Behind the Lens: Pavla Kopecna
London's Pavla Kopecna is a woman who wears many hats, one of which being acclaimed fashion and music photographer. As master of the shutter, she has racked up a host of credits to her name from Nylon, Vogue, Time Out and recently Jazz FM and Django Django. Artists who have stepped in front of her lens for colorful and inventive portraits include bands like MGMT and Paloma Faith, director Kinga Burza and many personalities who either live in or have swept through Londontown. We caught up with Kopecna to find out about her path to where she is now, find out about her love for Instagram and what the medium is able to express for her.
What age did you first start taking photos?
Pavla Kopecna: I got my first camera for my seventh birthday and took photos constantly since then. For the next few years it was all photos of my family, pets, friends. Then at university I started looking further afield towards portraiture and photojournalism.
What's your earliest photo-taking memory?
Using my first ever camera on the day of my seventh birthday. Cue several black and white photos of my sister and my dad without any heads.
Are you self-taught or did you study photography?
I'm mainly self-taught, though by the time I was freelancing for magazines I felt like such a fraud for not being trained in any way that I studied for a diploma at the London College of Communications. The course was great, but the main thing it taught me was that I needn't have worried. I think photography is probably 70 percent intuition, 30 percent skill.
What makes a good image in your mind?
It's different for different people. For me, a good picture tells a story and lets your imagination run wild. If an image makes you want to be there, know the person or know what happens next than it's good.
How would you describe your photography style?
Lazy, opportunistic, colourful, close.
What's one of your favorite shoots that you've done?
There's a series of photos I did with Paloma Faith once, where she took on a role of a B-movie Hollywood actress dying young throughout different decades from the 1910s to the 1960s. She's always brilliant at concepts and style, so it was fun to go along with this story she imagined.
You shoot both bands and fashion — how did you get into those fields? What appeals to you about each?
Both music and fashion are highly stylised, visual industries. It may seem less obvious with music but it's true — how many bands or artists do you like without knowing what they look like? With music I think what appealed to me was capturing a certain ethos or culture that a band symbolised. With fashion, I just thought fashion photography could be so beautiful.
Who are your favorite subjects to shoot?
At the moment it's probably my cats. They've gotten really good at posing — they might as well turn professional now.
Your photos are very vivid. What about color appeals to you?
I don't think it's a single colour as much as colorfulness — I love playing with different combinations, there are some colour schemes that just look so delicious to me, pink and grey, grey and yellow, monochrome with dashes of a single colour...
What's your dream shoot?
Hmmm, I tend to shoot people but have recently been fascinated by photography and art direction of nature documentaries. So probably a combination of both. Let's say M.I.A. on the plains of Kenya during a stampede.
What inspires you to shoot photos? Why do you like the medium?
I've never been very articulate, so to me an image really does say a thousand words. I'm on both, but I find Twitter incredibly painful to read and contribute to, but I find Instagram very clear and soothing, for example. I feel I learn more about the world by seeing images than reading words, but that's not necessarily a good thing and something I'd like to wok on.
You've shot in a lot of different formats. What's your current favorite? Have you gravitated towards the Impossible Project since the demise of polaroid?
I always loved the chance magic of Polaroids, but I think the iPhone and Instagram rather than the Impossible Project have replaced that magic. I hate to say it but the new Polaroid film just doesn't cut it for me. It's time to celebrate the history of Polaroid, but move on.
All images by Pavla Kopecna