Marta Literska / Clear Lake Hotel
December 2017 Interviewed by Christiane Monarchi
While the majority of features on Photomonitor have been devoted to gallery exhibitions and publications of photography, we are very interested in the creative spectrum of lens-based practice including editorial, advertising and commercial photography, when it’s the kind that transports the viewers to another place or emotion. Below, we’ve found one such creative, London-based Marta Literska, whom we asked a few questions about her recent series ‘Clear Lake Hotel’ and her route to fashion photography.
Christiane Monarchi: I’m looking at ‘Clear Lake Hotel’, a series which was really compelling for me because of its combination of very contemporary and nostalgically vintage aesthetics. Could you talk me through the background and thought process for the realisation of this imagery? In particular, in this case did you reference a real place / time, or is it fictionally inspired?
Marta Literska: The idea for ‘Clear Lake Hotel’ has its roots in certain aesthetics and feelings that came to me, and because it was all very much in my head, it was difficult to communicate it at first to myself, let alone to anyone else. It was nostalgic feeling, longing for something, but not attached to any particular event or period in my life, more combination of stories I’ve heard, things I’ve seen, people I’ve met… and most importantly there was a need to create the story on the canvas of the exact aesthetics that were in my head.
It took me a good few months to stumble across Clear Lake hotel, a friend of mine told me about it. As soon as I saw the pictures and subsequently visited it I knew it was definitely it, stepping through its doorstep I felt as if I was traveling in time to the place well known to me.There was no decision-making process when it came to choosing the location – I fell in love with it from the first sight, it was all pretty instinctive. As it happened the place was just closing down after nearly 60 years and I could feel how many people’s stories it has housed, it was very inspiring.
From there the rest came to me, that it was going to be a girl and a boy – young, free, rebellious and in love, yet old souls, independent and on their own in their own little worlds. I remember when in my teens/early twenties everything was so important and bold, and this is something I wanted to convey.
CM: Could you tell me about styling of the subjects, to begin with – fashion credited to David James Cochrane – how does the interaction between visual creative such as yourself and fashion director develop?
ML: David brings huge knowledge of fashion and trends to the table and has a great personal style. I appreciate qualities he has a stylist and generally as a creative person. Our initial interaction started with looking over visual and styling references (which I had previously prepared to communicate initial concept), developing them together and most importantly talking about the feel of the shoot, the story. Having worked with each other prior to that shoot made for very smooth collaboration. I think working with the stylist who gets your idea quick and gets excited about it is crucial and has a huge impact on the outcome.
I really enjoy those first meetings and discussions, because that’s where the shoot really takes shape and starts coming to life. It’s an exciting process for me and I feel when joining forces we elevate each other’s work. It’s very much about getting inspired by the next person’s creative input.
CM: What was the hardest part of this shoot?
ML: I guess the hardest part of the shoot was the production. On the day of the shoot, the hours fly so fast and everything you had been working on up until that moment depends on your performance on that particular day. The pressure is on and I always feel it, but then again I believe it makes me get better results. It takes a lot of my energy but I do believe pressure pushes me that one step further. I do wish I could have had more time to sit in each room and enjoy the whole process and take it all in more.
CM: What are you working on now?
ML: At the moment I am working on a menswear project with stylist Amii McIntosh, a friend of mine who actually told me about Clear Lake Hotel. We are designing and building a set ourselves, which we are both really excited about.
CM: What advice would you give to recent graduates wanting to start working in the field you are in?
ML: Beginnings are always hard because your portfolio doesn’t reflect who you are or what you can do. At university I mainly focused on shooting portraiture on my medium format Mamiya RZ67, and the shift towards fashion happened few years after I graduated. When you finish university, suddenly you find yourself in a position where you are completely in charge, but it is not the type of freedom that feels empowering. Unless you are really lucky, clients / employers are not going to start knocking at your door straight away. It takes so much time and effort to get just few percents back, it is important to understand that, but persistency for me is the key.
Fashion as a field is particularly hard because you can’t work alone. You need a team, make up artist, stylist, models. Instead of contacting people who already successfully work in the field, team up with graduates. You can work with student/ graduate designers whose garments you like instead of stylists, to start with. Ask your friends to pose for you instead of contacting a model agency. Some contacts are best to be left for later. At all times be nice and kind to people. Even if they refuse to work with you, they can recommend someone else if they like how you come across and they can see you are passionate and serious.
One of my favourite quotes which always stays with me and sort of summarises what I am trying to say is : “What your mind conceives and believes, it can achieve”.
Set yourself a goal and just go for it, with everything you have.
About ‘Clear Lake Hotel’:
Photographer: Marta Literska
Stylist: David James Cochrane
MUA: Rachel Freeman
Hair stylist: Rom Sartipi
Models: Christina Nadin @Nevs and Antoine Prins @ Milk Model Management
Assistant: Davide Olmeo
About Marta Literska:
Marta Literska is a fashion and portrait photographer based in London . After graduating with a BA in Photography from UEL in 2009, Literska opened her first studio in Brick Lane in 2010. Since then she has opened three new locations as well as starting the location agency ‘Creative Location’. ‘Clear Lake Hotel’ was presented in Wonderland magazine in July 2017.