This week on the Prodibi Pixel Magazine, we interview Iness Rychlik, a polish photographer and filmmaker based in West London.
Innocence, temptation, provocation, imagination, silence...her fantastic self-portraits inspired by the Victorian era will not leave you indifferent.
Let's discover her work through stunning photos in full resolution powered by Prodibi!
A few words about you, how did you start photography?
Despite my severe myopia, I have always been quite perceptive and enchanted by the fleeting images around me. One of my earliest memories is taking a picture of my mother with a point-and-shoot film camera in the 90s Poland. I remember it well because she was still heavily pregnant with my younger sister, Roksana. I was three and a half.
A desire to capture moments followed me into my teens without losing a childlike enthusiasm and fascination. Roksana became a Pre-Raphaelite muse, as I found inspiration in the nineteenth-century novels and their screen adaptations. Impressed by some wonderfully shot features and series like ‘Pride & Prejudice’ or ‘Jane Eyre’, I developed a great interest in cinematography. I moved to Scotland to pursue a film degree with the precise goal of focusing on period drama. My short graduation film ‘The Dark Box’ – which premiered at Camerimage – follows an unhappily married Victorian woman, who pursues photography to escape from her oppressive relationship.
What do you like best about photography and filmmaking?
For me, storytelling is at the very heart of photography and film. When it comes to stills, in particular, I love the process of creative experimentation; transforming pain into beauty, turning mundane spaces into dark dramatic scenes. Although it doesn’t look like it, when I’m shooting my self-portraits, it is the only time I feel at peace. I will spend four hours sitting in an uncomfortable position, focused solely on creating a captivating image. Nothing else exists and nothing else matters. It is very therapeutic.
You seem particularly attracted to the Victorian Britain period. What do you see in this era and how does it resonate in your work?
I see a striking contrast between rapid scientific progress and continuous gender inequality. It is the social conventions that fascinate me the most. The ‘fair sex’ was considered both physically and intellectually weaker than men. Getting married meant giving up your right to an independent existence – a husband could claim his wife’s earnings and her body as he wished. Women were legally prohibited from owning property, for they were property themselves; pretty little things displayed like porcelain dolls.
My work draws the parallels between Victorian gender inequality and the objectification of women in the modern-day society. I often use antiques or vintage costumes to create strong visual statements. One of my favourite props is a genuine silver fork from the 1890s, which I found at Portobello Market in Notting Hill. A well-mannered old man who sold it to me decided I am ‘a lovely young lady’ – I hope he never finds out what I did with it.
About your photography gear, what are your favourite tools?
There are photographers who get very fetishistic about all the new toys coming out, but I’m on the opposite side of the extreme. My photography gear is minimal; all I need is my digital camera and a tripod. I’ve been primarily using the same portrait lens for almost eight years now. I’m not being nonchalant and saying technology isn’t important, but it shouldn’t distract an artist from telling a powerful story.
Do you have projects for the future like workshops, personal series?
My ultimate goal is making ‘Silver and Light’ – a feature-length period drama based on my grad film, ‘The Dark Box’. While the Victorian Era is often heavily romanticized on screen, I want to convey a very sinister story. Imagine a moving-image version of my darkest photographs.
I’m actively working on expanding my conceptual erotica series. I have many ideas written down, but I’m reaching the point where it’s physically impossible to execute them by myself – my hands are tied, quite literally. I will need a patient assistant, who understands my process. I’m also thinking about bringing another woman into my self-portraits, if I find the right muse.
To see more from Iness:
All photographs copyright Iness Rychlik and used with her permission.
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