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Alena Jascanka

Fresh off her promo shoot for DONT WALK, the London-based photographer talks about love at first sight, nose bleeds, the art of analogue and why you should do what scares you

When terrorists attacked the WTC in New York in 2001, something was set in motion on the other side of the Atlantic: a group of students in St. Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland, decided to put together a fashion show to celebrate the energy and style of New York and raise money for those affected by the attack. Over ten years later, preparations are being done for the 2012 edition of DONT WALK, set to launch on the 10th of March. Now a registered charity and internationally-acclaimed artistic extravaganza, they aim to celebrate freedom and showcase the best in student photography, fashion and design, whilst helping raise funds for various charities. This year, the support goes to ZamCog, an NGO decicated to provide education and shelter for the children in the Shitima Boarding School in Zambia.

Focusing on the aesthetics that influenced DONT WALK 2012, this year’s spotlight is Alena Jascanka, whose passion for analogue inspired a partnership with Lomography, for the launch of DON’T WALK’s UK Analogue Photography Award, also landing her the curatorial seat for the competition’s opening expo. Through the lens of her £20 camera, the London-based photographer’s shots feel very real, as an acute and honest portrayal of today’s youth, full of candour and nostalgia, a style that got her appearances in the likes of I LOVE FAKEC-Heads, ONES2WATCH and Dew Magazine. More than anything, her work tells stories, accentuated by her personal experiences, introductions and descriptions to her personal work, stories of long gone summers, hospital visits and surgeons’ funny Russian accents.

Dazed Digital: Tell us a little bit about yourself? What makes you tick? What gets you up in the mornings?
Alena Jascanka: My name is Alena. I really like my name. I believe in love at first sight. I’m naïve. I like to know and I know a lot about a lot. I’m really close with my family. I love D&B and Psy-trance. I don’t like sarcasm. I don’t believe in the soul. I’m a happy girl, I smile a lot at people and they smile back to me a lot as well. I could go on like this forever, but this has to be said either way: I love photography, I’m in love!

DD: You’ve ditched digital, what made you choose analogue?
Alena Jascanka: I really like the intimacy of analogue photography and the element of mystery that comes with it. There is nothing better than looking at your developed films for the first time! I also appreciate that it requires photographic craft and knowledge. With today’s technology everyone with a decent digi can draw a decent photo in Photoshop. People are forgetting that photography is an art of highest skill and craft. With analogue, on the other hand, you’re stripped away from all the fancy blinks and you are basically as good as the exposure on your films. I love its minimalism. I like that you actually have to think before taking a shot. I like the responsibility that comes with it and the discipline it teaches you. I also love the physicality of analogue, I like working with materials you can actually touch.

DD: What camera are you never caught without?
Alena Jascanka: Nikon FM with 50mm f/1.2 lens. It’s an absolutely beautiful set, which I got several months ago. I also always carry my Pentax ME with 50mm f/1.7 lens, which I got for £20 on eBay and have been using for over three years now and basically shot most of my work with. I’ll always be sentimental about that one!

DD: What’s your top tip?
Alena Jascanka: Trust your guts, be good to others, do what scares you and never regret!

DD: Where do you look to find inspiration?
Alena Jascanka: My life, personal experiences, people I care about, my feelings, problems and good times. I generally find real emotions very inspiring. And I can say that all of my work is personal to some extent. But, in the same time, I think most things can be inspiring: pop culture, film, even things like shitty weather or your brother’s nosebleed can be extremely inspiring!

DD: Tell us about your work with DONT WALK. What are you looking forward to most about this year's show?
Alena Jascanka: I’m thrilled to be a part of DONT WALK this year! It’s a dream job for me! It is interesting, challenging, creative and stimulating! I’m given plenty of freedom to photograph just how I want to whilst working on shoots, and everyone has the attitude that the sky is the limit, which means we do things that are much more daring and unexpected. We’ve just finished our second shoot, and I think people will be pleasantly surprised with how things have turned out. As for what am I looking to most? Well, more shoots and the show itself of course! I’d love to work with DONT WALK for many years to come, I just feel like the more I visit St Andrews, the more I want to come back!

DONT WALK’s UK Analogue Photography Award submissions end on the 22nd January at 12am.