BELLA KOTAK – An interview by Nina Sever

Bella Kotak – More than just a dream 

There is a huge work behind her photos, but she actually goes with the flow, she remains open to the world and the world offers her infinite opportunities and combinations. There is a back and forth effect between her brain and the camera, she definitely knows how to deliver the idea to her models and how to touch the soul of a viewer. The connection Bella creates with the women she shoots is tangible, maybe it comes from the self-portrait experience, maybe it’s just innate sensitivity.
It doesn’t matter where you are with your body, because when you look at Bella Kotak’s pictures you wander with your soul, your mind is tickled by unexplored lands of consciousness, you are timeless, spaceless, and I think the most beautiful thing in the art is exactly that sense of escape. This woman definitely knows something about it.

Dear Bella, why do you feel like creating artifacts so far from the reality we all know? Smoke, flowers, incredible dresses, dreamlike atmosphere… Is that somehow a representation of your inner world?

 One of my favourite memories is sitting by a window as it pours with rain outside and in my hands is a book full of fantasy and magic. My body in here but my mind is present in another world entirely. I don’t read many fantasy books now but I’ll never forget how they made me feel. I think it’s that connection that drives the realities I create in my work. A part of me still believes that magic exists and I want to create the same sense of escape for someone else that those authors created for me.

Where do you get your ideas from? What’s the first thing you look for, the concept or the location and the model?

There’s not one thing that I look for in particular. For me ideas flow from many directions. Usually it’s either the model, or the location, a song, anything that is the catalyst for creation. I keep my mind open and let my thoughts merge without pressure. My inspiration comes from the search of creating a connection with the viewer and my work.

How do you choose your models? What makes you think they have the right face and body to represent your project?

I find that now and then I’m drawn to a particular feature on someone, sometimes that eyes for example, the colour or the shape, sometimes it’s hands, other times it’s the particular angles in a face and so on. When I shoot I try to convey and amplify that essence so that it’s almost otherworldly.

 Do you take self-portraits? I know you posed sometimes, how did it feel? Did it help you to create a better connection with your models afterwards?

Yes actually my journey began with a self portrait a day. It was a huge learning curve and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants to progress quickly. I learnt a lot about what it means to be in front of a camera and how important communicating your vision as a photographer is to a model.

 Bella Kotak_selfportrait

 

Let’s get a little bit deeper into the creative process! What happens during your shoots? Tell us about your ideal day.

What happens during my shoots and my ideal day are two different things haha! On shoot days I wake up early so that I have time to prepare any props that I’d be using for the day. Now and then I like to use fresh flowers to use for head pieces or create garments with. If I’m shooting with a team they will all start arriving at 9 or 10am. We’ll spend a couple of hours getting ready and once that’s done out to location we go! At the location most of the time is spent creating the scene, so anything from finding the perfect spot, light tests, clearing out a place where I’d have the model, placing the model there, snapping a few test images and building up the picture from there really!

What if something doesn’t work as expected? I know you live in UK, which means that the weather might betray you sometimes, or maybe the location is crowded, or the wind is too strong… What do you do?

I go with the flow! I’m a firm believer that everything will always work out and if the weather doesn’t co-operate perhaps there’s another option that I can use instead. The pictures might even turn out better for it which has happened a few times! I’ve been doing a lot of workshops lately and on the shoot days we’ve had super hot weather, bright sunny days and the locations I wanted to use were no longer an option, instead of getting frustrated about it, I moved about and worked with what I had and in that process created one of my favourite pictures to date! As a photographer you have to be open to adapt.

 Have you ever moved out of your comfort zone? Have you ever created something that had nothing to do with your usual projects?

All the time! In the summer I take on a few weddings and portrait sessions that are vastly different to the work that I share on social media. It was out of my comfort zone before but not anymore. Last year I put together a beautiful editorial that was shot in a studio and that was certainly out of my comfort zone. In the end it worked out beautifully and the shoot got published.

 Can you talk a little bit about your series “Portraits in Bali”? It does have something different, what is it?

 Well since it was shot in Bali during a time that was hugely transformative for me I like to think that it holds an essence of things to come. The portraits were a mini project to pull me out of a rut that I’d fallen into. I wanted to create imagery that felt alive, colourful and beautiful. This then lead me to my In Bloom project once I returned back to the UK.

 Bella Kotak_portraits in bali

 

Thank you for your time Bella! Can you leave us with you telling something about a day that has nothing to do with photography? What do you do when you don’t shoot? I imagine your mind wandering and getting constantly inspired anyway, but how?

A day without photography is usually spent travelling, exploring new places, going to galleries, hanging out with friends, but even then I might have my camera on me or capturing moments or inspirations with my phone! I don’t think a day without photography exists for me haha!

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Bella Kotak

Nina Sever

July 7, 2016