Interview by Gabriel Galindo – Junio 2023
The interview began with a message on Instagram after liking a post by photographer Angelika Kollin. It was a seemingly insignificant gesture that generated a connection between Fotógrafo No Fotógrafo and the Estonian-born artist based in Tampa, USA. From there, we engaged in a dialogue that invites us today to reflect on the powerful influence of human connections.
Through her words, you will discover her approach to capturing emotions and magical moments. Her images are an invitation to recognize and celebrate love, to experience encounters, to feel relationships and to connect with the fundamental elements of nature.
Angelika Kollin in an interview with Fotógrafo No Fotógrafo
FNF: How did you start approaching photography? ¿ Why do you use the language of photography to tell stories?
Angelika Kollin: Photography entered my life seamlessly; its presence grew from my teenage years invisibly and intuitively. No distinct moment or event could be marked as its arrival. A yearning to capture people through the lens grew stronger and stronger within me until photography became my artistic medium and the tool of self-discovery.
I love photography for its realism and ability to capture reality’s raw essence. Yet, I work with it to also show my viewer the magical, invisible, and divinely present. Photography is a conduit that allows me to reveal the divine presence around us, often hidden from plain sight. Through this medium, I try to unveil the ethereal and the unseen to those who view my work.
- FNF: You are the photographs you take. What do the photographs you take tell about you?
Angelika Kollin: Through photographing the so-called “others,» I discovered profound insights about myself. I frequently describe my work as autobiographical, as it undeniably reflects my journey or some parts of it. As my photography evolved, undergoing various stages and transformations, I too, found myself immersed in a continuous cycle of change. It is a process where the shifting elements co-occur, making it difficult to discern which is transforming first – my photographic practice or me. The interconnected nature of this evolution continues to unveil itself to me, revealing a symbiotic relationship between my art and my personal growth.
- FNF: In your photographs you have explored the human bonds. Particularly, between fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons. What did you take to work on this topic?
Angelika Kollin: Despite embarking on these projects driven solely by my intuition, as with all my creative undertakings, I quickly discovered that I was inquiring into the depths of my childhood. It became apparent that there was a profound unconscious yearning within me to use art to reenact the experiences I longed for as a child. I became aware to what extent I still long for affection and love in my relationships. Through this realization, a transformative effect took place within me. This body of work, filled with gentleness, nostalgia, and imagination, gently softened my personality, opening a greater capacity for vulnerability and trust. It catalyzed personal growth, unlocking understanding and emotional depths I had yet to explore.
- FNF: Motherhood and fatherhood have gotten a new sense for you after developing the series You Are My Mother/Father y Song of Psalms?
Angelika Kollin: Yes, I could feel and simultaneously show a new depth of emotional connectivity and presence. There was a definite change in my relationship with my mother. New understanding also played a specifically detrimental part in our project, “Song of Psalms,” as leading the viewer to the emotions underlying the strong narrative was my wish. I intended to guide viewers beyond the confines of stereotypical or limited perspectives and encourage them to empathize with the protagonists on a deeply emotional level. Underneath different appearances was the same message: the universal longing for love, family, and belonging. I firmly believe that it is through these emotional bonds that we can truly discover our shared humanity.
FNF: Your photographs elicit emotion, what do you do in order to produce these emotions?
Angelika Kollin: I believe that capturing emotions through photography necessitates a genuine connection with those emotions, an experience that begins by authentically feeling them within oneself. Alternatively, if one lacks that emotional resonance, it is crucial, to be honest and transparent about it. I believe this openness and honesty allow for an authentic exploration of one’s own experiences. An example of this approach is my series titled «Tales of Intimacy.» In this work, I confronted my struggle with creating deep connections and experiencing genuine closeness with others. By openly exploring my inability, I created a space for introspection and dialogue, embracing an authentic representation of my journey. Without complete sincerity, the true power of any form of art to convey emotions cannot be unleashed.
- FNF: There are constant elements in your series. Nature, physical contact, the water, the earth, and the wind. Why did you choose these elements and what is the meaning you give them?
Angelika Kollin: Nature and our connection to it hold an immense significance in my life. With its inherent wisdom, nature demonstrates the various stages of our human existence, from birth to childhood, aging, and finally, the passing of time. I firmly believe that one of the major challenges modern-day humanity faces is diminishing contact with the natural world. In my artistic endeavors, I strive to guide my viewers back to the essentials, presenting real people photographed within environments that are accessible to most of us. By grounding my portraits in nature, I evoke associations with the seasons and cycles of life. I aim to reignite a deep admiration for nature, encouraging a reconnection with its timeless teachings and fundamental truths.
- FNF: How do you work to make sure you catch on the stories and experiences in an authentic and respectful way? How do you avoid recreate stereotypes and visual exploitation?
Angelika Kollin: I firmly believe that the key to authentically capturing someone’s story lies in allowing the protagonist to be the narrator, free from our own preconceived notions. It is essential to step back, create space for their unique perspectives, and simply listen. Especially in my post-documentary work, I invite the protagonists to take the lead, recognizing that they are the storytellers at the end of the day. Additionally, thorough research and acquiring knowledge from diverse sources are equally vital. Depending on the specific narrative, engaging in meaningful conversations with individuals who embody the story can provide invaluable insights. For instance, I find immense value in connecting with younger generations, actively listening to their views and opinions that often diverge from those of my own generation. I continually expand my understanding and grow as an artist by remaining open to learning and receptive to different perspectives. The willingness to be teachable becomes a pathway to capturing stories with depth and authenticity.
- FNF: How do you approach representation and ethical responsibility when you portrayed families and persons in vulnerable socioeconomic situations?
Angelika Kollin: Though it varies for each individual, my approach remains fundamentally the same as described above. It is crucial for me to have a clear understanding of my own motivations and be able to answer the question, «why.» I am committed to avoiding any portrayal of my protagonists as victims of their choices or circumstances. Instead, I aim to convey the reasons why I find this person remarkably powerful and inspiring. Through all my work, I aim to exhibit our fundamental sameness, emphasizing the importance of treating everyone equally.
- FNF: What is your connection with the people photographed? How do you reach them and what happens with those bonds after you develop your piece?
Angelika Kollin: I am against a consumerism approach, particularly in fostering connections with others. I place the utmost importance on establishing meaningful relationships within my artistic practice. Connection and a sense of belonging are the central themes across all my work. I wholeheartedly dedicate myself to this pursuit. It is not uncommon for me to develop friendships with people I photograph, and these bonds often continue to deepen beyond our initial encounter in the creative process. In a few instances, I continuously document their journey as time unfolds. Otherwise, some connections extend beyond the realm of photography, evolving into lasting friendships. Unfortunately, there have also been few occasions where I have photographed individuals who have since passed away. In such cases, I maintain contact with their families and play a role in preserving their memory. It is of utmost importance to me to treat people with utmost respect while upholding their stories and legacies.
- FNF: Your work is getting even more attention. Which is the message you would like to leave in people who approach your work?
Angelika Kollin: Discover an area in your life where you can serve others and become a positive change, contributing to our collective humanity even with the smallest steps. Inspire others by the way you live your life.
- FNF: What is your biggest learning as a woman and photographer with the work you have done?
Angelika Kollin: Learning to connect with people and relate to them.
- FNF: what visual conceptual elements do you keep in mind when you do a portrait?
Angelika Kollin: While I may be aware of certain parameters, such as working in monochrome or choice of clothing, my primary focus when photographing someone is consistently and unwaveringly centered on bearing witness to their true essence. To truly «see» them. You could describe this approach as a meditation or a prayer, as I create space with my protagonists for that profound energy to come into play. In a way, it’s a cosmic gamble :-). The body of work you see is the outcome of embracing this philosophy.
- FNF: Which advice you won’t ever give to someone who is starting in photography?
Angelika Kollin: To photoshop people.
- FNF: What nourishes your visual culture?
Angelika Kollin: Connecting with people, traveling, and occasionally watching arthouse movies are among the factors that shape and enrich my visual culture. However, some of my most profound moments of inspiration have come from immersing myself deeply in nature. The beauty of natural landscapes and the stillness they offer intensely impact my creative vision. Moreover, my lifelong love for spirituality has been a constant source of inspiration, deepening my understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. These diverse influences collectively contribute to my artistic expression.
- FNF: Name 3 photographers do you recommend.
Angelika Kollin: This is very difficult, as I know so many that I want to recommend:
Eman Ali, Marisol Mendez, Mauricio Holc
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