Dorota Gorecka Fell In Love With Photography Using An Empty Studio

“My intention is to get the viewer interested in what the model is thinking,” says Dorota Gorecka of Poland when I ask her what gets people so engrossed in her portraits of women. She began playing with photography equipment in the unused studio at the advertising agency she worked at. Spending more and more time here led to her getting hooked on photography. She specializes in working under natural light conditions and working with models to produce moody photographs.

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Conceptualizing a solid idea behind a photo series is something not a lot of us do. We tend to get inspired and try to somehow recreate the mood or look of a photo we’ve seen somewhere. But how many of us sketch down ideas that come to us and then experiment with different lighting and various lenses to create that vision we had? Dorota Gorecka gets some of her inspiration from Dutch painters of the Golden Age period. She looks out for places that appeal to her and then tries to work with available light at a visually striking time of the day. Some of these portraits had me staring in awe.

The Essential Photo Gear Used by Dorota Gorecka

Dorota told us

My first camera was given to me by my husband, as were all the others, and it was a Canon amateur SLR. This brand is actually with me until today.

The Phoblographer: Hi Dorota: Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.

Dorota Gorecka: I live in Poland. I started to take pictures when I was a mature woman in my forties. At first, I thought it was too late to start something new, but soon I found out that it was just wrong thinking. I met many fantastic middle-aged people who started their adventure with a new hobby with great enthusiasm and joy.  It charged me with good energy, and I no longer thought about how old I was but about the fact that I wanted to take pictures. My husband, who is a photographer himself, got me interested in photography. From the very beginning, I knew that the subject of my photos would be a human being. At that time, I worked in an advertising agency which had a photographic studio. It was standing empty; nobody was using it. I thought it was a great opportunity to start playing with photography there. I started inviting friends over to take pictures. The meetings were lovely, and we all had a great time. After a year, I knew I would always do this, that I needed it and that it made me happy.

The Phoblographer: A lot of your work focuses on the female physique. Please, tell us more about this.

Dorota Gorecka: I like a certain type of silhouette. Petite, young women with virtually no strongly defined gender features. Androgynous even. I don’t want to show their bodies in a sensual way. I prefer to emphasize their femininity with a delicate pose.

As for lenses… today I prefer zooms. My favourite lens is Sigma 24-70 mm from Art series. I actually do not take it off the body. This lens gives me a lot of freedom of shooting. I often find myself in places which do not allow me to take a step forward or backward.  Standing in a very cramped, cluttered room or, for example, on a stone in the middle of a rushing stream, thanks to the variable focal length of the lens I have a chance to get a frame that I have just thought of.  

The Phoblographer: Tell us how you approach a shoot. How do you collect the ideas needed for it, and what kind of preparation (emotionally and otherwise) goes into an on location shoot.

Dorota Gorecka: I usually start by finding an interesting place. Once I find one, I think about how to use it in an interesting way. By place, I mean a place in a particular light (at a particular time of day). And this is the moment when I decide which model I’m going to invite to the session, what outfits or props I’m going to use. I arrange the outline of several frames in my head. I can’t take just one picture. I always make at least a small but coherent series. I usually go to the sessions with a lot of equipment. Apart from the obvious backpack with photographic equipment, a few outfits, a comb and a box with cosmetics, I take with me: a secateur – sometimes I need to cut something, rubbish bags – to leave the place as it was, snacks – for me and my model, water – to drink, towels – to rub or wipe off the dirt. Recently, I’ve also been taking a tripod with me on every session. In dark rooms, it helps me to safely extend the exposure time, and sometimes I use it to create a multiple exposure in the photo.

The Phoblographer: There’s also a lot of emphasis on the outdoors and models / subjects losing themselves in distant stares. What are some of the thoughts that bring about these frames?

Dorota Gorecka: This is actually a question for the viewer. My intention is to get the viewer interested in what the model is thinking. In most cases, my models are also actresses who are great at showing planned emotions.

The Phoblographer: Most, if not all social media platforms, are censoring the female body with different standards set compared to those for men. How hard is this battle to fight against and why do you think such platforms are still so rigid about it?

Dorota Gorecka: This is a difficult subject. Personally, I do not fight the current rules. I try to understand them, and I know that it’s extremely difficult to make a judgment about which photo has artistic value and which is already pornography. I think that such a judgement is very subjective. I also don’t fight because there are nevertheless platforms that show artistic nudity. I’m thinking, for example, of “PhotoVogue”, “Iconic Artist Magazine”, or all the competition platforms (like IPA, FAPA, MIFA, TIFA…) where the awarded photos are published. Large image servers such as “500px” or “Flickr” also allow the publication of nudity, although with restrictions.

The Phoblographer: Solitude, disconnect and loneliness are recurring concepts in your work. Does this arise from some personal experiences you’re trying to portray?

Dorota Gorecka: Absolutely not! I try to introduce peace and quiet into my photographs, which I really appreciate, so the models in my photographs are thoughtful, slightly sleepy, almost absent. Loneliness in its negative sense rather than not. It’s more of a distance to the surrounding world, which is in constant motion. A kind of an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.

Recently, I have also become interested in traditional photography. I use a large format camera to take pictures in wet collodion technique. I also have 4 old Polaroids.

The Phoblographer: I enjoy the classical art feel that many of these images have. What traditional schools of art have influenced your work?

Dorota Gorecka: Most of us have seen the works of the Dutch painters of the “Golden Age”. Unusual portraits by Rembrandt or scenes from life painted by Jan Vermeer delight us to this day. I’m sure that in some way, their works influenced my photographs. I’m not inspired by their particular works, but I think I subconsciously transfer certain characteristics of their style to my work. In my pictures, there is usually one source of light, the figures come out of deep shadows, and the whole color scheme of the picture is limited to just a few colors.

The Phoblographer: Do you find that your models are easily able to bring about the expressions you’re looking for when you work with them on moody portraits? How challenging or not is this?

Dorota Gorecka: I work mainly with professional artistic models. They are used to showing their feelings. For them, it is very easy. 

The Phoblographer: Is it your preference to work with natural light, or do you mix artificial light as much as possible when you work outdoors?

Dorota Gorecka: I prefer to work in natural light. If I’m outside, I never mix lights. Let everything be natural.  Indoors,  I also try to use the lighting conditions that are there. 

The Phoblographer: What unexplored emotions are you hoping on working with in the near future?

Dorota Gorecka: Are you asking about my emotions while I’m taking photos? If so, know that I am not going to change anything. I still want to get excited. But if you’re asking about the emotions that might show up in the photos, then I think they will be kept to a minimum.  I have two very geometric projects planned.

All images by Dorota Gorecka. Used with permission. Please visit her  FacebookInstagram500pxTumblr and Flickr pages to see more of her work.

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Feroz Khan

Never seen without a camera (or far from one), Feroz picked up the art of photography from his grandfather at a very early age (at the expense of destroying a camera or two of his). Specializing in sports photography and videography for corporate short films, when he’s not discussing or planning his next photoshoot, he can usually be found staying up to date on aviation tech or watching movies from the 70s era with a cup of karak chai.