The Polish photographer talks to us about unexpected poses and patterns which are central to his quirky, colourful imagery
Lukasz Wierzbowski discovered film photography when he began to feel exhausted during his third year studying Social Psychology. He quickly realised how playing with poses, patterns and colours in his parent's house or a nearby forest could make him extremely excited. Since then, everyday surroundings have continued to capture his imagination and have become the setting for many of his photos. Having been featured in an extensive number of exhibitions, magazines and zines around the world, we got in touch with Wierzbowski to ask him about the way he works, his sources of inspiration and how he finds the stylish old interiors he likes to shoot in...
Dazed Digital: The atmosphere of many of your photographs is defined by the interiors you shoot in. How do you find these spaces?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: Most of them are homes of my family, friends and friends of my friends. Visiting places of this kind feels like opening a treasure chest - you never know what you will find. Sometimes I ask people I barely know if they have access to retro looking apartments, or if they know somebody who would. The fact that these places are actually preserved, and not just styled to look that way, makes it a kind of time capsule. I know there still are quite a lot of places where time stopped in the 70s or 80s, usually owned by older people. Sometimes I wish I could just knock on their doors and ask them if it would be OK if I used their flats to take pictures, but I’m just too shy to do so.
DD: Who are the girls that model in your photographs?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: There is something about a certain type of attitude I’m attracted to, the daring ability to let yourself go. Beauty doesn’t have to be obvious, as I’m more than OK with any type of imperfection. My nieces were my first models and, since our first session, frequently appear in my pictures. Thanks to their outgoing behaviour and curiosity I was able to experiment with the subject of the body. Soon I started asking my friends if they would be OK with me taking photos of them. Some models are booked by agencies or stylists, some I just approach on the streets or on the Internet. Whenever I get a chance to work with someone for the first time, I ask them to forget about all their past modeling experience, to just go with the flow and enjoy the trip.
DD: When taking photographs, do you try to capture an image you already have in your mind or does it happen more spontaneously on the shoot?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: I adore working on the spot. Each shooting resembles a journey and it’s based on the connection between me, the model and the surrounding. I try to use any given situation or lightning to the advantage of the photograph. It’s about putting a twist to everyday settings, having fun with shapes and objects - playing a kind of a game with the viewer. I never make plans to shoot in advance, as I want to be inspired by the moment. That way I can catch the in-between moments, of pure and natural behaviour, as those interest me the most.
DD: A lot of your photos feel like fashion shoots, do you find inspiration in fashion photography?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: I find fashion to be an amazing source of inspiration. Each collaboration with a clothing designer is extremely exciting. At the same time I don’t feel that fashion shoots should necessarily show clothes in an obvious way. It can be based on a mood or little detail. I try to find the balance between all these factors.
DD: How is colour important to you? Do you style the models yourself for the shoots?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: I like playing with colours and patterns. My mother is a seamstress. Watching her buy fabrics, designing, cutting and sewing clothes was always a magic experience. Using her wardrobe seemed natural at the beginning, especially as many of clothes I found there looked much different than the popular stuff seen on the streets or TV. Later on I got access to the huge closet of a now 93-year-old amazing lady and family friend. I felt like being in the candy shop, using original pieces from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Although nowadays I very often use pieces provided by fashion designers, stylists or clothing brands, I quite often use items bought in second hand shops for my personal works.
DD: Are there any photographers who inspire your work?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: I always admired the work of Guy Bourdin, Wolfgang Tillmans or William Eggleston, but there are also many images floating around the web that become my personal favourites. The Internet is a tricky place, and sometimes it feels like everything has already been shown or done. It's filled with huge amounts of images that, instead of pleasure, gives you headache. Often I like to separate myself from all that. I find this kind of visual silence extremely relaxing and mind clearing.
DD: Your work seems to focus on the human body. Have you ever photographed objects in the same way?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: Some time ago I created a site called Magnetic Elements, which was a clumsy and eclectic scrapbook of things I witnessed every day, places I went to and experienced.
DD: What have you been working on recently?
Lukasz Wierzbowski: For the last few months I’ve been working on two books that are going to be released soon. One of them is based around a certain theme, with a working title “Mutations”, and the other one is more retrospective. I’m super excited about it, especially as a long time has passed since my last book. I’m also working on a few commissioned projects and collaborations - so there is always quite a lot going on.