Culture & Art

Jan Vala_Photographer of Revealed Beauty

What is the driving force behind your work?

Maybe it’s the thrill of what can happen, if it will be as I imagine, how much the final picture will change. It's interesting to see how everything is interconnected in mind. How different will be the pictures if you love or if you don't know the person which is standing in front of you as a model. How tired you are at the moment of creation. The best pictures I ever took were always in the time of desperate exhaustion after long work hours and very tiny sleep. Then you have to find the real driving force and it comes the clearest mind for reaching the picture you want. My driving force is also to see people reacting to my pictures. A photograph is a two dimensional thing frozen in time and space. It is hard to tell a meaning when there are no common symbols which everybody understands. If it’s just a portrait or nude study or a landscape. How can I bring emotion into this? That is what I am trying to do, I think.

What is your idea of beauty?

Beauty is something which excites for no reason. You see, hear or feel it and you are attracted. But mostly for me it starts with details and how the person speaks, behaves and reacts. What she does and how she thinks. It's fascinating to see how the interaction develops during the process. After hours of shyness and courage to fight it, I can see the imaginable-displayable beauty for the first time, the beauty which was hidden before. And the beauty in landscapes for me is the moment in which I am alone somewhere and left for hours just with my mind, often looking at the stars, feeling insignificantly small in this vast universe. Something you can’t capture, can’t explain nor define and has reasons just for you, being aware of it in that very moment.

Looking at your pictures I found a strong parallel between the nudes and the landscapes. I would be interested to know more about the analogy you create between the two.

The main analogy is that nothing last forever as nothing stays the same forever. We all know but we all see it from different angles and perspectives. Moreover is possible to capture it “without time” and visually connecting these two by using the same “handwriting”. Often the memory is not sharp in every detail. We tend to remember certain things more and certain things less. I use technical cameras to work with sharpness and perspective, since our eyes and brain can also be focused on weird combinations at the same perceived “moment". It can be one piece, one emotion, one memory or just what was the main trigger at that given moment.

When did you start being interested in Photography and specifically in women nudes and landscapes as subjects?

My interest in photography started when I was quite young. My grandfather -who was repairman of cameras who oil-painted landscapes in his free time and made amateur photography and 8 and 16mm films- gave me my first camera. Then at the same time my engineer (and philosopher and traveller) grandfather gave me my second camera. Afterwards my grandmother gave me a third one and I am pretty sure I confiscated some cameras from my dad as well. I loved cameras but none of them were ever working properly.

Most of the times were "barn-finds" that have belonged to somebody long time ago which I loved because I could experiment and understand why the pictures were bad and how to play around to make them better. I took a lot of really useless pictures of everything. Often the film was covered with the same picture from the same spot making different shapes and shadows. Or when it was an attempt to make a portrait - it was the same 12 or 24 or 36 images of the same expression. Perhaps I was obsessed to capture things because I couldn't live them properly in that particular time and I wanted to steal that moment and in some way go back in time.

Now I am living the present as much as possible and often I don’t even take photographs at all. I like the idea that it is not recorded. I don't take my cameras with me anymore on a daily basis and usually I take photographs just in my studio and on some location for landscapes. At first I was obsessed to have very sharp pictures, I was fascinated by Peter Lindbergh, Anton Corbijn, Weston, Stieglitz and Avedon but I was never able to match the sharpness, the beauty, composition and light. Now I am taking pictures often out of focus on purpose.

Could you tell me more about your studying and working path as photographer?

At first I studied drawing, painting and graphics, then guitar and piano and I started a photo-club. Then four years of Applied Photography at School of Arts and Crafts (the only school I really finished), then one year on Film Animation - in which I used the photography for puppet animation - in Tomas Bata University in Zlin and then four years of Graphic Design at Brno University of Technology, Faculty of Fine Arts. At the same time I started a studio with my colleague so I couldn't finish the University. I started working full-time as a graphic designer and did lots of books about architecture. I love the architecture. A man made landscapes, caves, rooms for emotions and life. At that time I almost quit photographing. I did only professional portraits for annual reports and advertisements.

Then I realized that I had to try to photograph my own work, and I didn’t know how to start. I spent lots of time thinking and then I realised I had to start by doing it regularly even if I didn’t know what I was doing. I only knew I love portraits, people expressions and feelings. And that is how these portraits, nudes and landscapes started. So I took pictures my whole life but I didn't really started until 2009.

After each shooting I realized something which brought me to the next shooting and other thoughts. I was very happy that the Kiyosato Museum of Photography arts acquired my pictures two years in a row and then I decided to go there. I lived in Tokyo for three months, in total otherness of things. A new perception of life. Calm stillness of the busy chaotic life.

I was very glad to participate on exhibitions there, in KMOPA and in Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. It was a great honour to see my pictures hanging few meters from Araki’s and lots of others. This year I am trying, thanks to one curator, to prepare a solo exhibition in Great Britain, I hope everything will go well. We’ll see.


About The Author

Author Photo

Veronica Posth

Veronica Posth studied History of Art at the University of Glasgow (UK) and Florence (IT) specializing in Contemporary Art and Modern Museology. After some years working in a contemporary art gallery in London and collaborating with a creative association promoting Contemporary-Urban Art and Electronic Music in Florence, she gained a Master in Exhibition Design and Curatorial Studies between Florence (IT) and Berlin (DE). She lives and works in Berlin as independent curator and art reviewer. Her main interests are related to contemporary art, dance and music.