Interview #25: Anna Szczekutowicz
CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?
Anna Szczekutowicz: Well, it was a gradual progression from graphic design, to fashion design, to collage making, and finally to photography. I always had an interest in art and expression and photography was the first medium that I truly feel that I am passionate about. I used to borrow my mother's camera (with her knowledge) and shoot random photos of the sky and flowers...typical, I know. Eventually I saved up months and months worth of babysitting money from my brother and I bought my first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel xTi.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.
AS: I live on the Jersey Shore; central coast. I live about 10 minutes from the beach, yet I usually never find myself there. I'm always exploring in the woods. It's a nice little suburban area around me, but it's too peaceful for me.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
AS: I usually do not eat breakfast because I have a pretty weak stomach and whenever I do eat in the morning, I feel sick later on in the day. However, I love eating a bagel with bacon, egg, and cheese for late supper. I just ate it thirty minutes ago. I guess you could consider that my breakfast since it's considered a breakfast food.
CUS: What kind of camera do you enjoy using the most?
AS: I must admit, I have not had the opportunity to shoot with many cameras besides my own personal DSLR cameras, the Canon Rebel Xti and Canon 50D. I have shot with a Canon AE-1 with film but I think I enjoy using digital more than film. It's more instant which is perfect for me because I take a lot of test shots and my regular days worth of shooting consisted of 400-700 photos.
CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?
AS: Most definitely people. Same may assume from my 365 that my favorite subject to shoot is myself, but that is not true. I enjoy shooting with my friend Cait because she is such a good model. She never complains and it always willing to get completely covered by any material (i.e. flour, glitter, feathers) and willing to lay in dirty rivers for a photo. It's always just fun to shoot with her because any idea I come up with, I know I can execute it with her.
CUS: Can you tell us a little about your 365 project?
AS: Well, I started my 365 project on January 1, 2009. I guess you could say it was my New Year's resolution. In the years before and including 2008, photography was something that I truly loved doing but never seemed to have enough time for. I just wanted to set time away each day for something that I was passionate about. I did not want to get lost in everyday life and lose one of the hobbies that I loved. So I embarked on a journey of taking a self portrait for a year and so far, I am very happy that I started the project.
CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most?
AS: What I like least about photography is the fact that it is not accepted as career by a large handful of people. I wish people were not concerned with how much money a photographer can make, but rather how much can they make the world feel?
What I like most about photography is all the freedom. Every time I pick up my camera, I feel this little power within me come out. I have no limits with my imagination; there is no stopping me! It is such a liberating feeling to be able to express yourself through a photography and to hope that people know what you felt.
CUS: What’s playing on your iTunes right now?
AS: Drumming Song by Florence and the Machine. Her voice is incredible . . . absolutely beautiful.
CUS: What was the last movie you saw in the theatre?
AS: The Box. I didn't really enjoy it either . . . it was rather confusing and weird. But I love going out to see movies so regardless of some bad reviews I've heard of the movie, I had to see it for myself.
CUS: What are five thing you can't live without?
AS: Camera (That's a given)
My car (I neeeed to travel)
My Purse (It's so big! I have so much hidden in there)
Iced tea (I'm practically addicted!)
My brother (Does he count? Because he means more to me than anything in the world.)
CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?
AS: I listen to a lot of music and I love to explore the world. I find myself in woods a lot because I just love the feeling of getting lost. Sometimes when I'm driving I'll make a wrong turn on purpose and I never regret it. I always find the coolest places!
CUS: What is your favorite photograph that you’ve taken, and what’s the story behind it?
AS: That is a no brainer.
It is not like any other photo I usually take but the story behind the photo is what really hits home for me. That is my brother, Michael. He has cerebral palsy and I do not think I could love anyone more than him. It's really hard for me to express how much I love him because the feelings are so indescribable. He truly has taught me to enjoy every day that I have and never to take life too seriously. He has never complained about his life. He smiles more than he blinks. He is my hero. My real hero.
That is my grandpa next to him. My grandpa lives in Poland and this was taken on the last day that I spent at my grandparents house. The excitement that my brother had with my grandpa was truly heartwarming. Michael would always sing songs with my grandpa and watch the trains go by (sometimes they would even pull the horn for my brother), and go on strolls. I would always get so happy knowing that my brother was having the time of his life.
That day, as I said before, was my last day with my grandparents before I left Poland to return home. I had take a nap and I happened to have my camera around my neck because I was taking a lot of photos for nostalgic purposes. When I woke up, I saw my brother across from me smiling with my grandpa right over. It was just so amazing to see him that happy. I was so happy I had my camera around my neck at the moment to capture something so meaningful to me. I do not think any other photo of mine could ever compare to this one.
CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion?
AS: A reason, a story, an emotion. I believe all three of those things are almost the same thing. I think a photo should make someone feel. Whether the feeling is happy or sad, any photo that provokes a feeling out of the viewer, is a photo worth diving into.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase "everyone can be a photographer" is true?
AS: Anyone can pick up a camera, point, click, and produce a photograph, but it takes a real artist to make magic.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
AS: Get off the internet, pick up your camera, and have fun! You will never get better if you do not practice and get to know your camera. Your camera is a wan to producing magic. Knowing all the spells will get you far. So practice and get creative!!!
CUS: Our last interviewee, Alex Shahmiri, wants to know: What is your favorite memory from your childhood?
AS: Without a doubt, going to Poland in the summer. I would go every other summer to visit all of my family. My parents moved to America when I was just a baby so I mainly grew up in America, so it was great to see where my parents grew up and my cultural background.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
AS: If you had all the money in the world, what photo equipment would you buy?