How does applied photography become a tool for artistic expression? How does the bizarre become the new normal? The creative duo of Lenka Glisníková and Karolína Matušková sometimes work as photographers, sometimes as curators, and sometimes even as creators of different worlds. Their visual language is complex and progressive, with bold colors and compositions, combined with unusual and sometimes humorous scenes. Czech photography on the axis of objects, materials, and forms. Introducing Shotby.us.
Why editorial photography? What inspires you in this field?
Shotby.us: This genre actually gives us the freedom to tell a story in seven or eight pictures, and it’s a nice format for the viewer to understand it. It’s also important for us to think in terms of a series of photographs, but also to make each image function on its own. It’s inspiring for us to be able to work with different designers and artists, which editorial photography provides a great platform for.
Although your photographs can be found in several magazines and media, your visual world is distinctive and unified.
Shotby.us: I think what defines our visual world is that we like different materials and bright colors and we are not afraid to combine cheap with luxury. We try to create a new dialog and we are open to juxtaposing things that are out of the norm—we find beauty in elements that ‘don’t fit’.
The situations and details in our photos are often created by us. For example, we choose the shades of colors or the objects, as well as the textiles and materials. We are not only interested in photography as such, but also in building different worlds that we like to influence. In fact, the power of photography lies in the play with light: that’s why it’s so important to photograph a subject from different aspects and angles because each time we discover something completely new. The whole process is like a constant dance or performance. It always gives us a new perspective and a new way of seeing how to build an image through objects, materials, and figures. So a photo is like a good marriage between photography, light, setting, and post-production.
You’re more what we might call a multimedia artist duo than a ‘simple’ photography studio. How do the bizarre scenes in your images come to life? How is your creative process?
Shotby.us: We experiment not only with the elements of our images but also with the process itself. Many times, if one of us imagines a photo and describes it to the other, something completely different will appear in our mind, so at the end of our conversations something new and interesting will come up.
Dialog is also crucial for us in our creative process in general. We tend to be given a free hand with our different commissions—we are lucky in this respect, as the various media give us room to experiment. We also have the opportunity to build a whole concept around a particular design object, for example.
So you actually work as curators sometimes?
Shotby.us: It often depends on the client or project. In one of our recent editorial projects, baroque and glass were the main themes, but we were given total freedom in the choice of objects. So we also included objects in the scene—ceramics and jewelry—that refer to some pattern or nature of the glass. Although there is always an underlying idea behind the choice of a certain element or object, they are not necessarily symbolic. We don’t like to be too specific, we’re more about creating tension.
It is essential for us that our images are not descriptive, but create a new situation between the photo and the viewer. How was it made? What is real and what is not? It’s inspiring for us to play a little with the viewer’s mind and sometimes trick them.
In your work so far, if you could highlight one project, which would it be?
Shotby.us: In one of our previous projects, we did an editorial on the work of Czech jewelers for a print issue of the Czech magazine Dolce Vita. Our concept was to associate the jewelry pieces with the works of Czech painters and to display the paintings as tattoos on the models’ hands. This gesture was intended to create a dialog between design and art. The painters invited for the project were also very excited to work in a new field and situation for them. In fact, this project is a nice reflection of our creative philosophy of building new situations and combining different worlds with our photographs. The series was also the winner of the Czech Grand Design Award in the category of Photographer of the Year 2020. This recognition helped us to become more confident in our profession, so it was a significant moment for us.
Today, fashion photography is moving away from the unattainable beauty ideals that have shaped the industry for decades. What innovations do you think are in store for the genre in the near future?
Shotby.us: It’s a bit difficult to put it in terms of a prediction. In our work, for example, we use humor to step outside of these outdated, traditional frameworks or norms. We like to bring new heroes to the stage. However, looking at old editorials or fashion photos, we can redefine many elements in our own interpretation. One of these might be a particular pose’s body language, as it is a tool to play with and experiment further. Whether there is a direction this is leading is hard to say, but we think there are no limits today.
We think nowadays there is a ‘more is more’ attitude. Maybe it’s time to relax a bit again and return to the aesthetics of minimalist photography. Our photographs are expressive: we try to find a balance between creating a new visual language and making the viewer think about an image in a new way. It is an endless exploration of the ways in which we can construct a photo.
What kind of project are you working on now?
Shotby.us: We are currently working on a full video and photo campaign for a dance festival. We are very excited about this opportunity because we love the dance and it is a new area for us to experiment further. And unlike our previous projects, this time we will be building the scenes in post-production rather than in advance: some of the characters and environments in the photos will be completely virtual. The project has its risks, but sometimes we like to push the envelope because something good always comes out of it!
It is not very common for photographers to work as an artist duo. How did you start your studio together?
Shotby.us: We started working together during our university years when we founded our own studio. Since we found art photography to be a difficult field, we thought that this creative dialog between us could be a good driving force. We created our own playground where we could explore, create and just be experimental—looking for new ways to express ourselves.
When we started working together, we also wanted to create a kind of virtual identity that didn’t clearly refer to the two of us. So we named our studio Shotby.us. There was also a practical reason for this, as we wanted to separate our autonomous creative work from our applied photography projects.
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