Interview: Do You Know Fashion Photographer Emil J. Bilinski?
by Jonathan Hines
Polish born and Austrian raised, Emil Bilinski graduated from Business School then went on to study Photography and Communication Design. He spent some time as an Assistant, working for various Photographers throughout Europe, including Andreas H. Bitesnich and Bruno Bisang.
Basing himself in Vienna, Emil then started his career as a freelance photographer, concentrating on Fashion and Beauty subjects. He has built up a strong reputation, producing work for numerous international brands such as Schwarzkopf, Playboy and L’oreal.
Jonathan: Tell us about yourself, where did all of this begin for you?
Emil: It all began when I was very young. I worked in the “Kunst Haus Wien” Museum and gallery where my father worked as an exhibition coordinator.
I was very lucky, as I got work with a lot of world renowned photographers such as Anne Leibovitz, Peter Lindbergh, Herb Ritts, David Lachapelle just to name a few…
Totally fascinated by their work I decided to take some photography lessons. This was where I started my first real experience with photography. The course inspired me to learn more and I went to art school in Vienna, (Höhere Graphische Bundeslehr- und Versuchsanstalt) where I studied photography and communication-design.
Jonathan: Describe to us your first real shoot that you can remember; where you were, what you were doing and who you were doing it with.
Emil: This is easy! I would never forget it because it was a unique experience; a photographers first shoot is once in a lifetime!
It was a free shoot to build up my portfolio. I organized a bikini shoot at the Neusiedlersee (Neusiedler-Lake) with a small team to assist. It was such a good experience organizing the shoot myself. It had a great atmosphere working with a team like a professional. From this moment I realized that my photography career was going to be for real. After finishing the post-production I went to some magazines with the images. The first magazine I contacted bought the story straight away. I had my first long term client!
Jonathan: What has been your most rewarding achievement as an artist?
Emil: The most rewarding achievement for me is the fact that I can work as a photographer and do it my way. Everyday I can be creative and produce something that expresses what I want it to!
For me, who I work with is another rewarding aspect of my work. For example, I really enjoy working with Austrian hairdresser called Hairgott. We have worked on four shoots together and we have even won two categories of the Austrian Hairdressing Award. Well, when I say ‘we’, I really mean the hairdressers, BUT it was a sentimental achievement for me!
Jonathan: When you first started, what was your biggest dream? And have you accomplished that?
Emil:When I was younger, I dreamt about being a creative artist; working for clients all over the world and presenting my work in exhibitions.
Now I’m progressing as a photographer there are a lot of interesting options arising. I have put on some small exhibitions in the past and I am working on doing more. Every day brings something new and I have lot of ideas for shoots, exhibitions, design projects, films and art books with my images.
Jonathan: Who’s your favorite photographer?
Emil: This is a difficult question! There are so many great photographers who inspire me. If I had to choose only one, I would have to say that the biggest influence is Peter Lindbergh. I met him once, and I have to say that he is not only an amazing photographer but also an amazing person.
Jonathan: Who do you draw your inspirations from?
Emil: I always try to keep my eyes open, I find inspirational themes everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you see, everything can give you inspiration…places, streets, landscapes, people, (the most beautiful and the ugliest!), situations, events…even happy and sad moments.
Sometimes I catch myself dreaming, so I get up at night and make some storyboards and sketches!
Jonathan: What has been your favorite shoot so far?
Emil: My favorite shoot was for a men’s magazine in the Alps. It was winter and the client ordered a bikini and underwear shoot! The whole crew went to a cold and windy location in Tirol. The model was tough! Everyone was in thick jackets, scarfs and gloves and the model ran around in only t-shirts bikinis and jeans!
Jonathan: Has photography always been a part of your life? Is it something you’ve always planned to do as a career?
Emil: Actually I wanted to draw; especially comics, but after I finished photography school I thought that this is what I want to do. It is always helpful to draw storyboards. People with who I am working with have a chance to understand my idea much better. They don’t have to imagine everything. They can see things like I want it.
Jonathan: When did you know you finally made it as a professional photographer?
Emil: After having consistent work for two years I realized that I had made it. Clients were satisfied with my work and I no longer felt like I was a newcomer to the industry. I grow professionally each time I get a job and push my own boundaries as an artist.
Jonathan: You’re signed with photo agency Factory311. What are your expectations, and what do you hope to achieve in Europe?
Emil: I think it is a great opportunity for me to be in touch with such as creative people. I am looking forward to what’s on the horizon for our collaboration. I am really looking forward to my work being promoted by them. I have lived in Austria, Germany, Italy and Poland maybe it’s time to go to Paris, London or the US!?
Jonathan: What is your opinion about photographers with an agent/agency, do you think all photographers should have one?
Emil: There are some good agencies and some not so good ones. I think that the main point is to find a way for communication on both sides, with trust being a huge element. It is up to the individual photographer if he/she wants to work with or without an agency.
Photographic agencies have a very important role in the industry. They have the responsibility to contact the clients, produce contracts and agree production terms. I believe that this is important so that the photographer can concentrate on their own creative vision, whilst the agency takes care of the rest! I think it is important to be represented.
Jonathan: What are the major factors/most important things about having an agency?
Emil: Expanding your contacts, the freedom it gives you to be creative, and the support they offer. Constantly pushing you to be the best you can!
Jonathan: What’s on the horizon for you?
Emil: At the moment I am working on personal projects. I really want to make them them happen and hopefully they will be completed by the beginning of 2011. In regards to the future, I am open minded. I want to meet more creatives to work with to produce some amazing images.
Jonathan: In your own opinion what are 5 tools that a photographer cannot live without?
1) The right attitude and positive energy.
2) Respect to the people with whom you work.
3) A good team who you can really trust.
4) A compact camera (I always carry one with me). You never know what is going to happen! What you might see, new ideas and inspirations.
5) Coffee and cigarettes!
Jonathan: In your shoot ‘IMPACT’ how did you manage to create, seemingly such powerful ‘explosions’ so to speak of the powder paint or is it a trade secret?
Emil: Well!…I did it in my studio, which is in my flat. The makeup artist mixed chalk with different colored powder paint. We filled buckets full of different kinds of colors and with a shovel and a wind machine we threw it on to the model and then intensified the colors in the post production. The only problem was that I had to clean my studio and flat for the next 4 days!
Jonathan: How did the models react to being covered in powder paint?
Emil: It was one model’s first ever shoot so she was totally motivated and didn’t complain once! I cannot imagine how hard it was to get the powder out of her hair but I think she’d agree, the end result was totally worth it!