An Interview with Polish photographer Przemek Wozny: Blues, however, is energetic and spectacular

"The key to great pictures is to show the emotions that accompany the artist."

Przemek Wozny: Travel to another dimension

Przemek Wozny is a freelance photographer born and still living in Kalisz, Poland. He focuses on broadly defined music photography, concert photography, street photography and photojournalism.
Always fascinated with people, their lives and emotions. Eager to grasp everyday images neglected by others and getting a new meaning in a photograph. Always trying to tell a story with every photo.

Interested in capturing authentic situations appearing for a short moment in the everyday chaos. Attracted to street photography by its unpredictability and the feeling of almost complete invisibility in the crowd. Cherishing the past moments that have been successfully captured in a photo.
Jazz culture is an object of his particularly strong artistic fascination. He has had an opportunity to photograph numerous artists from all over the world playing in clubs and on stages of many festivals. His photos express his affection for music and true admiration for the talent of the portrayed artists. He tries to grasp their energy, emotions, commitment and mastery. He is a member of the internationally renowned American Jazz Journalists Association (JJA).
Taking photos, he searches for authenticity and spontaneity. Resents staging and artificial light of a flash. Apart from photography, he is active in the field of graphic design. He is a founder and owner of a small but dynamic interactive agency operating since 1999. He is involved in web layout design, graphic design and corporate identity design. Since its foundation, the agency has been focusing on the interactive marketing services and multimedia solutions for small and medium enterprises. He loves backpacking trips: spontaneous, long and extraordinary.


Interview by Michael Limnios


Przemek, when was your first desire to become involved in the photography? What does “photo” offered you?
On most of my childhood photos you can see a camera hanging around my neck, but I would lie by saying that the camera was always with me. Although I started my adventure with photography early on, in the beginning it was only a fleeting romance. I returned to photography just before university, when I began to professionally work in graphics design. These are areas that complement each other and photography was an important part of my job. In the meantime, I started travelling quite extensively around the world (backpacking it is still one of my greatest passions), and the camera was an essential part of my journeys. And to be frank, this was really the beginning of my adventure with photography. I have dealt with fine art music photography from the time when I was offered to capture some stills for a friend, who is a jazz musician. My shots were appreciated and my work was made into an exhibition accompanying the trio for several consecutive months. Later, new orders began to flow and so it is until today.



Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
Everything is just in front of me.


What do you learn about yourself from the photography and music?
Analogue photography has allowed me to know myself, taught me patience, humbleness and discipline. Music is for me the best way to escape from everyday life, a travel to another dimension.


What are some of the most memorable shoots you've had?
I feel great fondness to all my photographs. I attach great importance to the whole process of selection of the photos, and it is about so difficult that the vast majority of shots are well thought out and not accidental. Photographs that do not pass the selection are to be hidden forever. Maybe that's why all my publicly presented works have such a value for me and I am not trying to favor any selected images, because they are all equally important to me.



Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
The best time probably has not yet arrived. I hope so, at least. Certainly the best moments are when the job I do is appreciated, and the artist is happy with the final result. Once an experienced and respected musician, whom I photographed said to me, after seeing my work that these are the best shots that anyone has ever made of him. It was so damn nice and such moments motivate for further development. The worst moment? There were not many (or perhaps not at all), and if something went bad it just happened so quickly that I forget about it. I'm quite optimistic and have a positive attitude to life, so I try to quickly forget about instantaneous failures and never go back to them.


How does the music come out of your lens?
The key to successful photography is to understand the artist and what he wants to tell us. Before the work of a photographer begins, two sensitivities meet - the one of the musician and the one of the photographer. My father, who is a musician, had a big influence on my musical sensibility, which is an indispensable part of the work of the stage photographer. He taught me to listen to music and capture the best out of it. Always before the concert, I introduce myself to the artist’s works, I read a biography and browse websites dedicated to the musician. If I don't know the artist's work and I have no albums in my record collection, I buy or borrow them from my friends. I listen to the music all the time - at work, during walking, jogging or driving a car. The key to great pictures is to show the emotions that accompany the artist. For the first few minutes of the concert, I observe the artist and his behavior, I allow him to create an atmosphere and contact with his audience. When most photographers finish their job, I am just getting started. Of course there are events during which the time for taking photos is limited and we work under pressure, then - unfortunately - a little bit of luck and experience can help.


Who from the musicians you have shoot, had the most passion for the image & camera lens?
There are quite a few of such musicians, but I can give you an example from recent months. Last year I had the pleasure to photograph Kenny Neal and Randy Crawford. They are amazing personalities, very energetic, charismatic and they quickly make the contact with a photographer. I love to take pictures of black musicians whose distinct features and unique facial expressions along with appropriate lighting give excellent results.


What advice would you give to aspiring photographers thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
Concert photography helps developing observation skills and the speed of the frame selection. You have to anticipate and predict behavior of musicians in order to not miss anything. You should always be in the center of events, while remaining undetected and try to shoot in a way to move the audience. I wish everyone to find their way in stage photography and strive for the best shots. Also, an important element is the equipment, which in the case of concert photography is essential. Spare no expense on fast high-end lenses. Sooner or later, this investment pays for itself.


Which memory during of your shooting makes you smile?
A unique gesture, facial expression or smile of a musician into my lens when pressing the shutter button. I also get a lot of joy when the musician is satisfied with my photos. Such nice positive reactions give a lot of strength and energy for the next few months.


What do you feel is the key to your success as a photographer?
Hard work, perseverance and ability to learn from your own mistakes.



BW or Colors and why?
Black and white photographs in case of jazz, and color for blues photographs. I adopted this principle at the beginning of my adventure with music photography and I try to hold on to it. Although there are exceptions, but only for special requests of customers. It is important that the decision was already made during the shooting. I represent the school that recognizes that jazz has always been and always will be black and white. Black and white photos are extremely efficient in transferring emotions and highlight the great contrast, while jazz plays into the thinking and calms down. These two pieces of the puzzle perfectly blend with each other. Blues, however, is energetic and spectacular. Blues artists are often willing to touch surprising areas of music - hip hop, reggae or African music. Also, they put more effort on creating the mood and atmosphere. Blues concerts are well lit and all the elements of color photography are visible and do not interfere with reception.


Digital or Film and Why?
Digital photography has given us free access to equipment and faster and cheaper processing in the digital darkroom. The answer is obvious - digital of course, which can reduce costs and allows for quick corrections of any shortcomings. Sometimes I go back with fondness to my old Olympus OM-1 and I use a few rolls of film, but only to acquire successive layers of humility and patience - the opposite of digital immediacy.



What is the strangest desire that someone have request in the shooting?

One artist, during one of the biggest international festivals, wanted to be photographed only during... the first piece, which was an intro and lasted a little above a minute. And by the way, is very popular in most festival to limit photographing to the three (or even two) first compositions and I am confused by this issue. I have no idea who started this trend, but it was rather not a person with any idea of how our work looks like. So I appeal to the organizers and the artists! If such restriction has to be imposed - that's fine, but let it be the last three pieces, not the first three ones! Then the artist is already warmed up, full of emotion, and the photographer can learn the artist's expressions, gestures and way of moving around the stage through the whole concert and will not have a problem with taking good shots.


Who are your favorite musicians, both old and new, would you like to meet and shoots?
Most of the musicians that I would like to photograph, unfortunately, are no longer with us. I can mention here such names as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters, Duke Ellington or John Lee Hooker. Several of them passed away when I wasn't even born. I hope that someday I will have the opportunity to photograph Taj Mahal, B.B.King and Herbie Hancock. These are my favorite artists whose work I really appreciate. List of musicians from both the elder and the younger generation, I'd like to meet and photograph would take probably a few typed pages, so I will not mention them here. Fortunately, there is a lot of in front of me, and certainly the wish list will shrink, not grow.



Is there a photo that you made by mistake, and now you're proud of?
It happened to me several times that in a small club, I was pushed by dancing crowd and I accidentally changed the exposure settings on the body. There are a few shots that I caught in this way, for example, with long exposure time. Maybe I'm not proud of them (after all, they were made by mistake), but they are worth to be showed and it would be a pity to throw them into the trash.


Some music styles can be fads but the blues and jazz is always with us. Why do think that is?
Both genres are eternal and will never pass away. The artists are bringing up everyday life themes, they sing about everyday situations, what happened to them, or about things that happen to virtually everyone, regardless of their age or origin. In addition, listening to that music allows us to be inwardly calm and forget about our problems. Most of us like it when the situation is akin to our personal one, because it makes it more credible, and the lyrics and sounds of blues and jazz songs are just like this.


Przemek Wozny's official site   Wozny's blog


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