The last couple of weeks were undoubtedly busy for all of the BA students from the graduating Class of 2016, with hand in deadlines and collections to finalise. However, BA (Hons) Fashion Photography student Hanna Puskarz might have been one of the busiest of all, because whilst doing her own work, she was LCF News official BA16 backstage photographer.
Once everything had calmed down, we grabbed some time with Hanna to discuss her photography, inspirations and plans for the future.
Where are you from?
Hanna: I’m from Poland
Give us one interesting fact about yourself…
Hanna: I haven’t cut my hair in 7 years.
Talk us through your final project
Hanna: My final project is a fashion photography based book, prints & research materials created for the exhibition, and accompanied by a set of interactive gifs. The name of the project is ‘PL-land’ and it focuses on discovering contemporary and traditional Polish fashion. It challenges the rigid social structures in Polish culture, in the country and abroad. It is a project focused on an aesthetic and thematic exploration.
What do you love about what you do?
Hanna: I think what I love the most is discovering – I learnt so much about the topics I researched and so many things surprised me in many different ways, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. I also love collaborating with like-minded creatives; it really broadens the horizons and you end up seeing things from different perspectives. Finally, I love capturing ‘the current moment’ as that’s what I think fashion is about. It is both really challenging and exciting at the same time.
What is the story behind your final piece of work?
Hanna: My final project was inspired by my cultural heritage and my attitude to it. I come from Poland but I have lived in London for the last 4 years so my attitude to Poland has changed a lot. I wasn’t sure whether I was ashamed or proud of my nationality so in my project I decided to embrace the things that I see as disadvantages and turn them into something innovative with the use of things that I’m proud of. I decided that I wanted my project to be based in London, because without this city, I would have never discovered all of these things about Poland and my heritage.
What techniques or theories did you use to create your final piece of work?
Hanna: I shot with film cameras. One of them was faulty, but I still wanted to use it because it meant that I was technically experimenting throughout the whole project and often the imperfections made the photographs one-of-a-kind. Also, I didn’t retouch any of the photographs. It was really important for me to stay as close as possible to reality because I remember that back when I lived in Poland the only fashion photography, that I thought existed, was glamorous, sexy and polished. It certainly isn’t this way, and I wanted to go against this mind-set that I once had. Theory-wise, I looked at the fashion as a political statement and its connection to communist Poland before the 90’s. I discovered an amazing documentary, ‘Political Dress’ by Judyta Fibiger, which opened my eyes a lot. Ted Polhemus’s theories about tribes and street-style were relevant to me as well, and his lecture, that I was lucky to attend, was very thought provoking.
What’s the best thing about LCF?
Hanna: The endless opportunities! I certainly feel that LCF made it possible for me to jump into the industry whilst studying and create a network of people with whom I can work with now and in the future. Also, I really liked the talks with industry professionals; they were always insightful and motivating.
What’s the best thing about your BA (Hons) Fashion Photography?
Hanna: I think the honesty of the tutors haha! It’s good that there is someone who can tell you when you’re doing a crap job. It’s good that there are a few tutors, not just one, because you get subjective advice. It’s really annoying at first, but as you go, you realise that some of the advice that you didn’t like before, is quite useful now. Also, the lectures cover a variety of aspects that are important in the fashion photography field. I found it very useful to learn about anything from designing a layout, through to how to change a fuse when the light blows up.
Have you won any prizes?
Hanna: My photograph won a 2nd prize in CPL Aroma competition last year. A couple of years earlier, I got into a small exhibition, ‘Newcomers Night’, with photography selected by glass magazine and got a voucher for art materials. Also, my project proposal received the Fashion Matters bursary last year, which was a big help towards kicking off my final major project.
Have you been in the media?
Hanna: A few of my fashion editorials were published in magazines, such as Cake, Atlas, Pigeons & Peacocks. I got exposure from the exhibition, You are NOT a failure and also, since I’ve been lucky to work as a photographer on a variety of events organised by LCF, my photographs have been published several times on LCF news and on LCF’s social channels. My final project, ‘PL-land’ got some exposure on a great platform focusing on Eastern European fashion called Fashion Bloc
Have you undertaken any work experience or done a placement whilst at LCF? Where and how did you secure this work experience or placement?
Hanna: Last year I did an internship with a fashion photographer Sean Gleason. I secured it myself by sending out my CV even when there wasn’t an advert
What did you learn on your work experience/placement?
Hanna: My internship was focused on helping organise Sean’s portfolio, but I assisted on a shoot as well. I learnt what it’s like when a photographer is freelancing and also a lot about printing the images on paper – sometimes the subtle differences in colour make a big difference in the overall look. I expanded my knowledge and skills in Photoshop, and also produced invoices for the clients, updated Sean’s website and helped with pretty much whatever there was to do. Even though my internship had finished, I stayed alert for opportunities and got to freelance on different shoots. This was great because I could see how different photographers work and learn new things from each of them.
Have you met or been inspired by any speakers from the industry whilst at LCF?
Hanna: Yes! I had the pleasure of meeting and taking a portrait of Lisa Eldrige at her Inside the Industry talk, which was really inspiring. Nick Knight’s talk was also very interesting. It was great to listen to Alice Goddard from ‘Hot & Cool’ Magazine too. And now, my course has been very lucky to have Patrick Waugh around during our presentations and internal exhibition planning.
Describe your work in five words…
Hanna: Experimental, real, documentative, ambitious, emotive
Do you have a muse? If so, who and why?
I do, my grandma. It sounds kind of cliché but she is my muse. It’s because I really admire how she is able to live on the border of two worlds – her past and ‘the now’. She’s the kind of grandma who, when helped, will buy stuff off eBay and can enjoy a gif or a fashion film I made but at the same time, makes the best cakes. I also admire her because of her resilience. She was born just before the beginning of World War II and her dad was imprisoned and killed when she was just 3 years old so she, her mum and her sister, were repatriated to Ukraine to reclaimed land. They had no more than a couple of baskets, yet she remained positive.
What inspires you?
Hanna: Travelling – doesn’t matter if it’s to the close-by neighbourhood or to another continent. I’m also inspired by people, artists and their stories as well as books and cultural processes
Where do you want to be in your career in five years’ time?
Hanna: Ideally in five years’ time I will have travelled with my husband to 100+ countries, and done about 2 or 3 large-scale projects connected with it. Besides that, I imagine myself working with inspiring fashion brands that have vision and that challenge my thinking and let me and others develop.
How do you think your course and LCF will help you achieve your plans?
Hanna: I think photography taught me things that can’t be found in any book, things that will help me get into the industry. Moreover, LCF has given me lots of motivation. I hope it will continue when I graduate because I know there are competitions, grants, fellowships etc, open for graduates.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to study your course?
Be open-minded and tolerant, say ‘yes’ more often than ‘no’, and create a list of the things you want to do, because there are so many things to do in the world that you shouldn’t limit yourself to just a few
Hanna’s work will be on display at the Cabinet Stories exhibition, curated by Alison Moloney, in September 2016.
Full photography credits:
Photography by Hanna Puskarz, all makeup and hair by Rachel Freeman, Styling by Stephanie Zaicew and Egle Andrius,
Models: Zoë Thurbon, Francois Joos, Mila Melnik
Designers: Diligent, Olla Kowalska, Kombokolor, Lapidarium and traditional Polish folk costumes thanks to ZPIT Walbrzych
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