Self Portrait: Wife and Husband on their Wedding Anniversary

Photographer Jekaterina Nikitina Talks About Her Composite Portrait of Herself and Husband Victor on Their Wedding Anniversary

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PHOTOGRILL: Can you tell us about your personal projects

PHOTOGRAPHER: I have made three big personal projects: Artur’s 365 Project (my son), Greta’s (my younger daughter) 52 weeks project  and my self-portrait 365 Project. The last one being the most professional and the most recent. I’m planning to start 2 new projects this autumn.

The 365 self-portrait project was not inspired by the trend, it was my personal desire to make self-portraits. During my architecture studies, I practised a lot drawing my reflection in the mirror. Photography made it easy, all I needed was a remote switch. So when I made 5 consecutive self-portraits in February 2010 I decided to start the project, unfortunately I left it half-finished. But the desire is still here, I will certainly go on taking self-portraits, maybe another 365, who knows. I think the failure to continue the project lies in the intent to make something absolutely different and amazing everyday, and I just couldn’t do it, I got stuck and didn’t like my project any more. One day I just decided to leave it where it was. When I look at it now, one year later, I see that if it wasn’t for 365 I would never do my best work. The great thing about the 365’s stress is that it boosts your creativity and force you think creatively every day. It just doesn’t have to be perfect!

PHOTOGRILL: Why did you make the 2in1 image & why is it special to you.

PHOTOGRAPHER: The 2in1 was made late in the night on the 29th of March. I was really tired that day, when I realized I had no ideas for my 365 image and my husband Victor was hurrying me up to pack my photography equipment and celebrate our wedding anniversary with a glass of wine. So the idea came alone, I had to do a self-portrait with my husband. But it was late night, at home, we were not glamorously clothed, neither willing to pose. The standard speedlite photography didn’t inspire me in that moment, studio lights even less. I didn’t pretend to be original, just wanted to make it fast. I needed a prop, a concept, so I told Victor it would be both of us “Half me, half you”. It sounded funny and easy, I could postpone the post-production to the next day and still don’t break the 365 rules.

In fact this 365 stress of late night, no picture made yet, no suitable prop etc, is quite usual for my creative process. Of course, some days it was easy enough, the idea was there at the right moment and the right place, but I personally have a very special affection for those photographs driven by the stress. They are more intense, more natural, not so posed and prepared. Today, when working on location with clients / family or myself I prefer to decide the lighting and other aspects right there, without planning and looking for inspiration. In my opinion, everything I need is already in my head, from all the books, magazines and blogs I read daily.

PHOTOGRILL: What was the photo shoot itself like?

PHOTOGRAPHER: The 2in1 shoot was totally ordinary, too ordinary in fact. There were two of us, 3 min session each one. In 10 min everything was packed.

PHOTOGRILL: I assume it is two separate images that are composited together?

PHOTOGRAPHER: Yes, it was two separate images composed in “2in1”. I tried to make the most identical photographs I could, it was not about art, but about to make a realistic image of a half-woman half-man, married couple 2 in 1, so I didn’t want to complicate the things with strange poses and uneven background. The lighting set up was accidental, I use this set up quite often for the beauty shots, so it was the first I set when still thinking in the concept. It looked good in general, so I didn’t move it, just left as it was. The white background worked perfectly for the purpose. There were three strobes: two at both sides and one in front. (I’m not quite sure about power settings right now.) No tricks, no make up, no clothes to avoid complex editing, but I do part my hair in the middle to help blend the images (I tried various hairstyles during the shoot). I hadn’t tried this kind of concept before, so I had no idea whether it will work at all.

PHOROGRILL: Please explain how you combined the images & what post processing was done.

PHOTOGRAPHER: The editing process was a miracle! I always knew we looked quite similar, but I was amazed! When I manually aligned both images in Photoshop and scaled Victor’s headshot a bit as it resulted bigger than mine, I realised that was it! Everything was totally aligned! I blended both images manually with the help of masks, adjusted my husband’s skin colour to be similar to mine with a Hue/ Saturation Adjustment Layer, created extra layer for minor cloning and healing and sharpened the resulting photograph. I think it was the easiest and fastest concept post-production I have ever done.

PHOROGRILL: What were the technical details?

The technical details for this shot are: f / 11.0 aperture at 1/ 250, ISO 50, Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III camera, Canon EF 50mm f / 1.2L USM lens, Manfrotto tripod (I don’t know which, but a heavy one). The strobe info: 1 strobe with a soft box at each side, 1 in front a bit from above with a reflecting silver umbrella. Not sure about power settings. These were cheap JTL strobes.

My children love this photograph, they gaze at it a bit astonished arguing about whether it’s papa or mama.

PHOTOGRILL: How did you get a start in photography?

PHOTOGRAPHER: I can not say, that I have always dreamt of being a photographer, I’m not the one, who got her first camera at the age of 10 and looked at the world through the viewfinder ever since. I wish I was. I’m totally amazed by all the young photographers on the web, their youth and creativity is totally breathtaking! In fact, I didn’t like photography and any other artistic expression when I was younger, I have always believed I was not made for it. But occasionally I got involved in an artistic workshop at the age of 14 and I decided to give it a try. I should assume now, that this decision has changed my life and I ended up studying architecture in the Vilnius Academy of Arts (Lithuania). When studying I ignored photography at a larger scale, but was really passionate about drawing and painting, I’m still in love with the arts and desperately hope to go back to it again. So, only at the age of 25 (in 2007), when I was pregnant of my first child (Artur), I bought a Canon Powershot G7 to document my pregnancy and travels during that period. And then, when Artur was born, I started taking snapshots of him to share with my family and friends online. My first serious intent as an amateur photographer was starting the Artur’s 365 project at the end of 2008. It was too big challenge for me those days, but still I managed to complete it. Ever since, I’m not sure what was exactly the breakthrough point for me to start thinking of making living from photography, but I fully dedicated myself to professional photography somewhere in March-April 2009.

My passion in photography and in art itself is the portrait, I just love people’s faces, so unique and inspiring, there’re so many stories to be told just with one expression, one gaze. Another frequent subject is landscape, due to the family trekking guides (in Spanish language) I write and illustrate together with my husband. Today we have 3 books on sale and 3 more being published right now.

My style is realistic and documentary when it comes to family and travel photography. I give it a more cinematic and creative touch when working with self-portrait and other personal projects. In fact, I try not to stick to a style, I’m still in the search of that very personal artistic expression, so I just let my intuition guide me in the world of composition and colour, and just trust my imagination when it comes to choose subjects and props.

Another considerable part of my imagery can be licensed through Getty Images for commercial and editorial use. I’m an active Getty Contributor from 2009 and since then my images have been licensed by the world’s leading companies.

PHOTOGRILL: Why do you make photos, what drives you, the photography, the adventure, the creativity?

PHOTOGRAPHER: I think all three of them. I hardly stay a day without grabbing my camera to document an event or something I see and just can’t resist to shoot. I really love to experiment, so adventure is an important part of the process. And creativity is something I’m passionate about, I know it’s there, inside of me, unfortunately it’s not always willing to show up in public.

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9 Responses to “Self Portrait: Wife and Husband on their Wedding Anniversary”

  1. Noel says:

    I totally dig this idea, and she executed the entire thing flawlessly! Major kudos to Jekaterina on this image.

  2. lina says:

    Well done! All the best for you Katia! Take the world!

  3. Gulfiya says:

    Very interesting interview! I love your work, it’s very inspiring and talented! I wish you good luck and more and more great photos!

  4. Thank you Violeta for your support! I appreciate it very much!

  5. Violeta says:

    Great interview! I’ve followed her photography for a while now and love what she does!

    • csillitoe says:

      Yes she is a very interesting photographer, and quite open about her creative struggles. Thank you Violeta, and thank you Katerina.

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