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Leave your phone alone.

© Joanna Kulesza, Creek, 2017

© Joanna Kulesza, Creek, 2017

“I think my strength comes through when the road gets murky; I ride it out and try to learn from whatever I am facing.”

Name

Joanna Kulesza

Profession

Freelance Photographer / Photo Editor 

Website

joannakulesza.com

© Joanna Kulesza, 2018

© Joanna Kulesza, 2018

Who are you? What do you do?

I am Jo – a freelance photographer based in Austin, Texas. I do commercial type work such as weddings and headshots for income while also creating longform personal photo projects that are documentary-focused.

Where are you from?

My parents immigrated to New York from Poland, and I was born in Queens, NY. We eventually moved to the suburbs of Long Island where I spent my childhood. 

Your style in 3 words?

Intuitive. Multicolored. Humanistic.

© Joanna Kulesza, Creek, 2017

© Joanna Kulesza, Creek, 2017

Your weakness? Your strength?

I can be painfully self-deprecating and naive at times. I also often wrestle with the dichotomy of wanting to be both a recluse and an extrovert. I think my strength comes through when the road gets murky; I ride it out and try to learn from whatever I am facing.

What makes you different?

I grew up surrounded by traditional American families but my family as a whole didn’t assimilate to those norms because we are first-generation. This sense of feeling inherently different from the traditional culture around me was something I resented as a child but now cherish as something special. I often feel different in general but I don’t always know why.

When did you decide to become a photographer?

I remember falling deep into photography when I was 12 years old. The obsession followed me and when I found out I could continue studying photo in college, there was no other option that I would even consider. I took me a long time to self-identify as a photographer – I did not assertively proclaim that I was a one until many years after college. 

What do you find most fascinating about your work?

I think I constantly circle ideas in my head but the ones that actually come to fruition are the moments of actual doing rather than planning. The possibilities are endless if you just get up and go.

A few words about your favourite creation?

I was particularly proud of my senior thesis project, Uniformity. It was the first time I explored entirely new equipment and subject matter. I remember the immense challenges that accompanied doing something totally unfamiliar. I also remember when the images started to take shape in amazing ways that I did not plan for. The feeling was indescribably exciting.

© Joanna Kulesza, Uniformity, 2013

© Joanna Kulesza, Uniformity, 2013 

Someone else’s work that inspired or inspires you…

As a kiddo, I was crazy about Annie Leibovitz’s iconic film portraits. In my later years, I became very inspired by classical paintings and photographers who had simple approaches to their work. Seeing the work of photographer Rineke Dijkstra was huge for me – I had never seen portraits like that before.

A new project coming up or an idea you want to work on?

The tentative plan is eventually move to Poland to create an expansive family album of my entire extended family that lives throughout the country. I want to discover how deep my roots go.

Finish the sentence „More important than my career is…“

Creating relationships with people. And taking time out to play and explore.

© Joanna Kulesza, Creek, 2017

© Joanna Kulesza, Creek, 2017

2018: Where are we going?

Onward and upward! Hopefully and eventually to Poland as well, so I can begin working on my future dream project.

When the going gets tough…

Lean into it.

Your city’s favourite spots?

The James Turrell skyspace, Barton Springs swimming pool at nighttime, Austin Bouldering Project, and any quiet place on the Greenbelt.

© Joanna Kulesza, Uniformity, 2013

© Joanna Kulesza, Uniformity, 2013

Do you have a vision?

I think I rely more on intuition than vision. Intuition kind of shapes the vision, but it’s usually pretty murky at the start.

What would you do if you could change the World?

I would give everyone a fair shot. And equalize healthcare and education. 

Tell us about your future plans…

My only definitive plan is keeping on moving forward in life. I find that if I make loose and unstructured plans while continuing work that is important to me, plans of some kind start to fall into place. I am less successful if I draw it out methodically.

Last but not least: what is your favourite Song?

Really hard to answer. Possibly Eleanor Rigby.

#…?

#leaveyourphonealone

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