In Conversation with Agnieszka Sejud
by Maya Hristova·
We met with emerging talent Agnieszka Sejud to talk to her about her work on the 'Mimesis' project, the ways her art has influenced her personal life, and her collaboration with Karolina Wojtas as part of the KWAS collective.
How did photography become your medium of choice?
I remember the technological change from analog to digital happening when I was still a child. When I bought myself my very first gear, it was a cheap Soviet 35 mm SLR Zenit 12 XP. I was also always into drawing, painting, but I never developed satisfactory skills. In my early teens, I ran a blog with my friend and we were drawing illustrations in Microsoft Paint. Then, during high school, I abandoned all the artsy stuff and my life became more common, dull and boring. I was partying a lot at the time, had some not so good relationships and depressive episodes. One day I felt I needed to do something with my life so badly or I was going to die in desperation. This is when I visited a photography course and the legendary Olympus Mju II became my companion for the next few years. This was in 2014. I was studying law and already in my third year when I decided not to become a lawyer. I felt it would have made me even more miserable. However, I finished my studies and I'm a master of law now. Photography became an addiction, I just like intense feelings. Currently, I study photography at the Silesian University in Opava.
In your creative process, you sometimes use straight photography, but often you modify your images using collage, adding different types of digital manipulation. This spontaneity brings the essence of your creativity to the foreground, without letting any formal considerations get in between. What was the formation process of this visual language?
2018 was a crucial year in my formation as an artist. I was working a lot and this photo manipulation thing actually started with a single image. I just shoot girls, as you know, in some alternative fashion or strange portraiture style. That day I was shooting with my friend who lives with two cats. I work mainly digital, so of course, taking too many pictures is an eternal issue for me, as my approach remains rather experimental and accidental. This also has to do with zero waste thinking, I don’t regret having too many images that I would never delete.
So I took some pictures of Ewa in that strange hiding-away pose on a set I had designed out of satins. During the post-production, I noticed these cats on that photograph and some others I had taken that day. So, I just cut the cat out and multiplied it on a single image. And it was fun, I laughed to myself and since then I've surely become more aware of the utilization of this process.
Your images break away from any notions of linearity, unpredictability in space plays a huge role; the characters in them are sometimes specific people, and sometimes almost disappear, while the environment takes the role of the subject. What are you looking for when creating an image?
It’s hard to name it using words. I just know what I’m looking for without trying to be rational about it. I attracted to colors, patterns and occasionally hiding people in my images. I like having fun while I am working.
‘Mimesis’ is a work about hiding while being quite personal and revealing project. What did you learn in the process of working on it?
The process is always very surprising for me. I hardly plan anything ahead, instead, I just start working and things happen. It's a very inquisitive experience when you turn off your rational evaluative mind and just let the other parts of your brain go. During this process, I'm confronted with my inner issues and it helps me get better at handling them. I learned to just let things happen without judging them to be good or bad. Now I'm just letting myself fail and take “bad” pictures, make “bad” postproduction, against all the advice I have ever heard about photography. Imperfection is key, while I've gotten better in my work technically and communication-wise with my models.
There is a certain duality to the concept of mimesis. The one hiding could be both the prey and the predator.
'Mimesis' was inspired by a biological phenomenon and personal experiences. In the animal world, camouflage can be achieved by different methods, such as by assuming colors and patterns which resemble the background. Mimesis means that the camouflaged object looks like something else which is of no special interest to the observer. It is common in prey animals, for example when a peppered moth caterpillar mimics a twig, or a grasshopper mimics a dry leaf. Camouflage could be used by prey to avoid being detected by a predator or by the predator to avoid scaring off their prey. Mimesis is also widely used in the military. Using a camouflage is an effective way to stay hidden and unnoticed, thus feeling safe. Hiding from the external world was always tempting for me.
In my adolescence, I used to imitate the behavior and appearance of other people. I do not do it anymore and it is a relief. I've reconciled with myself, but I still have to spend a lot of time alone to feel well and to properly connect with my inner self. I feel too much among people. Hiding is my way of escapism.
Do you feel better understood as an artist than as an individual?
No, but I don’t care anymore. I just do what I like to do. It's my way of working too - I prefer to act spontaneously, follow my visions and just create images, one after the other. Then I edit them, I think and try to say what it's all about. I presume that as humans, we are all made up of more than our rational mind and listening to or trying to connect to the subconscious is significant, not only in artistic activity. 'Mimesis' is about hiding and pretending to be something else. But I don't want to hide anymore. I would rather uncover.
You're also a part of the KWAS collective together with photographer Karolina Wojtas.
Yes, during our work together we found that it is so much easier to stand as a collective than as an individual. You just separate your work from your being. So, if anyone is struggling with the lack of courage, I advise them to make a collab. Criticism is necessary for improvement and I gain it mostly at my school, from teachers and other students and it always gives me power and more motivation to work. Of course, it can be difficult, but in the end, it’s only the opinion of one person, so it shouldn’t be treated as prophecy.