PortretIn many articles and for several times I came across the name Peto Ondrejkovic, mainly in interviews with young photographers. A lot of them said he is their photographic idol. It started up my curiosity. Who`s that mysterious photographer I know nothing about him? So I started browsing on net. And surprisingly nothing showed up. The only thing I was able to find was his official website, full of many beautiful photographs, but no interview, no picture of him and no history.
Our editorial board decided to ask him for an interview. We obtained no CV, but we can proudly offer you a very interesting reading together with great pictures.

What photography means to you and how did you get into?

Photography is for me a phenomenon which I try to understand. And how did I get involved? I don`t remember that. Probably as everyone else. My father captured me with a naked butt on some blanket and after he was proudly showing it to me. I suppose it happened like that.

What is your opinion on today`s photography, or let’s say the art scene? Do you watch the production of other artists?

I don`t understand today`s modern or fashion photography and let’s be honest I don`t want to.
Czechoslovakia was a big photographic power. We had big names and things to adore. There were many skilled photographers and even unrecognized authors did great photos. But recently, nobody is looking for inspiration here. Maybe when somebody wants to learn how to crap it up… We are very good in that.
These days are more complicated not because we are behind the times. Everybody shoots today and that`s not bad. We have learned to use internet space and it gives us the false confidence, power or uniqueness. We are overpowered by the amount of galleries, where almost all pictures from the memory card are spilled out. Many people are losing their common sense and a big problem rises up. In that crap you are almost not able to find something valuable, what is good and is worth for stopping by, or even for admiration.
But despite the facts above, I enjoy having a look at the portfolios of today`s authors as it is also didactic, if I don`t like it.
In general, I prefer Russian artists to whom I have closer relationship and understanding. I like their ability of (just at a first look) rude, straight and chaotic expression which is full of subjective reactions, moods and thoughts. They are able to transform it into arbitrary form or shape and that is what fascinates me. Maybe just because they disproved the fact, that the basic form of lyrical manifestation is the verse.

© Peťo Ondrejkovič
Are you able to live just from photography?

Ufff! If you are asking if I can live just from that, the answer is no. I have to help myself with graphic and design.
But if it is a general question, under some conditions, yes. The lack of self-respect, respect to others and their works are the fundamental prerequisites of being successful in photography here. What else can you expect in this time and society, where everything is rotten, built on payoffs, good connections and machinations? I don`t see the reason why it should be different in photography. Who buys off… enjoys.
But it is general question and the answer is also so sketchy. There is a group of photographers who experienced it but many of them from several reasons are not able to catch today`s trend. Not only old geriatrics but many of them are different smart asses who caught the right moment but that times are gone, they have lost their connections, there is no work anymore, they did not fit to extra doors or under the table. So they are caught in this marasmus sitting in pubs with slobbery faces in eternal alcoholic rush. They are sending whole system to the hell beating the table with their fists and calling themselves artists. They are still alive, clinically.
The muscle from the question is what we imagine and how we define the measure and time based on which we consider after if we lived good or just survived.
Last but not least is the question, how artist manage the role of PR manager and businessman in one time. Finally, I think this is even more important to become self-reliant. But again we are dealing with self-respect.
Despite that, these “photographers” are the most famous one and enjoys the big popularity. They have become synonym of the great and successful photographers of today.

What do you think about the opinion that almost everybody is the “professional photographer”?

It depends on point of view. I have never thought about it. But I can see three points of view. Photography, photographers and clients who just see it through the prism of price.
For the photography itself it`s not important. There isn`t bad influence maybe even vice versa because it gives more place for talented photographers who can show up. For the history of photography is not important how many pictures are forgotten. The most important are only those which remain. Many of them are nameless.
But I think that from the photographer’s point of view, it plays a big role. At first, that sentence “Today almost everybody is a professional photographer” is used mainly in the photographic society and represents the fear of power and amount of possible competition. Along that, the connection “almost everybody” probably should imply the inflow of self-called professional photographers.
Let’s be honest. That moment, when some Joseph who yesterday dug the sewer or played football in 12th league and today is a professional photographer and a stiff competition for us, this is the right time to sit down, evaluate the situation and our possibilities. Simply go somewhere else. To keep that thinking is not sick, it`s already death.
The reality is, there exists a strong fear of new graduates and not a fear from self-taught photographers. But that`s our attitude. We always have to point to the wrong direction and not to ourselves. We rather change the discussion to something else, something uncertain than to risk a confrontation. And we sleep well.
There are many schools and universities which produce great number of graduates. Thanks to the popularity of photography, the amount of graduates is high comparing to the size of our country. Theoretically, it should be a great asset. I had an opportunity to discuss this topic with many of them but I was surprised, that they were taught more how to survive than how to shoot. But I have to say, it`s rational.
This is of course the reason of antipathy, fear and subsuming into that packet mentioned above -“almost everybody”. We lack their youth, wildness and knowledge. I understand the point of view of others, but I strictly disagree. I want to believe, that thanks to them the world of photography will return again to the regular direction.
But I am still surprised, how many lessons they devote to history, techniques etc. and nobody told them about trivial thing i.e. that “Sun is the only object with no contour.” I was persuaded by one graduate of our famous institution of art about the fact, that they have never tried the basic exercises with shapes like die, cone or sphere. I do not think about the harmonization of picture concerning the shapes or tonal lines, I mean the light, which is the key. I do not know better way of understanding how light affects the composition of the image. And again the basic thing “Where there is light there is shadow”. You could think of banalities, but these things are really important if you want to make a good composition.
Despite my thoughts above, I think education is the only way how good photography can survive. These graduates are real professional photographers, so the statement “almost everybody” lacks sense for me. I truly believe and hope that they will guarantee the core and heart of photography.
Photography has arisen to be one of the fine art techniques. Almost for two centuries it wasn`t so it has found itself in the world of commerce. It would be loss if it died, especially now, when it is accepted fine art technique. But I have to confess that the increasing of self-named photographers is great and it can lead to devaluation of the monetary value, because they are usually willing to work for less money. I think this the reason why others photographers criticize them.
All in all I agree. Do we really want each client at any cost? Sometimes I feel like that light is the only thing which is not corrupted in the world of photography
From my own experience I can say if some client ask just for the price (the best price in their meaning is for free) I rather give up because in many cases it`s just another pratfall. I rather pass this honor to other nippers. I wish them good luck from the deep of my heart. If somebody shoots whole wedding day and sign a contract which force him to deliver 1000 – 1500 pictures for 200 – 300 EUR, he is an idiot. I know it` an expression for medical diagnose but I meant it as dirty word.

© Peťo Ondrejkovič
Along commercial shooting you have a free creation. Do you like it as relax after work? Do you enjoy it?

Commercial photography pays my bills. I can`t say, I don`t like it, because there are many orders which are connected to fine art. In the past, my pictures (free creation) were parody of human stupidity and I enjoyed it very much. I could find inspiration anywhere, just by looking or hearing. Later on, I somehow lost that compulsion. Sometimes I feel it and I make a picture, but today it is more about searching for… Way of life? A truth? Always for something. But what you can find at my website is just an illustration of possible. Actually my portfolio on my website can be considered as a free creation, because I have never published a client’s photo.

There are several photography techniques at your website. Can you tell us a little more about them? I.e. what is “hand printing”?

There are several techniques of hand printing. Mainly it is graphics and not photography but the photography can also be a source of it. The result is a graphical sheet. It`s really not complicated it`s like lithography. It allows printing from the form, which can be made from any material. I make a sheet by Arabic gum and bichromates and cover it by oil color. Afterwards the picture is printed on paper and the rest depends on brush.

Others techniques, which are presented on my website, are cyanotype, oil printing and argentotype. I`ve got a feeling there are also gum prints and brome-oil but I have to say I am very lazy in updating my website, so I really don`t know is there. But I put a big importance to quality of selected materials and printer.

© Peťo Ondrejkovič
Which printing technique is your favorite one?

I like cyanotype and argentotype. Everybody underestimates these simple techniques, but they deserve bigger attention and respect. I like them because of their simplicity. I am lazy. Sometimes I use more complicated ones (oil print, brome-oil, gum print) but I need a serious reason. Almost whole last year production is made by oil print. I still have some samples but I can`t look at it again as I am still pissed of how are they wavy. If they didn`t have such character this technique would be my favorite one, because the process itself is a real delicacy.

When did you shoot naked woman for the first time ? Do you remember it?

If my memory doesn’t trick me… So it has tricked me….
I do not understand why there is such importance attached to “naked woman”. Although, it does have meaning it is quite different from that which is connected to it. I don’t remember when it was, or who she was, or where it was, so we cannot talk about some memories.

Women are very critical to their body. What do they most dislike on photos?

This is not a custom. Certainly I would not throw them all into one group, but I understand where your question is pointing.
The answer is – if so, women itself ;-). Photography has many attributes. It got them along its existence and probably each of us can find something unique inside it. One of them is, “the picture – is the cutest lie.” A picture with this attribute is the one which generally attracts women and girls. The role of the photographer is to fill these ideas and move them into a reality, in which they are happy and do not act like a smart ass. Everybody can think what he/she wants. Photographic image has always been manipulated and the truth is that the model was not aware of it. A clever photographer distorted this truth in a very decent way and somehow more plausible.
But seriously, this is not the norm – thanks God. They are women, knowing their quality and shortcomings, who are confident enough to forbid photographer to do any manipulation because the picture wouldn`t show reality at all. There are not many of them, but thanks God they exist.

There are also those who do not hesitate to rape the reality, but it must be in at least imaginable limits – lift the breasts, narrow hips, reduce butt, etc., at least in part, but preferably in a believable rate to improve the image to some imaginary vision of the ideal beauty.
And finally there are those who are easier to paint than to take pictures. Their dissatisfaction claims and the vision of photo they want, all it comes from the knowledge that the current style of image manipulation is boundless and unlimited. Their desire for some sort of abstract perfection and beauty overshadow common sense or judgment and they do not hesitate to take a picture on which is some ethereal and imaginary being, without the basic shape of photographing subject.
But there is the opposite extreme, a lack of self-criticism, self-importance and cataract whenever a near mirror occurs. But this is probably the most common issue of mothers and daddies.

What importance do you put to the composition of photo or picture?

Composition is a basic thing for me. Personally I consider it as a key and the only thing which I want to handle it as close to perfection as it gets and to create a perfect picture. I see a real art in this – the knowledge and ability to transform every theme or just the only topic into the ideal composition. It’s simplified, but probably the best and reasonable comparison which I am able to think up.

Which shooting was the greatest experience for you?

Shooting porn as a stand for a friend. Every time I remember on it, I feel sick.

Have you published or do you want to publish any book?

No! And I can say that never will, for sure. For more than one year we were preparing one book and when I finally read it viewed and thought about the content and meaning, I have come to the conclusion that is not the way…
Sometimes even I have problem to follow my own ideas, to become familiar with them and to understand them and to want the same thing also from others and ask money for, that`s sick.

© Peťo Ondrejkovič

What technique do you use?

Analog versus digital? If you mean photographic technique I don`t care which one I use, the problem occurs afterwards in image processing. As I am so lazy, messy and comfy I prefer digital. The major advantage lies in the fact, that whenever it is possible to take a step back without any damage. So the maximal damage is a waste of time.
In fact, in all my mess, few times it happened that I lost my rolls, inserted roll into the tank and poured fixer instead of developer, even I managed to pour a bleach, which for some unexplained reason, was in the same container in which I safely knew that there was developer prepared.; -) and so on.

You are an icon for many young photographers. How do you feel about it?

I feel surprised ;-)

Is there something you would like to pass to our readers?

Good light…

© Peťo Ondrejkovič