Jul 16, 2013

Phlearn Interviews Laura Zalenga

Laura Zalenga is a 23 year old fine art and portrait photographer from a cute, small town in the south of Germany. Currently Laura is studying architecture at the Technical University of Munich. She started taking photos at the age of 18 and quickly noticed that photography is the love of her life!

Laura’s work has been published in magazines such as Illusory Magazine, Grae Magazine, Digital Camera World, Image Editing – photodil, and many more. Laura placed 2nd in Brooke Shaden’s contest “emotion”, and placed 8th in the Nikon photo contest. So far her work has been featured in 3 exhibitions, and her photos have been used for numerous book covers. She has also photographed musicians such as Clara Louise, Fabian Buch, Furasoul, and more.

Please join us as Laura tells us all about herself and her work, we get to see how much Photoshop really goes into her photography with many Before and After photos provided, she also speaks of her “100 strangers projects” which has now been renamed “1001 strangers” because she just couldn’t stop. Laura creates amazing work, see for yourself!

How did you become interested in photography?

There has always been this beautiful, old box in our garret (attic) full of big prints of breathtaking portraits my dad took when he was my age. I looked through them from time to time and asked myself how it is possible to create photos like that. But it took me another ten years to start trying it myself.

Do you have any formal training?

Everything I know about photography and editing is self taught, which took some time but I enjoyed every minute of this never ending journey.

What’s on your gear list?

Nikon D600 + Nikkor 50mm 1,8. Nikon F65. I should probably buy additional lenses the next time I find some money in the streets 😉

What inspires you?

Somehow everything. Of course the intentional inspiring things like photos, films, paintings and music but also things that simply lay around like the colorful carpet or cookies on the desk. Also emotions, experiences and memories inspire me very often.

What do you think were some of the key elements to the development of your photography?

Definitely Flickr and the people I met there. I learned so much by looking at their work and talking to them. I will be forever thankful for the support these people gave me.

What type of lighting do you use most within your photography? Natural or artificial?

99% natural lighting. I adore the Soft Light of a cloudy sky and the green mood in the forest.

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on a new project called Photodil.
It is about online image editing and it is an offer for people who don’t have the time or the knowledge to edit their photos themselves or simply need Inspiration. The plus is that people only have to pay if they like the result 100%.

Who are your favourite photographers and/or artists as of right now?

Alex Stoddard, Laura Makabresku, Lissy Elle, Sophie Ellis, Oleg Oprisco, Anka Zhuravleva

You recently finished a “100 Strangers” project, and upon finishing you decided to rename this project “1001 Strangers” because you “wouldn’t be able to stop”.
How difficult was it to approach strangers at the beginning? Would you consider yourself a better photographer after completing the first 100 of the project?

Though it got a little bit easier to ask them it still always takes me quite some overcoming to walk up on them and try to convince them. I am still nervous and afraid they will say no.
BUT the feeling when they say yes and when they walk away smiling after the photo because someone thinks they are beautiful just the way they are, is priceless.
I think this project made me a better photographer because I improved in talking to strangers and in overcoming my shyness. Also I learned how to take better portraits on a time pressure.

Can you tell us about your photo “lamb-me”? I just find it unbelievably interesting and unique. How did you come up with the idea, and what was the inspiration behind it?

Thank you! The idea behind this photo was the intention to show my love for animals and my belief that animals and humans are of completely equal value. That’s why I’ve been vegetarian for 14 years and that’s why I even save snails from the street. This photo was a small homage to the ignored innocence of animals which is a very important topic to me.

How do you overcome a creative block?

As photography is not my job but my private passion there is no pressure to create a photo every day or every week or even every month. If there is no idea or urge to take photos my camera stays turned off. I believe that this lack of pressure makes this creative block stay away from me most of the time.

How important do you think it is for artists to experiment with self portraiture? How has self portraiture helped with the development of your work?

I think I wouldn’t even be close to where I am today without self portraiture. It helped me so much growing as an artist and as a person. It helped me through tough phases by being my therapy and it gave me the chance to try out everything I wouldn’t do with clients or even friends.

How important is Photoshop within your work?

I adore photoshop. I am so happy it is part of my work. There are things that simply are impossible to realize in the real world but Photoshop gives us the opportunity to create it. Photoshop is my door to a crazy-creative world. I guess Photoshop is my drug 🙂 Note: many Before and Afters below.

What is your proudest moment as a photographer?

8th place in the Nikon Photography Contest.

How has social media helped with the success of your photography?

Besides my first love ‚ Flickr, which I already talked about I can’t deny the help of Facebook. It is a great way to get your name out there.

What’s your favourite photo that you’ve ever taken?

Tough question. There are some I really like because they have a high emotional value to me and others I simply like for what you see.
One of my favourites is “Ballet from Above”
. It includes many things I love: dancing and loneliness, aesthetic and minimalism. It was so much fun to produce and to edit afterwards.

What stranger’s portrait was the most memorable for you? Why?

Easy question 🙂 “I don’t even know her name. No.99.” She is the most adorable stranger I ever met. We spoke for quite a while and she was so interested in my project, we talked about our lives and she was so moved when I told her how beautiful she is. Looking at her photo always makes me a little bit sad because I will probably never see her again. But I will always remember these minutes that our life stories interweaved, and that makes me smile.
Besides that I remember every stranger and what we talked about and there are many more amazing moments and stories I was blessed to experience through this project. Note: No.99 is the first portrait seen below.

What is something you wish you were better at?

Filming. I always look at these amazing short movies and wish I could create something like that. I should probably start trying and practicing to have this dream come true 🙂

Can you tell us about your ongoing series “twisted body”? The photos are outstanding.

Thank you! It’s probably the series I had and have the most fun with. It combines two things I love: the minimalism of a simple grey wall and a plain Body – and the fun of creating completely new forms in post production. It is about the beauty of abnormality and an encouragement to be proud of the own otherness.

What type of photography do you enjoy the most? Creating your own personal work or client shoots?

Could there be anything better than transforming your very own idea completely as you want to? No pressure, no boundaries, just your mind and your camera…

On average, how long does it take you to complete a photo? (conceptualize, shoot and edit)

It takes between one hour for a rather easy portrait and goes up to eight hours if I have to search for a location and the editing is lavishly.

Any big plans for the future?

Rather small plans. I am planning a special 100 edition within the 1000 Stranger project and I can’t wait for August when I will live in a mountain lodge in Austria with 20 amazing Flickr photographers.

Any advice for the novice photographer?

Try out everything. Take thousands of photos and learn from your mistakes. Know what your goal is and believe in yourself. Get inspired by everyone and everything, but do not copy, but instead convert it to your own ideas. Don’t give up. Stay true to yourself. Have fun!

To keep up with Laura and her work you can visit her Website, Flickr Photostream, 1001 Strangers Tumblr, and/or Facebook PageInterviewed By: Angela Butler

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