globe or in your local surroundings, you specifically look up to in the field of documentary photography?

It is more appropriate to speak about photography itself here, because I don’t know much about the lives of photographers I like. My preferences in photography have changed over the course of time. The first one I was impressed by was undoubtedly Henri Cartier-Bresson, and it doesn’t need to be explained why it was him. At the same time I loved works by Lee Friedlander, with his creating order out of chaos. Also I can recommend having a look at one Russian photographer, Vladimir Vyatkin. His works are really worth seeing.

Lately, I have been more and more appealed by photographers like Martin Parr and Jacob Aue Sobol. I like thein own, authentic world view and ability to depict some insignificant elements so inspiredly.

My own development I see in combining of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s succinctness of expression and the visual culture of contemporary photographers.

A few days back, the Week of Life editor’s office has expanded into Russia, Ekaterinburg specifically. You come from a large country with many contrasts in so many ways. How did you find out about the project and what has attracted you the most while getting acquainted with it?

I learned about the project from Sergei Rogozhkin and Oleg Tyagni- Ryadno. They suggested participating and I decided to shoot a week and after that one more, which eventually constituted a whole month of my life.

I liked having a chance to see different countries through the eyes of photographers. When you travel you are only a tourist, but WoL gives an opportunity to see other countries from within.

In a few years time, you will have documented various parts of your life, one piece in a huge mosaic created by thousands of people from across the planet. Do you ever wonder what people of future generations might think about your photographs in this project?

To my mind, a photographer must aim to show life in such a way that people of the future looking at his picture photographs can see what life was like, what people were fond of, how they spent their leisure. That is, a photographer sends a letter through his works to tell descendants about the time when he lived. WoL makes it possible to send this letter.

Weeks of Poteryaev Sergey

Diary-like perception of the world in the eyes of Lenka Pužmanová

Lenka Pužmanová, Graphic designer, Czech Republic

When hearing the name Lenka Pužmanová, many of us think of the well thought out, originally conceived weeks that are connected by a characteristic element – the never to be forgotten view outside of her window. The style of this graphic designer is in one word unmistakable, be it for its colorful or graphical approach. Even though she does not regard herself as a documentarian, we can state with certainty that she is able to document her life in great fashion and with ease, so typical to her specific style.

Looking at your first few weeks, we can find one common element – a bleak environment in between panel buildings. You have become one of the authors on WoL who always include a trademark photo, characteristic to their life. In your case, it’s an ordinary view from your window; a place seen by millions each day, yet never documented. What do this view and its inclusion into your submitted weeks mean to you?

Documenting one place over a certain period of time is of course not my idea. I was inspired by Jiří Hanke, who used to photograph the view outside of his window for many years. This concept is very close to my ‘diary-like’ perception and documentation of the world. Actually, I already started around the year 2001, when I rented a small flat on the ground floor, and photographed around 30 images on a black and white cine-film. Later, I had an amazing view overlooking the Vltava River and the ‘Long Bridge’ (which has appeared in several sets from different authors). There were two tall trees growing in front of the bridge and with every next season, offered a different scenery (to my liking) when I looked outside through the window. I photographed this view for about a year on a colored film. Right before moving out, one of the trees dried up and was chopped down. 2 years ago, we bought a flat close to the city centre of České Budějovice with my partner. When we saw the flat and the location for the first time, we knew right there and then that this was the place where we want to live. Our friend Honza Flaška commented the situation by saying that we picked the flat based on the view and ignored the usual – the dispositions, squared area and so on.

Your profession suggests that graphic designers are very creative and top quality authors. Out of ten WoL Masters, three are graphic designers. Could you specify this profession a little more?

In particular, I deal with graphic design, typesetting for books and illustrations. This profession involves designing visual styles, corporate prints, internet websites, different publications, periodicals and so on. Even though I could be working on much more lucrative job orders, I prefer to work on the jobs where I get paid less, such as graphically editing books or cultural events, simply because they are usually more interesting and enjoyable. I like to work with images and fonts, so it is quite obvious that I would mostly enjoy putting together photographic publications or catalogs for artists. In any case, there are other job orders where I can ‘let myself and my imagination go’.

You currently live in the city of České Budějovice. It’s an interesting occurrence that this city has a wide author base on WoL. There are a lot of similar cities in the Czech Republic, but the city of České Budějovice simply stands out. Is this participation an organized matter, for instance due to a photo club activity, or is it just pure coincidence?

I think it’s a coincidence. We (Photo Club called ‘Vývojka’) found out about WoL from Mr. Zika already in December of last year, but it was not until a few months later that someone actually dared to ‘disclose their goods’. So far, there are 3 of us from the club that have participated (apart from me there is Jan Flaška and Michal Duda). I don’t know the other participants on WoL from České Budějovice and have no idea if they are from some kind of a group or a club. The only person I have met before, at an exhibition, was Linda Burdová. There is an interesting similarity with the Institute of Creative Photography, where many students were and still are from České Budějovice and the city’s outskirts. I used to be one of them. In any case, it is a challenge for all of us and we could actually organize a meeting of the WoL section in southern Bohemia. But do be indulgent if it is not immediate – we, southern Bohemians, are simply bemused, reserved, hesitant and at times slow. However, we always come up with some kind of an output in the end.

You mentioned a Photo Club called ‘Vývojka’. You are surely one of its members. However, many photographers do not take part in any kind of organization or club. What does the Photo Club membership mean to you?

Photo Club called ‘Vývojka’ is luckily an unorganized association of people, so there is no actual ‘membership’ and that is exactly what suits me. It enables me to meet interesting people and over the years, we have reached a certain bond and I regard them as friends rather than colleagues (or companions). The Photo Club does not have any organized activities. We basically do what we want. When we decide to visit some sort of an exhibition, there is no compulsory attendance and only the ones that are interested come along. It sometimes happens that we agree upon a theme and work on it for some time. We usually meet for a beer or tea and have informal meetings, where we discuss all kinds of issues and one of them is photography. We don’t even have a showroom, although we might in the near future. Perhaps the only regular event is the organization behind the competition called ‘Fotouniverziáda‘ (now is the best time to apply by the way).

Southern Bohemia is a magnificent region. Šumava, the lakes of Třeboň, Lipno, Český Krumlov, the Hluboká nad Vltavou Castle and many other gems can be found in this region of the Czech Republic. It is one of the regions that are frequently visited by Czech tourists. Do you have a specific place in mind, in your surroundings or in a distant location, which you would like to explore and photograph?

It is not of fundamental importance where I photograph to make some great images. Personally, I would say that the amount of time spent in the location is much more important. Obviously, there are places that I would like to explore, but it’s hard to recognize the rareness of the location thoroughly when on holiday. During such short visits, a person is usually unable to describe a given region or country. On the other hand, he or she can create a document about themselves (for instance through Week of Life). From my point of view and approach to photography, interesting images can be taken anywhere and an exotic location does not play a decisive role. Well, to answer the question, I like the countries up north – I would like to visit Scandinavia again, as well as go to Iceland, Canada, China…. There are a lot of places I’d like to see in person. And many of these are in our little Republic. Personally, I haven’t been to our tallest mountain Sněžka yet. But I have spent a week in the Rychory Mountains – a place which every photographer / landscape artist should visit. I am not a landscape artist however, so even ‘my’ Southern Bohemia has stayed untouched to these days.

The Wol project is still in its ongoing and expanding state. New sections are added on a regular basis, increasing the depth and appeal of the project. Let’s name the main ones: Week of Life Masters, Stories behind pictures, Remote places, Reportages, Photo Topics and so on. Do you have a favorite amongst these sections?

I am not sure if I have a favorite section on WoL. Although I do like to go through the Photo Topics section, as I enjoy looking at the same thing portrayed by different authors. I also enjoy the stories behind pictures and I would certainly welcome if this section was updated more often.

Now a question that was given to all of the ‘Masters’. How do you perceive the Week of Life project and what do you think will be its significance regarding the society in the future?

I’ve always worked in thematic cycles or series, so I was a little disappointed when I wasn’t able to categorize some of my individual photographs which I made at home, in the city, at an event… So I practically stopped photographing such images. Thanks to WoL, I am able to ‘collect’ these unrelated pictures and by arranging them into individual days, they gain a certain meaning in spite of them sometimes having a solitaire function. As a matter of fact, it plays a role as an irregular photo blog of mine and I am glad that I will have a photographic document over the years, showing what I have done, how I lived as well as how the people that surround me lived. Personally, WoL has become another one of my family albums.
As for the second part of the question, it’s hard to find an answer. I am wondering my self the direction this project will follow, what it will bring to the society and what will be its impact. Today, I see it as a personal thing, but that can change in the near future. Nevertheless, I think that in ten or twenty years, people will browse through today’s photographs from all over the world gathered in one place with delight and perhaps will find some of the answers to their questions about the year 2010. There could be around half a million or even a million photos by then, so perhaps the search system will need to be adjusted.

Wol was created during the time when digital photography had already dominated analog photography. Weeks documented on classic film wouldn’t even get over the number 10 out of the overall number of more than 600 weeks. In this manner, digital photography is certainly beneficial for the project. Have you had any experience with classical celluloid films and if not, would you be tempted to try?

I started with classic photography when digitals were not yet available. And even though I eventually ended up with a digital camera, I never abandoned classic film. I use it up to this day, but over the past few years, I stopped printing the negatives (but I still believe that I will come back to it one day). I mainly use colored negatives. Just look at my weeks, two of them are documented on classic photographic film and I hope to include more. I simply like its richness of color and atmosphere, which I am still unable to capture with my digital camera. I guess it’s not even possible. I am not really a follower or supporter of modern technologies and lately, I have actually bought some of the older cameras. The last piece I bought is a fully functional medium-format system camera and I am trying to familiarize myself with it. Photographing is totally different when using this camera and it needs a lot of patience. Once we get familiar with each other completely, perhaps I’ll even use it to document my Week of Life.

Weeks of Lenka Pužmanová

Along the path to artistic vision with Jan Nožička

Jan Nožička, Photographer, Czech Republic

Jan Nožička is without a doubt a promising talent in the pool of Czech photography. At the same time, he has been of great value to the Week of Life project, exploiting the most out of his creativity and artistic vision, while staying modest and realistic. As a result, his weeks have a meaning and do not deviate from the most important aspect – the documentary genre. Jan Nožička is one of the members who entirely understood the concept and idea of the project and achieved to combine the two in a coherent artistic manner. It takes some time to discover such valuable personas, which are then deservedly acknowledged in the most important of sections, the Week of life Masters.

With the expansion of the WoL project, the number of Masters is increasing. So far, you can be considered as slightly exempt from the group, since you are by far the youngest of them all. Your weeks are incredibly creative and of high-quality. Could you specify your path to photography up to now more closely?

I found my way to photography in 2005 when I received a compact Nikon from my parents for Christmas. However, the real ‘grasp’ of this beautiful artistic field came thanks to my uncle, who taught me the basics of photography and I am very grateful for that. I was fully absorbed by this form of art in the year 2007, when I purchased my first SLR. The next steps included discovering a darkroom and analog photography, with the latter only in basic terms. Still, it is nice to grab a Flexaret camera from time to time and ‘snap’ a few pictures.

You have selected ‘photographer’ in the field asking for occupation. It is evident from your weeks that you study photography. Could you elaborate regarding your studies? (School, what year etc.).

I’m in my second year studying photography, specifically a photographer apprenticeship in the city of Hradec Králové. This is the second school I’ve attended, since the first one was not the right choice for me and I decided not to further my studies there. I will definitely aspire to continue my studies in the field of photography in the future.

Many Hobby photographers hope to earn a living with photography. You seem to aim for that directly. Or am I mistaken, and you plan to pursue a different field and commit to photography only as your huge hobby?

I am actually living my dream at the moment and if all goes well, I will slowly transfer from a hobby to my future occupation. However, I would like to stick to the artistic side; I’m not much of a fan of general photography as a profession.

So you want to chase your dream. You are young and will surely want to be independent in the near future. For several years, photography was a constrained activity. This is no longer the case and basically anybody can engage in legal photographic activity without proper understanding of the field. How do you perceive today’s digital era for young starting photographers?

Personally, I think it is harder and will be in the near future to establish one self as a recognized photographer. It isn’t easy to offer something completely new to the market and ironically, it is due to such availability of technology and resources needed for capturing and editing photography. I am glad that so many people share the desire to photograph though. However, the fact that anyone can start his or her own photography business, without having to understand it as you say, seems like a poor legal decision. I am not saying that everyone should graduate from photography to be eligible, but they should at least have basic knowledge of the field.

As a student of photography, you surely notice that apart from the students that have classical photography in their syllabi, not many young people find their way to a darkroom. It matters how you take a picture, not with what technology. Both technologies have their pros and cons. How do you feel about the two types of technology regarding the creation of photographs?

There is no sense in comparing the two. Each has its own beauty. Personally, I regard black and white analog photography as the most fascinating, but at the same time it is very time-consuming and demanding financially. Analog photographs are simply different. Digital photography, on the other hand, is a tool I wouldn’t be able to live without today. It serves me in every possible way.

Let us now turn attention to what actually connects us. Based on the number of your weeks, it seems the Week of Life project caught your attention. How do you perceive it?

After a long time, I see it as a quality and interesting project. I like the fact that you can monitor different lives, cultures, people and so on, but mainly, the fashion in which Week of Life is documented has placed a great challenge in front of me. Capturing your first week isn’t a problem, but every following week is harder and harder. The contribution in this sense is amazing; you practice the arrangement and technique and search for new attractive sights and objects. Suddenly you realize how your own home acts as a perfect target for the camera.

One of the aims of the WoL project is to serve as the means for people to be able to observe lives of others around the planet, no matter where they are, with the help of photography. Already today it is possible to visit tens of different cultures through various added weeks. What land/country do you fantasize about and where would like to go with a camera in your hand?

I don’t have a place I fantasize about per se, but there are countries I would like to visit with my camera, such as Ireland, New Zealand and as I like industrial regions, Ukraine for instance. Although home is simply home.

The last question will once again refer to the subject of photography. Everybody finds inspiration either in a specific author or through some kind of a favorite internet gallery. What about you? I have also noticed that you are one of the participants in the Photographer of the Year competition. In the junior category, you are 2nd at the moment (5th round of themes out of 10). Do you see photographic competitions as something that can be of benefit to you and through which you can learn something new?

In photography, Josef Sudek is my inspiration. His photographs are so extraordinary that they can’t be described in a few sentences. Others who have inspired me are Jindřich Štreit, Eugen Wiškovský, Taras Kuzčynský and Jan Šibík. I gain further inspiration from my surroundings, my family, some of my classmates and my colleague photographers. Regarding an internet gallery, I don’t specifically like one over the other. And concerning the competitions, I guess the main benefit would be that others can view your photographs, have remarks and criticize them. As a result, I use this feedback, if it is helpful of course, to think about my style and technique and try to alter it in the future, so that it becomes better and perhaps more non-traditional.

Weeks of Jan Nožička

First steps of Martina Štolbová in the deep waters of documentary experience

Martina Štolbová, Teacher, Czech Republic

As Martina Štolbová admits herself, photography has become a part of her life only recently. Despite that fact, it has completely absorbed her nowadays and joining a project such as Week of Life was a great new challenge for her. She puts her heart into taking photographs and expresses fully what she feels at the time she has a camera in her hand. As a result, her weeks were appealing right from the start and that is why her heart-felt images have now reached the rank suitable for the Week of Life Masters section, in which she is the first non-professional photographer. Meet a unique woman, who not only regards photography as a type of entertainment, but also as a tool that enables her to find her own meaning of life.

Just as with previous Week of Life Masters, we would like to know how you got acquainted with the project and what made you join its cause?

I found out about the project from one of my ‘soul mates’. I know Eva Staňková from PE (Photo Extract – Editor’s remark). Back then, in the beginning of January, I called her, because I was literally at the bottom of my strength due to problems at work. Already a second time that year, our kindergarten was flooded. This time, it was right before Christmas; tragedy, a catastrophe. The kindergarten was completely uninhabitable. We desperately had to find alternate premises and start working again. On top of all that, it was the end of the year and we were overwhelmed by all the deadlines, the inventory and other administrative nightmares. And as you can imagine, everyone needed something from you and you did not even have an office or a computer with a printer. Simply speaking, it was one awfully complicated period of time. After hearing me out on the phone, Evička said: ‘Well, I am experiencing something similar, but I did join a great project and started taking photographs. It’s really amazing, take a look at it.’ So, I glanced at the WoL website for the first time. And what made me join? First of all, the great idea behind this astonishing project, which is simply time-less. And second of all… it was my own personal challenge to get back on my feet and relate to me as a person; to find meaning to my actions and my life. Photography has rescued me from unpleasant phases of life on several occasions so I bet my money on it once again. None the less, I was never one to venture on taking photographs for the means of a documentary. However, this one was about me and my take on life around me. No better person could document such thing than me. WoL is surely a great lesson for me regarding documentaries. It has allowed me to develop a step further and I am grateful for it, as it grants me a perfect self-reflection of me as an individual.

You are a member of a photography club. When did photography become a part of your life?

(I am actually writing my bachelor’s thesis on this subject at the moment) :o) It’s been about 4 years since I discovered photography. At that time, my family purchased a slightly above average compact camera. At first, I took pictures for the sake of the family album, but then I felt an urge to create some sort of alternative photographic images. I was always the creative type, I just ignored it for most of my life, apart from when I was at work. Through the means of photography, I realized how important my creativity was. Moreover, at that same time I was enrolled in distant studies at the Faculty of Education; the people at the department of arts were simply amazing and allowed me to see my new inner horizon. They inspired me to persist and continue. And as a member of the photography club, I think it is my 3rd year. It’s a matter of belonging whenever an opportunity arises. In other words, we need to be surrounded by people with the same views and same focus, so that we know that we are not the only ones that are crazy and foolish :o)). So, I became a member of the F 99 Ústí nad Labem Photography Club.

Tell us something about your profession, family and hobbies.

Well, I already told you about my profession previously. I am a director at a kindergarten in Ústí nad Labem for a year and a half now. I have gone through a rough phase in my life both professionally and family-wise. It was not an easy task to let go of the ideals a person has when assuming the role of a director. On top of that, it was not easy on my family either, and it still isn’t :o)). So what else is there to say? I love working with children, it fulfills me and I can be considered lucky to have a profession that I enjoy. Even though there are times as a director that I feel as if I was punished for something and that is whenever I deal with the administrative part of my job. :o)) And as for my family, I am very thankful that I have all of them. I know it isn’t easy to keep a functioning family and we try to work on it non-stop. :o)) I have two wonderful kids and as of now, also a forgiving and patient husband. A BIG THANKS TO ALL THREE!

In a way, you deviate from the usual photographers in this section of the project in the sense that you are not a professional photographer. So, the question at hand is: Can you imagine yourself pursuing the path of photography professionally?

If by professionally you mean earning a living with it, then I guess no. I regard photography as a relaxing place where I go when I’m feeling well or totally the opposite, simply whenever I feel like it. I can’t imagine I had to go to that place all the time as a profession. I wouldn’t like that. Photography would lose its magic and charm and definitely wouldn’t be the same anymore. Photography is a self-reflection of me as an individual that helps me cope with important matters, things that bother me and pull my nerves. I take photographs mainly for my own enjoyment. I am glad I discovered the medium of photography as a whole, since I can find all sorts of answers in it to the questions in my head. And once again, I have an amazing job so no thank you, I wouldn’t like for photography to be part of my profession.

How do you think the Week of Life project could be of benefit to you, your surroundings or anyone else in today’s world?

It can certainly help anyone who is trying to find themselves as a person. You know, before trying it out, I had no idea what kind of power the 9 photographs of each day could have, especially for my own self. The feeling you get when you successfully and meaningfully finish documenting your own life is wonderful. Just for that the whole idea of the project is priceless. However, the project has a much wider scale of benefits. It helps us realize that every person has their own view on life and lives it in their own way as best as he can, no matter what part of the globe he’s from. On the other hand, we can easily become aware of the fact that people on the other side of the planet live the same ordinary lives just like you or me. The internet is an enormous medium that makes up for the distances between people. Week of Life provides a shortcut to lives of people with different nationalities, professions, beliefs, of men and women, but also children of one planet. Thank you.

Do you follow photographic documentaries around you or perhaps abroad? If so, what path do you think global reportage and documentary photography will take in the future?

I must admit that I don’t follow photographic documentaries here or abroad as much. I have to say I discovered it along with your project. :o) I like the photographs of Kevin v. ton, I follow them regularly. And regarding the path it will take, well, I don’t dare to predict. In today’s world of digitalization photography is becoming something of a new dimension. It’s becoming a phenomenon of our time. Photography follows our every step and with a few exceptions, each profession would not be able to survive without it. It has grown to such mass-scale that it is available for almost anyone and the possibilities it brings are endless. From the point of view of my profession, it is obvious to everyone that every kindergarten will present its self with photographs documenting the life of children on their websites. Today, the one who doesn’t follow that trend is to be considered an outsider. I wouldn’t imagine such thing possible 10 years ago, it all happens so fast. I believe that such expansion and bloom of photographic documenting will only play to our advantage. Look, every mobile phone has its own camera nowadays and in a few seconds, I can send an image to the other side of the world. These things are simply unbelievable. It may seem that photography is losing its status and is becoming a component of some kind of information process, but all of that will crystallize in the near future. I believe that new technologies can all be used to the best of our advantage.

In which direction do you think the internet, the adherent entertainment and respective services will develop?

I am still fascinated by the possibilities of this medium. It offers an unimaginable space for virtual reality – and not only that. The connection between different parts of the world through our PC monitors is becoming an integral part of our everyday life. If you are not connected to the net, it’s as if you weren’t alive. That’s how I see it. We all know that the sense of ‘being’ consists of different factors, still, the feeling for the need of internet is within us. I think as long as the internet will function only as our servant, everything will be fine. However, I would be most displeased if we succumbed to virtual worlds and let it overwhelm our real ones. Everything is about balance, which is important in many aspects. It would be wise to find the optimal score :o) I am a fan of the internet and I believe it still has a lot of potential we have yet to discover. We are still at the beginning and it certainly isn’t that long ago when the internet itself was ‘born’. Surely, it still has a lot of tricks under its sleeves that will amaze us all. I am really looking forward to that moment.

Weeks of Martina Štolbová

Searching for light amidst the darkness with kevin v. ton

kevin v. ton, Graphic designer, Czech Republic

Week of Life Masters is probably the most viewed and observed section at our portal – be it its fascinating photographic content or the ability to understand and fulfill all of the recommended rules and conditions of our project. This is the reason for the section not appearing on a regular basis, since we usually have to wait for someone eligible to appear. Someone who is worthy, based on the photos as well as their personality expressed, and brings forth such interesting material, worthwhile to observe, explore and obtain a few confessions from the author. Such description fits our newest acquisition, a graphic designer with a slightly mysterious name, perhaps a pseudonym, kevin v. ton. The decision process was long but we have reached a decision eventually and after reviewing his answers, we were able to confirm that our choice was spot on, not only thanks to the photos he has shared with us.

How did you get acquainted with the Week of Life project and what made you join its cause?

I found out more information about the project in the middle of October last year from my old friend from southern Bohemia. I came across some basic ideas of the project even before that, but nothing concrete or precise that would catch my attention. Only when my friend showed his upcoming week to me on the monitor, as well as weeks of other photographers portrayed on WoL , finding out that it was a project of Mr. Zika, have I decided to try it out myself. And indeed I started in the scope of the next 14 days. No one knew, not even my family, about me being involved in the project only until a few months later, when all the images were already scanned and the whole week was ready to be published.

The whole idea to merge results of the weekly artistic documentary visions of photographers scattered across the whole world ‘under one roof’ is not only unique, but also useful and necessary in my eyes. The possibility to see individuals from all corners of our planet living their lives in the scope of days and weeks makes us aware of their existence; people with their happiness and everyday issues no matter the color of their skin, the regime into which they were born or the economic prowess of the country they come from.

You work as a graphic designer. Can you be more precise regarding the field of graphic design?

Even though I consider myself as a photographer, I make a living mainly as an artist, draftsman, typographer and a PC graphic designer. Every job involving creative freedom is a challenge, be it a CD cover for a starting underground band or a corporate identity of a flourishing corporation.

As one of the few, you shot your first black and white week on a celluloid film. What led you to make this choice; was there any specific thought behind it?

I’ve been working with black and white celluloid film for almost a quarter of a century now and I still enjoy it very much. After so many years, I’ve managed to learn to carry around one or two of the elderly F3s from Nikon and an M-series Leica; each body with a different glass and a separate celluloid film. Most of the times, I use the Ilford Delta 400 and 3200 or the Neopan 1600.

I still have the feeling that it has unique characteristic features including the resulting visual image, hard to be superseded by digital technology.

Documentary photos and celluloid film shooting are like the groom with a bride – together, they can form a perfect couple, a family able to bring beautiful offspring to the world in the form of astonishing photos. Despite all that, I do use a digital camera and truly search for the charm it undoubtedly has. And thanks to the work connected with the WoL project, I’ve found it – the speed at which it processes and converts the documented data.

It’s quite pleasant to read and find out that there is still someone out there today to trust celluloid films and classic photography. Tell us what you think about the situation in the future and how will it evolve; will the analog world cease to exist or will it survive forever alongside the digital world.

A rather confounded question I must say, as if it concerned foretelling the future. Personally I am convinced that there are many more years to come when analog will go hand in hand with digital. And I certainly hope so. It’s a similar situation to what the good old LPs experienced in the beginning of the 80s when CDs emerged with the digitalization of music. Despite its massive withdrawal from the market, record-players and LPs are still being made and sold thirty years later. Luckily, there are still enough people that like their classic sounds of the records in spite of their ‘nuisance’ such as squeaking, cluttering or the necessity for manual turning of the record to listen to the other side. CDs no longer experience this, but don’t have that extra aspect a person needs as a human being; the element of randomness, the disturbance of stereotypes. The same applies to cine film or the celluloid material as a whole. What tends to be regarded as imperfection, I perceive as an advantage. Having only 36 images available, a person learns to apprehend each situation physically and emotionally, concentrate on the essence of what is at stake and be able to see the resulting image in his or her head before the whole exposure.

To stay simple and practical, another reason to ‘think before you act’ is simply that it takes a while to change the celluloid. For its characteristics, I usually choose the one applicable and corresponding to the given scenery. Frankly, scratches are the cherry on top. Plus, they can always be edited afterwards.

In contrast with the analog, digital allows for massive increase in quantity, but never with the guarantee of higher quality. In reality, it doesn’t really matter which camera you use, analog or digital. Content is the important factor, along with the message, the silent moment. The audience rarely looks at how the image was created; it’s just a technical matter. They either accept the image or they don’t.

When looking at your photos, it is rather obvious you are not afraid to work with dark situations, the atmosphere at night. Do you feel affiliated with black color or the other dark vibrant colors?

I don’t think there is any kind of special and stable affiliation with a specific color, not even black or any other dark color, or white for that matter, since we are mainly talking about my black and white sets. These two colors are counterparts, opposites, unable to live without each other; Jing and Jang. However, I do admit I savor the moment while searching for people in the shadows of the night, looking for the truth exposed by the light from the street lamps, the abandoned store windows, the blinking neon lights or the lights of the passing cars; the search for a human being in murky pubs full of smoke or in corners of a quiet town.

This kind of search for light I do like indeed – roughness of the world, authenticity, moments when the hyped up human desires and needs stand out from the dimness of the night.

The ‘grandmother leaning against the wall’ was chosen as a cover photo for the Editor’s Choice. The homeless under the lamp also cannot go unnoticed along with other similarly themed photos. You seem to have a social sentiment; do you enjoy taking pictures ‘below the main deck’?

I’m interested in human beings above all; their fate, their place under the sun, the fulfillment of a person’s dream as well as the consequences of his/her failure. I tend to look for the essence behind things, the essence of humanity. I seek a person, whoever he may be, wherever he lives, whichever profession he occupies. I seek the person within a person.

Your photos are emotional and frequently evoke reactions, being the main idea behind documentary projects. Would you consider Week of Life to have the possibility, the potential or at least a small chance to inspire emotions, feelings, thoughts in people in the future and maybe make the world a slightly better place?

Week of Life is a very fascinating project and has an enormous amount of potential in the documentary sense. As it goes with documentary projects, it’s a long distance run. And with Week of Life, the distance is infinite, unable to count how many times it makes the way around the whole planet. The possibility to view the world through the eyes of a colleague photographer, perhaps living exactly on the other side of our planet Earth, is simply amazing. If the high standard set will be kept above a certain level on a long-term basis, perhaps even kept higher than intended, and will not demean itself to more or less a shared family album with characteristic legends as it is with other social portals, it will become a magnificent photographic archive, a document so large in extent and uniqueness with no equal. Emotions, feelings and thoughts – something that WoL already evokes today and I am once again convinced that this photographic path gives us the possibility to get to know each other and remove all kinds of prejudice, traditional stereotypes and attitudes, contributing to the advancement of thinking of mankind and making the world a better place, even if it’s by a tiny bit.

Weeks of kevin v. ton

Graphic designer Vladimir Yurkovic, photographer from the bottom of his soul

Vladimir Yurkovic, Graphic designer, Slovakia

Photography, graphics and design are three phenomena that for the last ten years interlock like pigtails of a blond sitting by the weir. But there is no reason to be surprised, on the contrary, together they support and help each other like siblings that have the same father but different mother. Photographer and graphic designer Vlado Yurkovic from Slovakia is well aware of this. His B&W, widescreen set was one of the first in our project and he was the first one to stay in memory of many users with his photo-graphic approach. We are very happy to welcome this artist in our section Week of Life Masters. Welcome to the world of Vlado Yurkovic.

Many people claim that they became fond of photography at an early age. How was it in your case?

If 9-10 years old can be regarded as an early age, then this is also my case. Coming back from Russia, my father brought me quite a good compact camera Villia 2, which made a Smena go pale from all the envy. It had a shutter release lever, as well as a lever for reeling the film, more of a standard for the Single-lens reflex cameras in those days. The first results from the photo lab encouraged me so much, that I not only developed the pictures, but my cozy bathroom, serving as a darkroom, allowed me to enlarge the photos as well. My father borrowed an old Opemus and later brought me a cine film Magnifax and a polisher. I then borrowed a Zenit with a large flash for the more serious stuff. I was able to take pictures of whole weddings and family celebrations, while still attending primary school. It was quite nice to earn the occasional penny from time to time. I became quite popular at school thanks to my compact camera. These were my early years of photography.

Graphic artist is your profession. Which field of graphics specifically?

That’s not entirely correct. When taking into consideration the present context of my work and the part of me that does not include photography, I am mainly a designer. By the ‘present context’ I mean that nowadays, the term graphic artist is usually misinterpreted. The society today has yet to define if a graphic artist is the one who creates graphics – graphic sheets, graphic technique illustrations or graphic design; or the one who just moves a PC mouse around and becomes the tailored fashion accessory for a company or an individual. It’s trendy to ‘have your own graphic artist’.
Setting emotions aside, if I am to define and place myself into a specific profession based on what I do and how I earn a living, as opposed to what I feel, I am a designer-photographer. Or vice-versa. The money decide which profession wins each month.
Back to the second part of the question, (with the term ‘design’ being more frequent): Corporate Identity Design, packaging design, book design, annual reports…

Surely you are right in many cases. I don’t think that many people dwell on the issue nowadays as much as you do. It’s good to hear and define the specific terms. However, one of the professions must dominate the other, are you more of a photographer or a graphic artist?

I do feel that way. I’m definitely a photographer at heart, from the bottom of my soul. I can attend to photography no matter the mood or state of mind.

Do you think that your education in graphics somehow influences or helps you during picture taking?

I graduated in the design of industrial goods. Therefore, I should be able to design and develop everything that is industrially manufactured, ranging from a simple potty to a car. However, along with my studies I also prepared myself for the career path of a photographer. After graduation, I was offered a lucrative position within the Chirana Syndicate, so photography became a ‘sidekick’ of sorts, as well as a full time hobby and activity. After the Velvet Revolution, I fell in love with the Apple brand with the intention to digitalize and utilize the picture. However, this brand as well as my life led me to an alternate route of design, called the graphic design. I established a successful graphic studio that received several significant awards. The work pace and my position as an art director even required me to hire external photographers. Meanwhile, I learned to assign tasks for photo shoots and choose the right authors and snapshots for a given project. It took 15 years for my photography to become professional (in the sense of actively selling oneself and receiving some sort of payment for pictures and rights).

I included this short history in my answer so that the response to your question was not a typical cliché: ‘Yes, of course’. Education and experience mutually benefit each other. It’s always an advantage to have quality general education. In a way I am a very happy person, I take a picture of what I think of and scheme out and at that moment I already know where all the captions and texts will be. A part of you is taking the picture, while the other is already thinking about editing; simply great. If anyone ever doubts who I am, I’ll refer him or her to the term ‘renaissance’.

Did you have any role models or favorite figures in photography over the 15 year path?

Peter Lindbergh, I don’t know what I adore more, him as an author or his taste in model choices. The creations not of men or women, but of angels. And I have met one personally. Richard Avedon, whether I like it or not, I must admit to a strong spiritual bond with this photographer. MaW.. Robert Vano for his stubborn alchemy and human dimension. In the professional sense, it would have to be Gilles Bensimon, perhaps I also envy his frequent visits to the Caribbean; the everlasting sunshine from God as well as the models. I have also been devoted to subjective documentary as long as I can remember. In brief, the format can be described as the 35mm. Not the film, but the lenses. In this case, Anthony Suau, Sebastiao Salgado, Bohdan Holomíček always get to me.

In graphics, or graphic design if you want, you have reached the top on a world-wide scale. You were acknowledged and received many awards including the biggest one for graphics in advertisement. Please, feel free to show off your accomplishments.

Golden Drum New Europe | finalist

National award for design

Golden Drum New Europe | Golden drumstick Golden Drum New Europe | Silber drumstick London International Advertising Awards ‘98 | winner | calendars

London International Advertising Awards ‘99 | finalist | annuals London International Advertising Awards ‘99 | finalist | corporate identity

Best annual report (Trend) | 2nd place | annual (99) for SZRB

Best annual report (Trend) | 3rd place | annual (00) for SZRB

Best annual report (Trend) | 1st place | annual (01) for SZRB Best annual report (Trend) | 3rd place | annual (01) for PSS Best annual report (Trend) | 1st place | electronic version of annual (01) for SZRB

Best annual report (Trend) | 1st place | annual (02) for PSS

Best annual report (Trend) | 3rd place | annual (03) for PSS

Best annual report (Trend) | 2nd place | annual (04) for Orange

The Most Beautiful Books of Slovakia | V. Godár – Mater

Do you have a specific dream concerning photography?

Two years of holiday and work combined, just like Gilles Bensimon.

Let’s focus on the project that links us together. When did the Week of Life come to your attention and what were your initial thoughts?

The first time I heard about the project was spring of last year when I consulted Adolf Zika about the logo of WoL. Besides the promised cooperation, I immediately gathered a few individuals willing to share parts of their lives as well as their privacy. Today, I am rather proud of the people I’ve chosen as they have become stable members of the Top 10 rankings or the Editor’s Choice. I am also very pleased that Vlad Gerasimov and Vincent Sagart did not give up and endured till the end, despite being extremely far away and both on the other side of the globe. I judge through my own experience, as I started all over three times myself. Discipline is probably the crucial aspect which resonates within the execution of the WoL project. The days were so hectic, being the middle of the week or its beginning, that after the initial morning shots, I remembered to take the remaining ones only at the end of the day when I got into my car to drive home from the studio. And talk about discipline at the end of the day! Choose the best 9 shots? Ultimately, the tactics of continuous picture taking had won, looking at all the photos only at the end of the ‘week’. This was the only way how to finish and get things done.

Would you say that a project such as Week of Life could benefit or help a person that has just created their ‘week’, as well as the person who is regarded as the spectator, despite not knowing each other?

Definitely. It is mutually beneficial. That is why the main idea behind WoL immediately inspired me. I consider the possibility to take a peek into our lives or our free time very valuable, basically letting anyone (if they join) to take a look, from every corner of the world. Personally, it was quite interesting to have a look at myself as a representative of my own week of life. The 63 photos certainly have magical power.

How private do you consider your personal matters to be and in your opinion, where is the border line between what should be disclosed to the public and what should stay in the family albums?

What you’re asking me is to define a borderline, which most inhabitants of the civilized world were not able to determine over the years. You have the ever-present security cameras, personal scanners and tabloids that only evoke the fear of privacy loss and encourage even more legislation. On the other hand, the tabloids claim that without the echo of the targets themselves, there would be no controversial news or pictures. True, what I’m referring to is only the tip of the iceberg, however, exhibitionism flows in the blood of a reasonable part of the world’s population and any time they will have the means to exhibit their privacy, they will not hesitate to do so. A section of that population show signs of a simple, natural and usually indiscreet exhibitionism, where as a different section uses it for their self-interest or in respectful terms, ‘public relations’. The answer to the question is clearly a matter of everyone’s conscience and their attitude towards life, themselves, as well as towards the Week of Life project itself. That could be the reason why I’ve started my first week from scratch several times. I realized I was telling myself on several occasions: DON’T FOOL AROUND (Don’t take a picture of that), this isn’t your real life. That doesn’t mean I always did the ‘right thing’. Once again, the answer to this question is simply subjective, as are the photos meant for WoL. The authors of their respectable ‘weeks’ have the ability to choose the method of portraying their own images, as well as how intimate they want them to be.

Weeks of Vladimir Yurkovic

Back to the Future with Federico Ciamei

Federico Ciamei, Designer, Italy

When Italian designer Federico Ciamei’s week arrived a few months ago, time stood still for a while in the editor’s office. Everyone, even the experts, gathered round to look at the photographs. Holding their breath, they stared at the computer monitor in silence. In the first seconds, and even minutes, it was not at all clear that it wasn’t a fake set composed of color photographs from the 70s or 80s or new photographs of the lowest technical quality or an instigation targeted at top quality digital devices able to produce ultra sharp and quality images. None of this turned out to be true. This, I dare say, artist’s documentary concept was absolutely exceptional. It worked with the atmosphere of the scene more than with anything else that the digital world offers today! Color de-saturated images with frequent artistic exposure error but deliberately selected and composed to directly pull us into the action were exposed on negatives and had undergone a chemical process (C41), which most likely means nothing to anyone anymore. Thus, let’s go ‚back to the future‘.

Your week is completely different from everything else on Week of Life. In particular, this is because of the specific way the photos were made. It makes your week a matter of art. What led you to do it this way?

I was first attracted to photography when I was a teenager, using my dad’s 35mm reflex. But then computers and the internet came out and I was immediately deeply into it: BBS, ASCII drawings, AT commands, and then the Web, graphic design, html, flash. With a friend, I started one of the first web design companies in Italy and I forgot photography until digital cameras started to become more common. I bought an Olympus Camedia that can save pictures on a floppy disk and was in love again. I created my photoblog ( in 2003 and went on posting photos till 2006, when flickr and other photo networks started to become more common.
Now I’m exploring film cameras, 35mm and medium formats. My favorites now are the Yashica T5, that is also the camera I used for my week of life, because it is really small and sharp, and the Fuji 645ga. I’m also working with a Mamiya 7 now but it’s too early to talk about it. John Szarkowski wrote in the introduction of Eggleston’s Guide that photography is a system of visual editing. I think that working with film cameras forces me to narrow my editing, and this is really good for me.

You state in your profile that you’re a designer. Your sense of art is evident from your photos. Could you tell us what do you design?

I started working about ten years ago as a web designer. I was in love with the work of the Designer’s Republic, Mike Patterson, Yugo Nakamura and all the design superstars of those years. I’ve done a lot of really different things, from music videos ( to to interactive installations at the Valencia Biennal of Art.

I like the process of design, but photography works better for me. I like some details to be left undetermined and out of my control and I’m also tired of always staying in front of the computer screen. So now I’m slowly changing my work, trying to make my old clients hire me to take photos as well.

How do you treat and scan your photographs? Do you do additional editing after scanning them?

I have my film developed normally (c-41) in a friend’s lab and I scan it myself with an epson v700. I try to keep photoshopping at a minimum when an image comes from film. In my week of life I left the contrast so low, to make the images look more like memories.

Do you think that the classical method of capturing rays of light on film still has a chance in today’s world?

I think that film has its own personality: when you use it every photo has something. With digital its harder, you must add a special idea or something else. Film is also superior in terms of dynamic range, but I think this is going to change in not too many years.

Have you ever been involved in documentary photography or is this your first contact with a specific documentary?

I kept a personal photo diary for about three years. After that Week of life is one of the first documentaries I’ve been in contact with, but I hope I will be able to do more. I’m currently working on a big project about the Villaggio Olimpico, a neighborhood in Rome built for the 1960 Olympic games, and I’m taking a lot of portraits of old shopkeepers.

How did you learn about the Week of Life project and do you think that nowadays, in such a hurried time, people are willing to document their lives under the given conditions?

You wrote an email me about it 🙂 I think that since today 90% of documentary photography has been about tragedies and suffering people in remote countries, I hope this kind of personal documentary will become more common in the near future.

Have you ever enlarged your photographs yourself?

Not yet. I want to learn but black and white doesn’t attracts me very much, so it’s not at the top of my „things to learn“ list.

Where do you think documentary photography will go at a time when Photoshop gives us a possibility to create almost any scene?

I think that photoshop can be a really useful tool as long as its use is limited to help expressing what is already in the image. A photo creates something that is different from the reality, in between the thing and the photographer’s perception of it. You can be a very absent minded photographer and yet record a meaningful photo. The more you photoshop an image the more it becomes closer to your idea and distant from the thing.

Weeks of Federico Ciamei

Modest Daniel Kaifer

Daniel Kaifer, Photographer, Czech Republic

Daniel Kaifer’s life is closely tied into the small town Horská Kvilda, where he has lived with his family for seven years now. His photographs pay tribute to this place and its inhabitants and depict an atmosphere you could not find in any larger town. Come read an interview with a man who humbly claims that he‘s just a kind of sleepy bear that withdrew into the mountains.

When did you first get acquainted with the medium called photography? And how has your relationship with photography developed? Are you an amateur or a semiprofessional?

I became acquainted with photography at university, as a hobby. I hitchhiked through Europe and wanted to have a way to keep my memories. And so I bought my first camera at Mr. Škoda in Prague. It was an old PENTAX program A with a 35-105 mm lens. This configuration made it rather a brick, not very suitable for traveling but reliable. I later enlarged all the images to 24×36 mm prints, glued them to cardboard and hung them on the wall in my room on campus. It had nothing to do with quality and real photography. Of course later my relationship with photography developed further and changed but the prehistory of my relationship with photography began in this way.
Whether I’m a professional? Ummm, Yes, I am. I see the difference between an amateur and a professional in that a professional is always and under any circumstances able to create a valuable image crafted with care, which has a high quality technically and also contains something extra – a message, which you then carry yourself as the author to the viewer. You are able to speak to the viewers and easily pass on your testimony to them. An amateur sometimes succeeds in this and sometimes not. Although the craft is mastered (perhaps thanks to new technology), the important aspect is missing – the testimony. I see the fundamental difference here. It’s secondary whether you get paid for photography or whether you do it due to some internal overpressure and a need to express yourself.
An experienced cliché is that a professional is someone who has a well-known name and earns money with photography, perhaps even a lot of money. An amateur does it for his own pleasure and is not very good at it. I believe that this is indeed a cliché. It’s only marketing and the ability to sell photography as such. In my view, the so-called professionals and amateurs often overlap. In both directions.
I can perhaps back up my claim that I’m a professional with the fact that this year I obtained a QEP certificate, which is being awarded by the Federation of European Professional Photographers. But is it important? Why do these two pigeon-holes exist? Isn’t this question only about one’s own ego?

What does photography give you personally, what meaning do you find in it?

Photography is an amazing adventure. In photography, I primarily look for the wonderful moment of a story being born, of the most common story, which is everywhere around us. This moment cannot be thought up in advance, this fleeting instant cannot be planned, you cannot force it out, you can only and only get them from life. It’s a gift. It’s a journey of searching through life and finding, discovering. It’s not possible to create the scene like in the theater, I’m not a director. I’m merely a spectator drawn into the story. When photographing a documentary I encounter many people and stories. In order for photography to convey testimonies, it must be natural without calculation, without manipulating with the “actors” on the stage. In my opinion, such stories can be photographed only with great honesty and humility towards the people I try to capture. This all is not possible without me getting to know everyone, every photographed person. And some images take up to five years to be created. While I photograph, nice relationships, sometimes friendships, are formed. The photograph is in these cases only a sort of a cherry on top, a bonus, a dessert, in which everything joins into one. In such moments, the photograph is not even important, everything else is secondary and it lives its own life, on which I have little influence any more. And I have an opportunity to pass all of this over to the viewer as the author, well isn’t it beautiful to be in the world for this?
The second thing is the opportunity for the freest outlook on life. There is no force, which can prevent you looking at this world freely. Books can be burned, mouths can be shut. But it is always possible to see this world freely. Even without a camera. The camera is only a tool, an instrument, an intermediary. Of course, we can be affected by the time, environment, in which we live, the people, with whom we live, but no one can ever take this freedom away from you.

What is your job, what are your hobbies and where do you live with your family?

That’s probably not very interesting…, originally my profession was a construction engineer (heating, boiler rooms, gas lines, power engineering and so forth). At the moment it’s kind of half and half, sometimes more photography, sometimes more engineering. For seven years now, I’ve lived with my family in the middle of the national park in Šumava in Horská Kvilda, beautiful nature, a healthy environment for children, peace, a lot of snow, temperatures of up to -42 °C. The price for it is that one must make money for bare survival in several ways, not only with photography, not only with engineering. The hobbies are obvious – cross-country skiing and mountains, poetry, music…, but that probably isn’t interesting.

Do you think that it is possible to earn a living with the sale of documentary photographs in this country at this time?

I cannot answer this question. If I speak for myself, I must say that it’s not possible. For a long time I have tried to find a way to earn a living with documentary photography in a place that has 50 permanent inhabitants. To tell the truth, I have not accomplished that and am not able to do that. I ascribe this to two factors. First, I am not a businessman. Someone who would stand in front of the buyer and sell his goods as the most perfect thing in the world. I would more likely draw the buyer’s attention to the faults I see in my work. This may be sincere but it’s not a business policy. I consider this my own failure because a professional photographer should be good at the business part of the craft as well. It’s true that photographs should be sold by galleries and gallerists but this photography market unfortunately does not work here. All the same, this sentence is not an excuse, it’s a mere grumbling about myself.
The second factor is that today, the common spectator is overwhelmed with the slush of the postmodern time and technical possibilities he cannot fully make use of. Photography becomes only a bare message, information, decoration. The testimony disappears. There is no time to search, it’s necessary to sell and subordinate the photograph – that is, the message – to this goal. I cannot judge whether this is good or bad but the art of reading photography is definitely disappearing. What actually is a good photograph today? Meaningless colored enlargements or small pieces of paper hidden somewhere in a drawer? Who today still reads poetry? Who today is still able to read photography? Why buy a documentary photograph for hundreds of Euros? And even hang in at home as a decoration?
And so I have come to the attitude where I believe that if my work is good and of high quality, it will find its way to the viewer alone and even sell itself. And if isn’t good? It has no right for any further life and my effort is only another vanity in this world. But I enjoy it. And if my photographs are sold? Is that an important question??

Where did you first come across the project Week of Life and how did you feel about it?

I learned about the Week of Life project from Mr. Jiří Heller. Take nine photographs in a day seven times in a row. It was on a Monday evening, I was moving and completely remodeling my study and in addition, I had to submit some work. Nine photographs a day? Whole week? At first I didn’t want to go ahead with it at all, I had no time, I had better things to do. There are days when stories just pour into your life, one after another, and then comes a day, which you spend laying in bed and all you encounter during the day are the boards on the ceiling. And we are back to the first question, who is a professional and who is an amateur. A professional must be able to photograph even the ceiling boards. Nine quality photographs a day with a story about where I live, whom I meet, what is its story? That’s a challenge though! And why not right now, when else… Week of Life was a challenge for me, a challenge in a field of photography, which is very close and dear to me. I hope that I have not let the viewers down and I hope that I have communicated my story to at least one of them.

Do you think that this type of project could in any way help society or be in any way useful to an individual?

I’ve been going through old photographs of Šumava and the most ordinary and sometimes even poor quality photographs of people, places, gain incredible immense value after the decades. It’s a view into one’s own past, on which I can reflect as a spectator. I can discover that I’m free. I can treat it in a way I deem the best. The one who knows one’s past, one’s story, has a chance to learn about oneself. I think that Week of Life is an enormous message to the future. This is who we are and this is how we live. This is more important that the ego of each individual author, more important than the technical aspect of the matter. The ability to learn about yourself is the project’s contribution. I would wish the project not to slip into another ‘web photo gallery’ and maintain its high standard. That’s a very difficult and tough task in today’s world!

Yes, you are right, the internet is full of slush and it is not easy to maintain quality, especially in the battle for advertisers. What is your view of the internet in general and in relation to photography? And in which direction do you think will it develop?

In the face of all negatives, which are being written about the internet today and despite all dangers, which it holds, I have to answer that the internet is a living organism, which can connect individuals on this Earth. It’s similar as with fire, a good servant but a bad master. I like fire, I like its warmth, but I fear its power, which I’m unable to comprehend and fully control. It is similar with the internet. It is amazing that the internet enables me to share the stories of other people and not only that. I can communicate with them, I can live their life with them at a distance and it extends my freedom. Freedom that ends beyond the border of my physical existence. I can continue to learn new things. On the other hand I see a danger in alienation from one’s own surroundings, one’s significant others. I am a little schizophrenic from the two worlds – the physical and virtual. I have no idea how the internet will develop further, but I think that we are in a developmental stage comparable to puberty or, using technical terminology, at the level of the steam engine. There are amazing things ahead of us – machines that fly and land on the moon – to wit, things we can’t even imagine today.

It’s similar in terms of photography. On the one hand, I heard recently that František Drtikol does not have a website and is not on facebook and thus it’s as if he didn’t exist. Martin Luther also doesn’t have a website and yet his legacy will live inside me until the end of my days. Then there are internet projects such as of the New York Times, which fascinate me and which affect my life every day. And I believe that thanks to digitalization, the journey of photography was given immense and unsuspected possibilities but … The journey of photography has not become easier, rather the contrary. It is more difficult, photography as such is subject to new questions, new challenges. We must firstly accept that digitalization is a fact and secondly realize what do we really want to convey? Whom do we want to convey it to? How much do we want to convey it? How far can we go? Have we tried all possible means? Where are the limits of these questions? And what are the off-limits where one should not or must not go? You are also right in your question that the battle for advertisers is getting more and more difficult. Which advertiser is able to recognize a photograph of truly high quality in the infinite number that there is? Is good photography yours, or perhaps mine? What if we are both mistaken? And if we look around, the situation in our Czech playground is very sad, isn’t it? And we’re only talking about commercial sales of photographs. I have to repeat – the journey of photography has not become easier – it is becoming increasingly difficult with an inverse proportion. We face so many challenges. And technology keeps on getting ahead of us. I think it will all end up that in the future, recording reality will change to such an extent under the influence of technology that photography will be free, not marginal but free – only one of the ways to convey testimony. For instance, holographic 3D records of reality will exist, which will include aroma and emotional tracks and which will be captured with devices of the size of current compact cameras… and will be distributed on a mass scale. Or a small MATRIX will come. But it will not kill photography, on the contrary, it will become freer. I am looking forward to this time because I will be freer, technology will untie my hands, technology will enable to pass my testimony to as many people possible. It is technology that kills the slush we flounder through today. I have hope for this. But photography can be liberated only by photographers and their stories.

The last question – where do you see your future as a photographer? How will your path develop or how would you like your path to develop?

I would like to complete my two semi-finished projects – portraits of old women and a poetic documentary about people from Šumava. For two years I have been publishing a poetic irregular Friday piece Hlas Divočiny (Voice of the Wild). I choose the best photograph of the whole week, I write a text for it, which was going through my head while I was taking it and each Friday I send the whole thing to my readers. It’s sort of a gift, which I’d received, so why not send it forward as a gift. I would like to continue doing this for a few years.
I don’t think that my photographic career will change in any fundamental way. Perhaps I will be discovered and will exhibit in the whole Western hemisphere. Frankly speaking, there are many photographers like me and I certainly don’t belong among the best. I am just a kind of a sleepy bear that withdrew into the mountains. I wander through the country among people. However, it would be insincere to say that it does not please me when someone likes my work, when it appeals to someone, makes them think. It would be insincere to say that I don’t have to come down from the mountains to gather new strength in the valley.
How would I like for everything to develop? I would like to undertake a journey through Spain, three to four weeks, to meet new people, new stories and try to pass it on through photography. It would be nice if my photographs were sold more, for me to be able to maintain a professional standard of equipment and not have to finance it from the family budget. It would be nice. But who wouldn’t want this, right?
Just to walk through the land, step by step, not hurry anywhere, have everything I want, all mountains, trees and my own sins. Then I would be very happy and wealthy man.

Weeks of Daniel Kaifer