piątek, 9 maja 2014

Seduced by the bass. Translation: Rafał Wierzbowski (Pangea Magazine)

fot. Bogusław Mastaj
She spent her childhood in the bathroom, which her artist father had converted into a makeshift darkroom. She took her first pictures when she was four years old, with a DDR-made reflex camera "Exakta". She is fascinated by nature and ordinary human lives. Monika S. Jakubowska graduated in English language studies, and her passions are journalism, poetry, radio and the visual arts. She wanted to become a war photographer, and take a picture that would change the politicians' minds and alter the course of history. The incorrigible dreamer stayed in Great Britain instead, where she takes photographs of London’s every-day reality. Sławek Orwat interviewed her.

Sławek Orwat: When did your passion for photography start?

Monika S. Jakubowska :A long, long time ago, beyond the mountains, and forests and. I was about three years old when I started to observe my dad taking photographs. I followed him around with a photometer on my neck, and I would accompany him in his darkroom which was our bathroom, adapted by him into a dark room. Surrounded by basins, an enlarger and a lot of other paraphernalia. Basking in red light, I eagerly executed the tasks I was given, such as pressing water out of the photos on a dryer (laughter). I spent hours in there.

SO: And when did you take pictures of a jazz artist for the first time?

MSJ: I was 17, and I went with a crowd to a festival of sung poetry, "Poetry in Gałczyński" in Prań, near Ruciane-Nida. Back then I took photographs more as a memento, rather than thought-out, artistic shots. During the show I had the pleasure of seeing live the trio of Janusz Strobel, with Piotr Biskupski on percussion and Mariusz Bogdanowicz on double bass. I was very impressed with the concert, especially with the double bass's soft tones, and I took some keepsake photos.

Gwilym Simcock
SO: Why do you like to photograph jazz artists of all people?

MSJ: I've been living in London for a few years, and I was lucky to find my way into the Polish artistic community here. Many of them are very talented jazz artists. Taking pictures during their concerts I quickly came to the conclusion that London is an uncompromising city - you have to be above average here, to simply keep up with the rest. And the best have madness in their eyes, or fingers. They are obsessed, simply exultant with their love for jazz. When you listen to an artist like that you know music is his life. I press the shutter-release button the moment he is overwhelmed with emotion, and he awakens this storm of feelings in me. But it would be unfair if I said that only jazz artists are real, and they're the only ones I like to photograph. Every kind of music that touches my sensitivity stirs up my emotions, which I share with the world through my pictures. But I am drawn to jazz. Maybe because there is no room in it for falseness? Instead there is a large dose of unpredictability and improvisation. Maybe that is what jazz and my photography have in common.....

Richard Sadler
SO: What are your greatest achievements in the field of jazz photography?

MSJ: I take photographs because this is how I communicate with the world. Pictures are the most precise forms of expression for me, and the successes happen along the way. Some time ago one of my friends called me "an incidental artist", and I think she hit the nail on the head! And getting back to achievements - I call them "a series of fortunate events", and they include publications in the press and meetings with the "great and the good". Huge events for me were not only the first assignments in Ronnie Scott's, Pizza Express or the Royal Albert Hall, but also the opportunity to do an interview with Marek Karewicz. It feels good when strangers approach me and say how much they value my work. Moments like that drive away any clouds of self-doubt I have. I do what I love, I'm open to other people and success hasn't gone to my head. I think I manage to keep my good sense and my feet on the ground.

Royal Albert Hall
SO: What equipment helps you in your work?

MSJ: Full frame Nikon D600 and a few spare lenses. Because jazz likes dimness I had to buy so-called "bright" lenses.

SO: Who from the world of jazz have you not yet photographed, and who would you want to?

MSJ: Most importantly Pat Metheny - I still remember his music back from my family home, and from my student days. Beautiful sounding guitar and perfect arrangements! There is a chance that in June I will be able to lock Pat up in a frame (laughter). He is giving a concert in London, and I have a ticket in my drawer. The next one would be Leszek Możdżer, as I always seem to miss him by a whisker! He has been in London many times, but I never manage to see him live. I imagine there is great harmony in him, cohesion between the material and spiritual. And finally Lars Danielsson, the wizard of the double bass, which by the way is my favourite instrument. There is something captivating about it.

SO: You have pictures of famous musicians in your portfolio. How did you managed to capture them in a frame?

MSJ: It’s all because of a series of fortunate events, and also probably in large part because of the respect people have for my work. I have taken photographs of such famous people as Steve Hackett, Nigel Kennedy, John Etheridge, Norma Winston, Liane Carroll, Gwilym Simcock and Mark Fletcher. But the overwhelming majority in my portfolio are Polish artists: Adam Bałdycha, Krystyna Prońko, Tymon Tymański and also representatives of the Polish rock scene - Kult, Hey or T.Love.

John Etheridge
SO: And which of the jazz musicians do you like to photograph the most?

MSJ: I will answer a bit cheekily: the double bass players. I adore this instrument, and I believe the musicians have a special, intimate bond with it. I remember one picture of a double bass player, which I took in Ronnie Scott's jazz club. I was particularly happy with it. Apparently I wasn't the only one, because the photograph made its way to the club's official website.

Photos: MSJ Photography

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