Excavate the layer of mystery covering Viktor Herak's work and reveal what's he all about at the core. Check out our interview below.
Coming from the western coast of Croatia, Viktor Herak has made a name far beyond his homeland through a series of photographs appearing on the pages of Italian Vogue, mesmerising wide audiences with his enigmatic, dark pictures. The photographer and stylist has continued to refine his characteristic style while working in London and subsequently relocating to Berlin where he found a deeper connection, making his work flourish. Viktor’s photographs border on conveying reality and imagination, manifested through capturing ever slightly eccentric characters.
Let’s start simple – how did you get into photography? Did you, as a child, dream of pursuing such career?
I remember when I was around 5, we had one of those small film cameras that every family had at the time. I always used to steal it and get in trouble for “wasting” the film by taking pictures of my family members. I still have some pictures of my mom coming towards me and trying to take the camera from me. I vividly remember the feeling of how pressing that button made me feel. Even if to everyone it was just child’s play, I think already back then, I knew it was more than that for me.
When I was 12, I bought a book by Steve McCurry called “Portraits.” It was a book of street portraits he took while travelling all over the world. Unposed, unstylized images of people he came across. I spent days looking at pages from that book and was so mesmerized with how he could tell a story about someone by taking just one image of them. I started thinking about them, asking myself questions of where were they now, if they were happy, if they were old or even alive. I remember it was while looking at that book when I decided I wanted to be a photographer. I got my first small amateur camera the following year and I never stopped photographing since.
Shooting portraits can be a very peculiar business. What do you think is the key to make it work?
I think to take good portraits you have to be very empathetic. Being a Pisces, I have a very strong sense of absorbing other people’s emotions, feelings and energies. I think a good portrait shows what’s on the inside of the person rather than on the outside. The other thing is you have to make your models trust you. If they feel comfortable opening up to you and letting you in – then this is when the magic happens.
Your models are always very striking, unusual characters. How do you scout them?
I get that a lot. I honestly just photograph people that inspire me and I am drawn to; they are often my friends. I’m not really interested in what society thinks is “pretty.” Pretty doesn’t change the world. I find beauty in rare and special characters, people who push the boundaries. I prefer that my models make you feel uncomfortable, make you think and, most of all, make you change your mind about what being beautiful is.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I find inspiration in artists who can show their vulnerability with no shame. Or anyone who can live their life as the most authentic self with no compromising. I’m also very inspired by nature and animals.
You used to live in London – what made you move to Berlin? Do you, as many other artists often say, feel any kind of influence of the city in your work?
London is the first city I fell in love with and will be always one of my favourite cities. It’s so vibrant and has an energy like nowhere in the world. Living there molded me as a person a lot and it will always have a special place in my heart. But after living there for some years I found myself needing a change. The fast pace of the city and the pricey lifestyle leaves you little time to hang out with people or connect. I realized I connect way easier with people in Berlin than I used to in London. London is very focused on the outside appearance. People look great on the street and it’s very inspiring. But it’s in Berlin where I found great deep conversations and moments with people, sometimes even with strangers. And at this point in my life I needed to focus on what was inside.
I definitely noticed how my work and style has changed since the move. It became way more raw, more real, more “come as you are.” I think I found what I was looking for.
Our topic of the month is spirit. How do you think your own spirit looks like? How would you describe it?
I don’t think I could describe it. The spirit is not tangible or definable so easily. But that is the beauty of it.
Lastly, is there someone you would like to recommend to both us and the Kink readers? Someone (or something) we should definitely check out?
I would definitely recommend to check one of my favourite photographers: Pieter Hugo. He is a South African portrait photographer whose work engages with both documentary and art traditions with focus on African communities. I especially love his photo series of Nigerian gang members who bring hyenas or baboons on their rounds to collect debts. I love his rawness and I really relate to his aesthetic, takes my breath away every time.
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