My adventure sprouted from fascination with reportage and documentary photography. During the studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań and at the Film School in Łódź I focused on fashion-related topics, portraits and ‘beauty’ photos, meaning photos of models presenting makeup, hair and cosmetics. However, the fascination with architecture, interiors and the love of unique objects kept lingering in my mind.
I started fulfilling my dreams by furnishing my own apartment. It is a somewhat windy path, but I was convinced that only people with unique, almost supernatural skills can handle interior photography – absolute experts and fanatics of photography equipment who have mastered the technique and technology to an absolute perfection. For the longest time I was convinced that I do not have these skills and will not have them.
To be clear, I didn’t sit with my arms folded waiting for enlightenment and the skills to come. Definitely not. I am one of those people who when they dream about something, they turn their dreams into goals. However, I admit I was circling around the subject for a while – observing interior photographers at work, looking at albums and magazines, imagining how beautiful it would be if the dream came true…
I believe that if you really dream about something, the right moment will come. Despite the circumstances, which objectively didn’t favor interior design photography, one day I received an email inquiry about a series of photo shoots documenting projects of an interior designer. This is when my adventure with interior design photography truly began.
Publication of my first interior design session in the Weranda magazine in 2012.
Two years later I had my first publication and cooperation with the Weranda magazine has started, then the material in the Polish edition of Elle Decoration, awaited for the next two years. While writing this post, I realized that eleven years have passed since the implementation of my first interior design session!
For over a decade I have had the opportunity to see my photos many times and recently also texts in Polish and foreign magazines. Here you can see how these visual stories were compiled by different editorial offices.
What have I learned during this time? Above all, patience. The publication is the final result, which consists of so many factors that it is worth forgetting your attachment to the date when the session will appear in print. I will write more about the cooperation of JAM KOLEKTYW with the press in a separate post.
One of the photos from my first publication in Elle Decoration (2013).
Since my first interior design photo session, I carried out a lot of other projects related to home & living. Each of them was a different adventure and a different story. I was and still am extremely lucky to work with professionals, which, given my perfectionism, is a saving grace.
For several years now I have been collaborating with Ania Chmielewska, with whom I co-own JAM KOLEKTYW. During the interior photo shoots, Ania handles styling, and I prepare the creative concept, the shooting plan and coordinate post production. At the beginning, we always discuss the project and set the aesthetic direction, and during the photo shoot we decide together on the shots and the arrangement of styling elements.
When we implement larger and more complex projects with set design, we usually work together on the creative concept in the form of mood boards. Ania then coordinates the technical aspects, i.e. set design drawings informing the build out, and she manages the construction team.
Behind the scenes of a session for the Castorama magazine. For two years, together with the Saatchi & Saatchi agency, we have prepared a large number of creative concepts, rendering sketches and technical set design drawings for this brand. With the help from the PinUp studio, we had a large number of trucks transport styling décor and building materials for the set. We also spent a solid amount of time arranging it all for the photos. (photo: Jola Skóra, 2015)
The fact that our skills complement each other and the fact that we are so similar, and yet so different, results with me and Ania attracting extremely diverse projects and situations. At the very beginning of our collaboration, when we talked about what to focus on in our work, we came to a conclusion that we would not limit ourselves. Both of us are quickly bored of monotonous, repetitive activities – we yearn for challenges and find multitasking easy.
We decided that in addition to photography, styling and interior design, we also want to create creative concepts and set design. Thanks to this, we are never bored, we work with varied teams, evolve on many levels and implement projects combining various themes.
Myself (top photo) and Ania (bottom right photo) during the preparation and photo session for MyAlpaca. It was August, 30 degrees outside, and yet we were on the set from dusk to dawn with a collection of winter duvets and alpaca blankets. But it’s nice to sweat a bit for such a great brand. (2019)
Interior design photography, especially of private spaces, holds great significance to me. Why? Even though each of the photo sessions is an intriguing logistic puzzle, the moments that I find the most pleasant are when they come to life. I just love taking photos, and each shooting day is a different, new adventure.
Backstage of the first interior design session that I worked on with Ania. The decorations took up half of a truck, the preparations lasted a dozen of hours, and so did the photo shoot. As you can guess, we were thoroughly exhausted afterwards. But the effort was worth it – photos from this series have been published on the cover of the Polish edition of Elle Decoration and the Italian magazine Cose di Casa. (photo: Katarzyna Woynowska, 2015)
A short and concise video of a photo session Ania and I worked on in Gdansk Oliwa. The apartment was designed and renovated by Ania before the two of us met. Unfortunately, contrary to Ania’s suggestions, a local conservator renovated the family heirlooms, the so-called Gdańsk furniture, in a highly elegant style. It ended up looking as if it was covered with a thick layer of dark chocolate. Before taking pictures of the living room, we had to move these heavy giants – using felt and cloth underneath, so as not to scratch the floor. I would like to add that the photo shoot took place during the heat of June and lasted two full days. (director, camera operator: Anna Olga Chmielewska, 2017)
Wardrobe in a hotel apartment in Hamburg. In this profession, it’s good to stay in shape, and be lightweight and flexible, because you never know where the best shot will come from. (photo: Agnieszka Turosieńska, 2015)
he whole team must stay in shape – because you never know who will have to assist with hiding some cables under a desk. In this photo, Ania is organizing items under the desk. (photo: Jola Skóra, 2016)
An interior photo session lasting over 12 hours in relentless heat can make for an original gift. A gift that I received from Ania on my birthday two years ago. It was great, but since then I’m a little worried about the future gifts. (photo: Anna Chmielewska, 2018)
Photos and styling preparations are also an opportunity to practice moving objects. You can carry almost anything – bags, sacks, baskets, flowers, children, cats, bedside stands, tables or armchairs. Varying in size from small, through medium, to large and weighing from a few to many kilograms – dependant on the skill and experience of the helper. We carry together and individually. After several sessions one’s biceps will be stronger, but the spine might be weaker, if not injured. Our freshly painted nails also fall victim to the job – we know now not to do our manicures until after a photo shoot. We call this workout PROPSFIT – it’s an original name, patent pending. (photo: Jola Skóra, 2017)
I have implemented a number of themed photo shoots – i.e. for Christmas and Easter. These are very pleasant, but also very time-consuming and in need of a lot of styling preparations. Therefore, substantial budgets are necessary for these kinds of projects – and for this down-to-earth reason, for several years now, we have been carrying out such shoots for commercial clients only.
Christmas photo session for Weranda magazine. As usual, Ania spent the day prior on a thorough cleanup and décor arrangement, while I prepared a detailed shooting plan, so that we could concentrate on specific, selected shots on the day of the shoot. (photo: Jola Skóra, 2016)
A series of photos may sometimes form an animated story. In several time-lapse videos that we made for Pepco, we showed how to make Christmas decorations and how to pack gifts.
I remember when Ania called me saying that we should be able to cover this in a half-day. Not sharing her optimism, I prepared myself as usual: I rented a studio and lighting equipment, wrote detailed, frame by frame scripts for each film and planned post production. After a 16-hour shooting day, Ania admitted that it actually took a little longer than she had initially anticipated.
About half way through the photo shoot for Pepco. We spent 16 wonderful hours with a great team at the Foodoo studio. (photo: Jola Skóra, 2016)
Our optimistic visions are usually on par. A while ago, I was comparably skeptical about Ania’s suggestion that it is impossible to live in an apartment during a general renovation… After the first night spent in dust and among packed cardboard boxes, I decided to stay with my sister, but I must admit that I persistently resisted Ania’s recommendation (informed by over twenty years of experience) until the very last moment.
Why am I mentioning this? Because all of the moments when we do something new, when we learn something from each other, are unique. Because owing to the fact that each of us has different knowledge and different expertise, we complement each other so well. Because when one of us has a bad moment, the other one can offer support or take something over for a while. And because the moments when we disagree, but still want to get along, stimulate us to start doing something different than before.
By introducing some of the behind-the-scenes stories, I wanted to at the same time debunk the myth that my / our job is to just take several photos within half an hour and move around a few pillows. That we’re not in an impeccable outfit everyday, walking through a golden door labeled ‘SPLENDOR’. The fact is though, we have recently concluded that we have to take care of our well-being. It took us a while to understand that it’s the only way we can assure the highest quality of services to the companies and brands looking to collaborate with us.
Only extraordinary circumstances will have us organizing a photo shoot on the weekend, we try to keep our regular workday to no longer than eight hours, we charge overtime when applicable, and take at least half a day off to regenerate and take a relaxing bubble bath after an intense photo shoot. I practice yoga and have regular back massages since I started experiencing dizziness from overloading my spine with carrying photo equipment on an almost two-week photo shoot trip to Italy.
For many people, what I had listed is the norm. In our case, reminding ourselves of the importance of self-care had to become part of our to-do list – because we really love our work and will keep a project top of mind, but not always our own good. What about your ways of taking care of yourself and recharging after a long work marathon?