“I’m not an artist, but a big child.”
Ondřej Janů firstly sniffed to photography from the opposite side, as a model. But when he made out his first ambrotype, he knew he found what he was looking for. He finds inspiration in modern art and refuses to be labeled as artist.
How would you characterize yourself as a photographer?
I am trying to use each photography media from medium format through digital photo to wet colloid process. I would probably rank myself among fashion photographers, I move in this direction, while this can be hardly recognized in my free creation.
Why a fashion photography?
I have worked and still today occasionally snap on the opposite side of the camera as a model. During this work, I had the opportunity to witness a profession of photographer, sniffed to this work and realized that I would like to work and would like to live like that. Since I had no camera and no funds for a long time I was just waiting and waiting until one day I said it can`t be like this any longer. I dug out an old camera inherited by my grandfather and slowly began to experiment.
Your heart matter and medium of expression is wet colloid process.
I was impressed by creation of photographer Sarah Moon on large-format Polaroid. I liked the atmosphere and the imperfection of these photos, so I was looking into how to get closer with this form. I passed through various workshops, I tried platinotype, oil print and gum print. All of them were nice but it was not exactly what I wanted. Luckily, these workshops are attended by people who are interested in different historical techniques so I met one of them Zdeněk Řivnáč who referred me to Vašek Smolik who is dealing with ambrotypes. Mr. Smolik tortured me a bit; he gave me various tasks that I had to fulfill to introduce me to the mystery of this technique. When I did the first picture I was clear that this is a medium that I was looking for. I did not need to seek for it anymore.
Apparently you do not consider yourself as an artist. Why?
I use to say that I am not an artist, but a big child. With my creation I am totally free and I do not address any major philosophical questions. I rather play and use what medium offers. I am trying to go my own way and not to look left, right; I want to be free in what I do.
You take photos also for an order. What is the difference between your commercial and free creation?
Yes, I try to. I shoot reportage, fashion photography, tests for models. In the wet process, it is best that nobody can affect it. Hardly someone knows the process and because it is so challenging, people let me do my stuff. Within the contract of course I have to fulfill assignments, which is sometimes confining, but sometimes I create such things to my portfolio which I would not expect. Often shooting campaigns leads in a great evening with good results.
Did you take a part on exhibitions?
I attended several small exhibitions in Prague, individual and common and I also had an exhibition in Budapest, where I presented creations with a specific intervention whether by engraving, adding color or collage.
What is for you the inspiration to creation?
I take inspiration from the modern art. For example I go to the National Gallery to see lectures of modern art where I feel some inspiration from the various artistic styles. Then I try to get this idea into photography, capture basics of each painter. Modern art is thus probably my strongest inspiration and essence of my work. Plus of course, music and movies. For example last time I was listening to Nirvana and with a headset on my head I was trying to express emotions of the music by scrapping into the plate.
What are you currently working on?
I create spontaneously and from one day to another I get an idea and so I go to portray it. For example, recently I have been with my girlfriend to the movie at the cinema called nympho and from that time I have got an idea in my head about one work to do.
What is your the biggest success so far?
Achievements. I am not a person who would deal with this entirely. For me the success means that I can live from photography and this is the most beautiful thing which can be. Exhibitions are of course fine, but it is always a temporary affair. The exhibition begins and ends and then a man cannot even remember it. I was, for example, nominated for Czech Grand Design, which is certainly a success. But as I said the priority is somewhere else.
Interview by Romana Juhásová / Robert Vano Gallery