“There will come times when we will long for harmonious landscapes around us, while there will hardly be seen any.”
Inez Baturo (born 1966) is a fine art landscape photographer from Poland.
She’s self-taught when it comes to photography.
Inez Baturo dedicates herself to fine art landscape photography because she feels that it is “something that is underestimated nowadays in arts”, yet she believes that nature “is one of the most important elements in life of human beings”.
She’s sure: “There will come times when we will long for harmonious landscapes around us, while there will hardly be seen any.”
The artist describes her approach to color and composition as “subtle, delicate, monochromatic, as if extraterrestrial”.
Inteview with Inez Baturo
Inez, you dedicate yourself to fine art landscape photography. What ingredients does a good fine art landscape image need in your opinion?
Good landscape image has harmony in itself and conveys good energy.
It should not be indifferent to the viewer. Should convey emotions.
It should not matter where it was shot. It should be a universal shot, understood without captions.
How do you go about taking your images? Is it a more spontaneous process or do you spend a lot of time doing location scouting etc.?
First I have the image in my mind.
Then, I am looking for the situation in landscape which correspond to what I have made out. I try to go to a new place each time. I rarely come back to the same place, as I want to see new landscapes.
So each day is a discovery for me. I get up very early in the morning, and I love bad weather – rain, snow, heavy wind. They make a given landscape unreal.
When you’ve found a spot to take a picture, how do you execute the actual shooting?
“I press the button only, when I am sure my image is there.”
I use film, I always use a tripod, when I find a proper place I wait till I have a good, unusual lighting. I am constantly on the move, “hunting” for the image.
I stop only when waiting for proper light.
When I press the button, I know exactly what kind of picture I have got. I take little number of shots per session as films are expensive. So I press the button only, when I am sure my image is there.
Do you use analog or digital equipment?
I have got both, but prefer analog. Digital is simpler and cheaper, but analog gives me more possibilities, especially when long exposures are concerned.
How much post-production do you apply to your images?
Almost none. I put the dia into the enlarger and then I sometimes use two or three different times of exposure for different parts of one print.
Afterwards I retouch white spots on the print with a little brush.
I achieve the color I want under the enlarger in the darkroom. If I want the photos for the internet use I just scan the dias as they are.
What does a single photograph or a body of work need in your opinion in order to stand out and get noticed? Especially keeping in mind the abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society where everything already has been photographed?
“Man can make art out of anything.”
Our images must be true with ourselves. When they are – they have a kind of special energy that is seen in the image. We are not able to satisfy everybody. But when we know what images satisfy us, it is ok then.
If a table is done by an artist, it will be a piece of art. If a table is not done by an artist, it will not be a piece of art. And who is an artist? It is said that it is a man who can make art out of anything.
Do you think that priorities have shifted a little bit over the last couple of years to where self-marketing skills are becoming more and more important in relation to the actual skills as a photographer?
Yes, unfortunately, self-marketing can be stronger nowadays than true value of an image. But knowing the history of photography, we can notice that everything is verified by time. After we die, there is no self-marketing any more and this is the time of truth.
Only valuable images do survive the fight with time…
What do you think are the essential steps to successfully build a professional portfolio?
“The images must convey the artist’s inner world.”
One should know the history of photography to know in which point of it one stands. Sometimes people are very proud of their work thinking, that they are the first who ever done something, and not knowing, that it has already been in the images long before them. The images must be technically ok and must convey the artist’s inner world.
The portfolio should be a consistent series, with a beginning and the end, with unity of theme. It should be a walk through a story. Landscape can also be a story.
When I compose my portfolio I do it very carefully, the succession of images is based on their theme and color, so that the transitions from one image to another are fluent and logical, nice to be looked at.
Besides working on your own personal photography you are engaged in several other project. You are a member of IRIS, for example, an organization based in the UK promoting world photography by women. Can you tell a little bit more about your work there?
IRIS is devoted to women in arts. They promote women photographers, organizing shows, exhibitions, meetings, publications, etc. It is said that women consist not more than 10 % of all the artists. That is why IRIS concentrates on their work – to make them be more visible.
Thanks to the organization I have my work in their archives. I am very proud of that.
How would you define the role of women in photography?
Generally it is hard for a woman to be a wife, a mother, a businesswoman, an artists, a self-agent, a housekeeper – all in one body at the same time. That is why, when you look into the history of photography, many of women, who achieved something in photography, are single or very young or elder and, as I said before, they are in the minority as a group of photographers.
“I am afraid of going alone to some parts of the world.”
When you look into the past, it was harder for a woman to go alone out to the street or to climb mountains dressed in a skirt. She was supposed to sit quietly at home. But even now, I am afraid of going alone to some parts of the world.
Sometimes we are talking about female contra male writing. Photography is also divided into that taken by women contra that taken by men. I am not convinced to those divisions. There is one photography for me – good or indifferent.
But it is also true, that sometimes women’s look is as if more subtle, with more shades of a given color, they are also more likely to deal with quiet themes, like children, flowers or landscapes – their photography tends to be more harmonious than that taken by man, who usually prefer shapes above atmosphere, like a strong theme and details above emotions.
Women tend to be more melancholic, but of course, it is not a rule, just a tendency.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenges photography is faced with? And what are the most important changes recently in that area?
Photography is faced with reality. And that is its biggest challenge – to interpret what is happening around, to change the world into a better space, to comment on politics and on social issues, to show different cultural roots, to show ugliness and beauty, to change us, the Men, into better persons.
Photography and film are best means to do that. That is the greatest power of a still and movie image.
What is also important in that area, is the admittance of photography as art. It is only photography that can be art and document and the same time.
That fascinates me most!
You’ve dealt extensively with the theoretical part of photography, among other things you’ve translated the book “World History of Photography” by Naomi Rosenblum into Polish. What is it that the academic career has taught you about photography that working in the field couldn’t have and vice versa?
“One should be very humble in photography and life.”
It took me two years to translate that great book into Polish and to prepare it for printing. I have learnt from it, that one should be very humble in photography and life, that we ought to read a lot about other artists and watch plenty of images to know the history of photography, to know are place. Otherwise, we are like children without experience, loosing time for discovering things, that have already been discovered long time ago.
Naomi Rosenblum has taught me that photography can be a very strong means of communication. The book also shows which kind of images survive after years – when you look through the pages of the book most of them are pictures dealing with us, people, human beings entangled into difficult situations in the world.
On the other side, because I am a photographer myself, it was easier for me to understand some technical issues described in the book.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learnt about yourself?
Photography has taught me tolerance. I mean, not to tolerate everything but to understand others, to accept that different people can have different opinions (ways of seeing the world), that as far as you are a good person, a kind human being, whatever your decision in photography is (theme, composition, ect.), it is fine, as far as it does not harm anybody.
Photography has shown me that a theme you deal with does not matter if you are an artist – you can take portrait, document, experiment, landscape – no matter what – if you are true with yourself, your images will be a piece of art. I accept all kinds of photography when I see, that there is a thinking and a good-hearted person behind the lens, who want to say something important to the world.
Every photographer is going through different stages in his formation. Which “landmarks” do you recall that have marked you and brought you to the place where you are today as a photographer?
I have never been interested in photography before I met my husband in late 1980s. He has introduced me to photography. It was thanks to my excursions to the mountains with his friends-photographers that I fell in love with photography, when I realized that it is able to convey my emotions better than anything else – it was the first landmark.
The second landmark was when I decided that I wanted to share the “World History of Photography” with Polish readers. The book elevated my conscience in photography, followed by a personal meeting with Naomi and her daughter – Nina, very wise and kind women. I felt they were looking at the world same way as I do. They gave me power to believe in myself, to follow my own emotions.
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
Beside being a photographer, I run a Gallery of Photography B&B, which shows work by other photographers (a new exhibition each month) and I organize a biennial – the FotoArFestival – a survey of world photography.
“I developed myself as a human being and an artist. I am very grateful.”
It is important for me to promote photography as art, to show foreign photographers in Poland and to present Polish artists to a wider forum.
I try to organize an international forum of exchange of thoughts and images, because I am sure that meeting other people is the most important part of our life. (laughs)
Thanks to photography I have learnt more about the Man, the world, and myself. I met many interesting, fascinating people and artists. I travelled to countries I would probably never visit otherwise. I developed myself as a human being and an artist. I am very grateful.
Photography has shown me that we should cherish for life, that we should be kind one to another, because life is so fragile … We are the ones who create the shape of the world – the outer and the inner.
Thank you Kai for your wise questions.
Wish to meet you personally in Poland one day.