Respect the Animals: The Surreal Messages of Tomasz Zaczenuik

All images by Tomasz Zaczenuik. Used with permission.

When you look at the work of Tomasz Zaczenuik, you get the feeling of being transported to a place of pure magic. Mr. Zaczenuik is very passionate about animals and creating his photographic compositions to transport the viewer to a surreal world. A digital artist for 10 years, Mr. Zaczenuik has had his wok displayed in exhibits, galleries, etc. Like every other surreal photographer out there, he has a message to convey in his images.

But more importantly, it’s a message about the environment.






How long have you been producing these photo illustrations?

I started my adventure with post-processing around 10 years ago.

What inspires you to create these images?

Everything that surrounds us can be inspirational. In my case, things that affect me the most include music, journeys and places I visit, as well as animals and nature.

Does an image start with a traditional photograph, an illustration, an idea, or a combination of all three? 

An image starts with a totally blank, empty psd file. Sometimes I have a complete idea in my head, and I know what I want to create. However, sometimes the image develops during the process of creation. But I always start from zilch.

When you’re taking pictures, do you have an end result in your mind, or does that take place when you’re looking at your photos later?



70% of the time my final vision constantly changes as I create. It’s not unusual for me to completely change the whole project as well. It depends how it’s coming together (eg. Elements don’t fit together as I wanted them to) and also what my imagination gives me during creation. When you wake up your dreams, it could be like an avalanche of different visions.

Your images are wonderfully whimsical and surreal. Are there specific artists who you feel have had an impact on your approach?

I’m trying to develop my own way and my own style. I think it is a long-term process in my case. Maybe that is the reason  there is such a wide variety of styles in my portfolio. I love masterpieces by Magritte, Salvador Dali, and the Polish sci-fi artist Zdzisław Beksiński. You can call them my masters.

The subjects of your images seem to be representative of something significant. Can you talk about the deeper meanings of your images?

First of all, my main goal is to leave to the viewer as much space as possible for his own interpretation. It’s the power of surrealism, I think. However, every image has its own story. The majority of my work is somehow connected with nature, ocean, and animals. These things are most important for me.

A lot can be learned by something I said a long time ago:


You know, when I hear and read how people can be cruel, stupid, cocky, and full of arrogance to the world we live in, I feel ashamed. I feel sad as well, that I have to be part of that species. Don’t get me wrong, I only wish to live in a fully eco-educated society. Of course I’m not a saint either, I have a huge gas engine in my car, I need plenty of energy everyday, like everybody, so I need some changes too. But one thing for me was always clear – I will fight anyone who has no respect for animals. I do not accept that. I do not have any respect for those who don’t have respect for mother nature.

With the help of my manipulations I’d like to say NO to all cruelty going on around us against animals. Come on—are we really this bad? Can’t we change? I hope we can, because our nature is dying because of us.

Can you imagine life without animals? I can’t. They are not only our best friends, but what is more important that they are the necessary element of global nature balance. Without them we couldn’t exist. It’s very sad that our activities around the world make their lives so complicated, hard and dangerous. We have to do all we can to repair everything what we have destroyed.


It’s not only about saving endangered species. I also dream about the world in which all creatures could live in peace with human kind.

I decided to use animals as the main characters in my images. They are so much better than humans. It’s my own way to say “Thank you, Mother Nature, for giving me a place to live.”

What kind of reactions have you gotten from people online or in person to your photos?

Mostly very friendly, people want to know how it’s possible to make something like this 🙂

Do you have any exhibits, books or other “offline” projects going on or are in the works?


Last month, I had an exhibition in Paris, a slideshow on huge screen 14×8 meters. The topic: Environment and animals.

In August I was interviewed for Polish radio. These things keep me motivated. In the past I have cooperated with several  rock bands, I have designed whole cd cover booklet.

What kind of images do you want to do next, that you have not yet done?

I’m currently struggling with perspective and image depth. My goal is to create images in which perspective, and wide angle play the main role. Not only full-frame body and wide angle good lenses are needed, but the ability to build something like 3D vision from the beginning. I think I’m going to try more sci-fi topics as well.

Now, I’d like to get into the more technical aspects of your work. Could you walk us through the process of how you conceptualize and then create an image?  


I start always from a blank file. Next I choose and cut out from other photos elements that will fit together. Transforming, creating clear composition, rendering and so on…

When I have all elements needed, in high quality, and have formed a clear idea, the creating process takes about  one or two days. But some images are more complicated, with 50-100 layers involved. Those may take several weeks.

My whole project could change completely during the creation if I’m not happy with results I see, or I have better ideas on the way. Most of my images are in square format 50×50 cm in 300 dpi, ready to make a fine print. If some exposure corrections must be done, it’s possible in printing studio.

What tools / software are you using to create these images?

I use Photoshop. The best one and only. It offers huge huge huge possibilities and allows me to think unrestricted.

I really dig new creative cloud app from Adobe. It’s more affordable now and gives me more joy.


Do you sketch out an idea in advance, or does the process take place only on screen?

Mostly on the screen. I can’t draw at all!

How do you make the decision to do color or B&W?

I always start in color. It’s a matter of choosing and creating the right mood and atmosphere. Sometimes I just have this feeling, that b&w is one and only choice here.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to try photo illustration?

Be patient. Good results don’t come quickly. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Try to be original, and develop your own point of view. And most of all, have fun. For  me fun is at the first place. If you do what you love and what gives you joy, you become good at it!