TIFA 2021 Interview with Gabriela Teplickaá
1st Place winner in Book, Professional, “My.”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
I was born in Slovakia, where I still live with my family. Photography has accompanied me since childhood, my father was an amateur photographer. He used to develop the photos he took himself at home in the bathroom. This alchemy of capturing the moment has captivated me so much that I take pictures all the time and everywhere. I started to work intensively on photography after the birth of our children. It fulfills me to be able to visually express all the emotions associated with life.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
My latest work is a long-term documentary project about my loved ones, which I just completed with the book MY. Each and every member of my family creates their own powerful personal story. Thanks to photography, I am also deepening my gratitude for being able to accompany them. My son decided to grow his hair long at the age of 6. After 5 years, he had it cut and donated it to wig manufacturers for oncological patients. He continues to grow long hair with the intention of donating it again.
Annie, age 9, had her hair cut almost completely off to emphasize her strong and determined personality. My mom is 70 years old and in addition to caring for her sister with Down syndrome, she has adopted her grandson who is now 13. In documenting and creating tributes to my loved ones in my life, my husband supports me wholeheartedly. He is a strong and determined man to whom I have dedicated the introduction of the book as a tribute. This whole project and the book at the same time is a materialization of respect and gratitude to loved ones. They themselves inspire me every day, with their every action.
Q: You were awarded TIFA 2021 Book Photographer of the Year for your intriguing work, My. How did the idea for this project come about? What is the most notable memory that you lived through during this project?
I am a documentary photographer focusing on long-term projects. I have been working on them intensively for several years, so it was important for me to compile the photographs into a book. For every photographer, a book is the culmination of a project. Photographs in electronic form fall into oblivion and exhibitions come to an end after a certain period of time. But the book remains and is the tangible result of long-term work. I longed for it, it was one of my biggest dreams. I wanted to create the most beautiful book I could. I collaborated on it with some of the best professionals in our country. I knew exactly that I wanted to use the finest and the most beautiful materials and that was the reason why I financed it myself, to avoid compromises.
Q: What genre do you enjoy creating in the most and why?
I prefer to create a long-term document. I like to go into the depth of the topic and discuss the essence of the project from every angle. A documentary allows me to portray a real, deeply felt experience. It is important for me to treat the subject comprehensively and also temporally. The viewer has the opportunity to observe the subject with a different temporal distance. Consequently, he is drawn into the action and is interested in the continuation, the escalation of the theme. This tension is a breeding ground for the creativity of the mind.
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
Even the registration for this competition was a challenge for me. Creating a coherent photographic and textual document of the book helped me realize the intent of MY. Knowing that my most important and successful project to date was so highly rated in such a faraway beautiful country was a very pleasant and huge surprise for me. To win the book category means a great honor for me. It gives me the determination and further motivation to create other projects and top them off with a book.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
I am currently photographing a project called “Circles” for the fifth year in a row. Women live in Slovakia – priestesses who restore Old Slavic and Celtic ceremonies and rituals.
It is a topic that no one in our country has taken a comprehensive and long-term picture. I photograph not only ceremonies that create priestesses for the public, but also ceremonies and rituals in which only priestesses can participate.
I am extremely grateful for such great trust, and therefore, if there were no restrictions, I would like to travel the world with my family and photograph the original priestly rituals in all corners of the world. I believe that it would be a huge experience for our children as well and that it would greatly enrich their lives and increase their horizons.
Q: What would be the one advice you would give to novice photographers?
A novice photographer should take pictures every single day. But the most important thing is that he should love the photo. Then he won’t need any advice, because he will want to take pictures as intensively as possible and learn in photography. He will do everything so that he can express himself in the best possible way with the help of photography and so that his ideas transformed into a visual form have the deepest possible meaning. The photo will therefore not be shallow and original. It is also still important for me to be educated in the fine arts.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Recently, I deal with the topic of burial and post-mortem ceremonies. I would like to show people many forms of dying and passing away to the other world. I think it is very important and liberating for the bereaved to be able to know how their loved ones would be buried. It is a topic that I would like to treat with kindness and respect for the aimers.
Death is what affects every living being on this planet. Therefore, we should not push her into oblivion, but learn to live with it.
Portrait Credit: Tomas Oslanec