Take Me To The Place - Interview with Karol Liver

Take Me To The Place
Interview with Karol Liver, Interview by Ciara O'Halloran
(originally published in prism #06)

Ciara O’Halloran: Who is Karol Liver?

Karol Liver: I am a polish photographer based in Dublin. My main focus is studio work. A year ago I launched prism Photo Magazine, which is strictly dedicated to contemporary photography phenomenon. As a photographer and artist, I am currently represented by the Copper House Gallery in Dublin.

The essence extracted © 2008-2011 Karol Liver

How would you describe your work?

My personal studio work explores the nature of human body, its sexuality and identity throughout conceptual portraiture and fine art nude. My main field of interest is body language and how it is used as a tool of expression and emotional release. I use classical approaches to studio portraiture and pay a lot of attention to visual side of my work, concentrating on both colour and shape.

How did you start shooting professionally?

I’ve been keen on photography since I was given my first camera as a gift from my father, an oldschool 35mm Zenit E, a special Moscow '80 Olympic Games Edition, when I was 15 and have been taking pictures ever since, but only recently, for the past five or six years, photography has become my source of income and my yellow brick road I still follow. I’ve decided to leave everything else behind, quit my Monday-Friday jobs, never look back and give all my free time, enthusiasm, commitment and devotion to photography. I’ve also realised that camera can be a tool of trade and a tool of expression at the same time. I am currently actively focusing on three areas under the same flagship: studio photography, prism magazine and photography related event management. I don’t think I would ever be able to function without this trinity anymore.

What commission or project of yours are you most proud of?

I never considered myself to be a commercial photographer, more of an artist and I am not a big fan of commissioned work in which you are usually being told what to do and how the final ‘product’ should look like. The bigger the commission is, the less freedom of choice and own interpretation is being given to the craftsman, so I prefer small assignments or totally free-hand collaborations. In 2009 I have worked as a theatrical photographer for The Grotowski Institute in Poland, where I had an unique opportunity to be a part of numerous international festivals, including the acclaimed Premio Europa Per il Teatro, spectacles and grand premiers from World’s top directors, such as Krystian Lupa, Rodrigo Garcia, Pippo Delbono and Pina Bausch. That was a wonderful experience and some of my photographs from that period have been later published in many journals including the New York based ‘The Drama Review’.

Portrait of a girl who disappeared completely © 2008-2011 Karol Liver

How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired?

I am surrounded by inspirational arts, events and a bunch of talented people driven by passion. That’s my main source of inspiration. I collaborate with photographic studios and galleries.  I am constantly in search of new inspirations, meeting all kinds of artists and doing a lot of research by myself - for both my photo shoots and prism magazine. The word ‘boredom’ has been successfully erased from my dictionary. I’ve never taken any bigger steps towards serious photography course or full-time study. Instead, I have followed a path of self-education and discipline to absorb as much knowledge as possible.

Could you reveal some of your favourite photograph techniques?

I’ve grown up with film cameras, my heart will always be given to 35mm B&W and medium format, but I hardly ever do film these days. I mainly use a digital camera due to its instant nature and accessibility, wide field of post-processing techniques. I am an advanced Photoshop user, but not a crazy photo-manipulator. I use my own textures and tend to limit the palette down to few colours to emphasise nuances of the whole picture. Most of my recent work has been done in a studio space. I use artificial light. I sometimes do a bit of digital art too if in the mood.

Revisited / Untitled  © 2008-2011 Karol Liver

What can we find around at your workplace?

As said, I do most of my work in a studio space. I am not a technical freak, all I need in my studio workplace is a set of lights, I usually use a set of two soft boxes, a wall and a person to work with and a big dose of understanding of what’s going to be achieved. I hail to simplicity and tend to limit all factors down to one - so only pure expression is left.

What other artistic genres influence you?

Funny thing, I am inspired a lot by non-visual art, music in particular. Listening to music creates a wave of subliminal imagery that can be transferred to a photographic medium. This is truly an amazing experience to feel and transfer music of your own, inner visual language to a defined visual form. While editing I always listen to my favourite artists and seek out for inspirations in between their lines and tones. As an emotional being I like to be exposed to extremes and music can get you there in a blink of an eye. Music can also influence the way you concentrate on editing the final picture. I am a big fan of Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Chris Vrenna’s “American McGee’s Alice” and movie soundtracks in general. I’ve recently discovered Soap’n’Skin, this girl is a gem in the sea of commercial, plastic kitsch. Books inspire me a lot too.

Take me to the place / Untitled © 2012 Karol Liver

Is there any emotional connection between you and your work?

Emotional factor is a crucial part of my personal work. Emotion is to be engraved on the surface of an image. It will last as a reproduction of someone’s feelings and that includes the emotions of the photographer. The emotional aspect attached to each image is what matters most to me and it’s usually achieved on a mutual, conscious agreement of confidence between a photographer and a person photographed. No artist can say that they are emotionally disconnected to his or her own work - art is, after all, about expressing yourself through various mediums and finding a way for that expression, sometimes even exhibitionism to be seen and, if lucky, accepted by other. If any particular part of oneself is to be seen on the picture it has to be truly felt, shown, captured and explored. When depression is to be shown a model has to feel depressed, her body has to be wrapped in that state. When it comes to editing I will also do anything it takes to experience that emotion further and feel that tension too. A girl started to cry and was not able stop the teardrops for an hour. I was shocked, then worried, then delighted to have this opportunity to shoot her... I still don’t know what the pain was all about, but I know it was real.

Which artists and what art movements inspired you most?

I am inspired by Jan Saudek’s work. I feel heavily attracted to his visions and admire his talent. I love H.R.Giger’s sculptural fantasies, the rawness of Francis Bacon’s imagery, Salvador Dali’s surrealistic landscapes and emotionally disturbing aspects of Edvard Munch’s paintings. There is no particular art movement that inspired me most and I feel like I’m discovering something new every day to keep myself constantly inspired. It can be a theatre play, an old daguerreotype photograph, a video on youtube, a quote from a movie or a video game soundtrack – there are limitless inspirational sources around us. I steal a little bit from here and there.

The birth and the future of prism?

I established it in May 2011 as a free, online publication, my very own tribute to photography. It feels like yesterday but it’s already one year old. It was officially launched in tandem with PhotoIreland 2011 Festival and soon became a successful, leading magazine in Ireland dedicated to contemporary photography phenomenon. We have a growing audience of over five thousands views per issue, I believe its future is bright and promising and I plan to develop this project further into advanced stage of press publication, annual photo books maybe, in the near future. Prism supports many photographic initiatives and curated exhibitions. At the moment we’re collaborating with PhotoIreland Crew again in order to deliver a special issue dedicated to this year’s Festival.

Take me to the place / Untitled © 2011 Karol Liver

Any advice for other artists, beginners and experienced alike?

Let your instincts guide your behaviour, keep pursuing white rabbits, it’s all about the chase after all, isn’t it?

Karol Liver (b. 1981) is a Dublin-based studio photographer. Having worked as theatrical photographer for The Grotowski Institute, the most famous polish theatrical institute, he had an unique opportunity to be a part of numerous international festivals (including the acclaimed Premio Europa Per il Teatro), spectacles and grand premiers from World’s top directors (Krystian Lupa, Rodrigo Garcia, Pippo Delbono, Pina Bausch and many others). Liver’s theatrical photographs have been widely published in various magazines and journals including the New York based “The Drama Review” and other theatre-themed journals in France, Italy, Poland and Slovakia. His personal work has also been awarded prizes and commendations in commercial press contests (Playboy’s Fotoerotica 2011).  In 2011 he has established prism Contemporary Photography Magazine. His personal studio work explores the nature of human body, its sexuality and identity throughout conceptual portraiture and fine art nude. His main field of interest is body language and how it is used as a tool of expression and emotional release. He is currently working on a new body of work.

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