I had the chance to meet the pretty incredible Alena Jascanka for my New Kids on the Block column for Suitcase Magazine online. I think it was the best interview I’ve ever done, but judge for yourselves.
Only a year and a half out of her LCF Fashion Journalism degree, she has already shot for Vice, Vogue, Dazed & Confused, I Love Fake, and just about everyone else that matters. Suitcase caught up with analogue fashion photographer Alena Jascanka fresh off of her plane back into London to talk about her latest editorial, as well as the beauty and the curse of photography. Being no stranger to travelling herself, having already lived in Belarus, Poland, the USA, Italy & London, it’s fair to say Alena is constantly on the go, and this manifests itself in her impressive portfolio. Even when walking to our designated coffee shop, she shows no sign of stopping for anything, least of all a double decker bus that we narrowly avoid as she darts across the road. If you want to succeed, don’t stop for anything… but remember the Green Cross Code.
From the knowledge that I gathered from my teachers and mentors, the most important thing is to never doubt yourself. Trust your gut instinct. No matter what’s going on or what you’re shooting you have to trust yourself. When you’re photographing, everyone’s looking at you, you have so many people who have put so much work into creating the look, but ultimately you are the one who pulls it all together.
How did you find getting work after you graduated?
The beauty of LCF was that they took a completely different approach to photography. There were a lot of academics, who taught us not to shoot for the sake of a beautiful picture. From the second year all our projects involved work with real clients. That’s how it all started and I’m really grateful for this, as I’ve been working non- stop since second year. I never had a single project that was just a uni project. If I was doing a shoot I would submit it as uni work. So when I was graduating it never crossed my mind what would I do next, it was more “thank god I’m graduating so I can focus full time on shooting”.
What is something you do everyday that makes you a better photographer?
To be honest, the thing is, everyday I have something else to produce, be it producing or post-producing. I’m always working with images and the difficulty of being a freelancer is that everyday I’m not working with images I blame myself that I haven’t done enough. I try to watch a lot of movies too. I think cinematography is a difficult job, and it helps you to understand lighting and framing. If you think about old classics like Blade Runner, it’s a masterpiece in terms of cinematography.
I would say Iceland as it’s a very photogenic place, or maybe somewhere next to the sea and near the ocean in a beautiful hot country.
Why do you think London is a creative capital?
Well it’s all the people that are coming here to be ‘creative’. I think the beauty of London is that the entry barrier is very low. It’s very easy to enter the fashion industry here. You can shoot your friends and meet the right person at a market and that’s it. In somewhere like New York it would be so much more difficult, which is why London is a great place to start.
Is there anywhere you go for inspiration?
I love the parks in London. The parks make all the difference, you can just go to any park and get away and feel almost away from the city.
What is always in your Suitcase when you travel?
My camera! I have two basic ones. One is a point and shoot with a flash and it looks really nice and the other is my Nikon FM, a very basic, manual old school camera.
I love the craft of photography. It’s not that I’m against digital, right now I’m actually trying to shoot more digital because film is very time consuming to develop film and some clients don’t have the time to wait. I can’t be stubborn and say I’ll only do film, but what I love about it is that is cherishes the craft and the skill of being a photographer. It’s so weird; I’m so much more comfortable shooting film than digital now, because I’ve been doing it for almost four years, and I like working with the actual physical materials.
Do you remember the first photograph you ever took?
Yes I do! I was actually studying finance and I enrolled onto a course because I wanted to do something creative. I was 18 and I didn’t have any training in art or painting or photography, it was just an evening course that I was doing on the side. I remember the second day after the introduction I got so inspired so I took my sister who was wearing a white coat, and I shot her in black and white in a backyard with all this abandoned furniture and it was a perfect location in the eyes of a beginner. It was pretty cool and I still have it. I had it enlarged, purely because it was my first picture.
Do you still love photography as much now?
Oh I’m addicted to it. It’s not an easy piece of bread. If I could chose again I probably wouldn’t do this, but the thing with me is that if I don’t do it for like three months, I’m not at peace with myself. It’s just like an addiction. I can compare it to sex, if you don’t have it for ages you start to need it. It’s a similar feeling.
Unfortunately it’s dying. I think it’s going to be the same as vinyl. They say that it still lives, but in fact it’s dead already. It’s never going to get its day again. It will never die completely as it’s too beautiful of a medium to be disregarded completely but technology is moving everything forward.
How do you get rid of a creative block?
Sometimes I get sick of London so I’ll just get out for a while. My mentor told me that when I get a block I should shoot something completely different – say a landscape or even a brick wall, just something completely different to fashion.
Do you see the world differently through your camera lens?
Whenever I look around I don’t see like a normal person, I always look through as if through a camera. It’s actually a curse. I see things straight away as a picture, and if I don’t have a camera I can get quite upset. Now I’ve learnt to get over it, but three years ago I could cry if I saw a beautiful moment and I didn’t have a camera with me. I try not to carry a camera with me everyday to appreciate the real moments of life.
As much as I can hate it, it’s irresistible. It takes away from the beauty of photography but it’s a supply for demand. The world is full of pictures – I think it was deemed to happen. For people who aren’t photographers, it’s a great thing and I have nothing against it. It can produce some really decent images through those filters. For myself, I hate it because it can get too much. What I really hate is when people are looking at everything through their screen.
What advice would you give to photographers aspiring to enter the industry?
Just try to find yourself as soon as possible and learn to trust yourself. If you trust yourself, that is going to show through your pictures.
To see more of Alena’s fantastic work visit her website: www.jascanka.com