IN CONVERSATION WITH KARIN SVADLENAK-GOMEZ
Karin is from Vienna, Austria, and has lived and worked in a number of countries. She has always had an interest in photography, but has developed a real passion for it over the last few years, crossing genres from landscape to documentary. She enjoys all the arts and loves combining her photographic passion with a visit to performances and exhibitions. Taking her passion further with photography, Karin is the Editor in Chief, here, for The Pictorial List, Founder and Editor in Chief of the Spectaculum Magazine and also writes her own blog Viennacultgram.
"There is no better high than discovery."
E. O. WILSON
When did you start getting interested in photography?
I started getting into photography as a teenager, before digital photography came along, but it was mostly just travel and family photography. I knew nothing about cameras or composition. But I loved capturing beautiful landscapes. It stayed like that for many years. Only for the last three years or so photography has become a major passion and occupies my mind fairly constantly. Now it can happen that I am watching a theatre performance, and suddenly there is a moment where my mind goes, “I wish I could photograph that!”. The odd thing about it is that this passion actually originated with Instagram. In my home town Vienna, we have an active community of photographers on Instagram (IgersAustria and IgersVienna) who regularly get together for events. And one day a friend asked me to join one of these 'Instawalks' - well, the rest is history, as they say.
Where do you find your inspiration?
The discovery of different cultures gets me really excited. And nature provides constant inspiration. But these days I am also inspired by everyday scenes and by the architecture and culture of my own city.
Who are your favourite artists/photographers?
That is difficult to say. I find quite a lot of good photography on Instagram (and quite a lot of bad too, of course). When I first started out, I was mainly keen on landscape photography, and there are a few of the well-known photographers in that genre whose books I acquired. There was Galen Rowell, a wilderness photographer whose mountain photos I loved. And of course Ansel Adams, whose black and white landscape photography I have always loved. If we´re talking big names, I also quite like the portraits by Annie Leibovitz. In the last couple of years or so I have become very interested in street photography, and in that genre I adore the work of Henri Cartier Bresson and Elliott Erwitt.
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
Yes, it has changed a lot. When I started out I knew nothing about composition or even how to use aperture or speed. A year ago or so I took a few basic photo workshops and also learned by trial and error. It is a process that is ongoing, and I do not think what I do now is necessarily what I will be doing in photography in a year´s time. For me diversity has always been the spice of life, and I do not want to be limited to one particular style, or topic. But I would say I have moved from a point where I tried to exclude people from photos (focusing mostly on empty landscapes) to an approach that tries to include human life. At the moment, what most excites me is street photography, capturing people in their environment, moments of life or, as the case may be, still-life.
So now when I travel to a new place, the types of pictures I take are quite different from before, although of course I still take your average tourist picture too. I am also quite attracted to documentary photography, but have not yet got seriously into it. But maybe that is what I will be exploring next. Telling stories.
Where is your favourite place to shoot?
Anywhere. Although I would say, the more different from my own culture zone, the more exciting. I also really like shooting performances, like at the circus or other performances, where you have wonderful light situations and great colours.
Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?
I am definitely not an expert on equipment. I photograph with a small mirrorless system camera, for which I have several different lenses. I think it is more important to have an eye for composition and for beauty, if that is the goal. These days you can even do a lot with mobile cams, although I still find that the camera gives me more/different options. If you´re just starting out, I think it is definitely more important to get some background on composition and understand the basic settings of the camera rather than going out and buying super-duper expensive equipment.
What characteristics do you think you need to become a photographer? What’s your tips or advice for someone in your genre?
A good eye. The ability to observe your environment and decide on what is worth capturing, and how. Storytelling is an important aspect. What do I want to communicate about or with a picture? As I do not have a specific genre I want to limit myself to, I don't want to give genre-specific tips. Though I think that the “good eye” (which evolves over time, by the way) is important for all genres.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
Only as a spectator. I would have liked to draw and paint, but I do not have the skills. But I have always enjoyed the arts (theatre, music, and fine arts).
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
Generally, I like to produce series about a place or a topic, rather than just putting out individual pictures on Instagram. It forces me to think more clearly and curate my pictures so that I can tell a story or document something. I also write a blog, about cultural and travel activities in my city and elsewhere. So this also is a project where I am putting my photos in series to document a particular event or theme, together with background information.
And perhaps I do want to mention something we recently started at The Pictorial-List: "Pictorial Stories", in-depth photo reportages about different topics. I really enjoy the process of putting such stories together with the photographers who contribute their work and ideas to the stories.
If I wasn’t photographing what would I be doing?...
For fun: reading, or walking out in nature with my dog. Otherwise, working in a job as public relations manager of a university department."