Olga Kott is a multidisciplinary photographer and image-maker based in London. When she’s not delivering talks to inspire the next generation of creatives, shooting on site with brands and magazines, or creating self-directed work as part of Olga & Kay, Olga travels to all manner of new places in search of inspiration. Having joined me as a speaker at YOUNG GOLD TALKS last year, I caught up with Olga to find out what she’s been working on since then and what a day in the life of a professional photographer looks like…
Why photography? How did you discover that you loved it?
Photography has always been a big passion of mine, for as long as I can remember. It started off as a hobby; I think back then every single friend of mine had modeled for me. I’d work on shoot concepts and make them come to life, often scouting locations and making props. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was the one thing that I wanted to do the most, so I moved from my hometown to study photography at a university in the UK.
Tell us about your style and the sorts of things you photograph…
It’s quite difficult to describe your own style, but I’ve often heard people calling it ‘cinematic’ and that might be the closest description I can come up with. Portraiture and candid street photography is something that I absolutely love. Unlike any other genre, it gives me a chance to witness people in their ‘natural habitats’. Often, after capturing that very special, almost intimate moment, I’ll hear my models say that they haven’t seen themselves or their personalities reflected in such a way. I guess we all have our ‘camera-ready’ faces and to me, breaking through that front is one of the most exciting things.
What inspires you and where do you look for inspiration?
People and the environment, their surroundings, is probably one of my greatest inspirations. It must be the reason I often can be found observing social situations, getting ideas from anything that happens around me. It’s unbelievable how much can happen within a second, that’s why I am so fascinated with photography in the first place. I love its ability to capture a fleeting moment and then show it to hopefully inspire others. We often forget or overlook the beauty of a moment, and I think it’s important not to; life itself is woven from such moments.
What kind of challenges do you face as a professional photographer?
Probably similarly to every single creative, it’s overcoming creative blocks and being able to believe in yourself and recognise the unique value you bring, especially when pitching ideas to new clients. I can’t help but be overly self-critical at times… which might be a blessing in disguise, if you think about it.
Where are you based and how, if at all, does this affect your work?
I am very lucky to be based in London, this great melting pot, where every single day brings unexpected opportunities. If anything, it affects me by inspiring and pushing my creative self beyond my known limits.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
That’s a very interesting question. I have recently realised that even when I am not working, I still end up having a camera in my hands. There must’ve been only a couple of days this year, when I haven’t shot anything. You might usually find me strolling near Barbican Centre or chasing deer in the Richmond Park, either way, there will be a camera present.
What are your greatest influences?
Despite the fact that as a photographer, I get a chance to have a lot of space and time to myself during certain parts of the creative process, there are a lot of people involved in every single project. It’s the creative energy shared by like-minded people that lifts me up and keeps me going even if it’s been a 12 hour session on the set. I’m inspired by the great and contemporary masters, but my peers, living the same moment as me, influence me and make me want to grow above and beyond more than anything else.
Tell us about a day in your life; what do you usually get up to?
It usually takes me a little while to get started with my day unless there’s very good light outside. I am not a morning person at all and the only thing that makes me jump out of my bed is knowing that ahead of me is an exciting day in the studio or on location. I’d usually be shooting or, less often, filming for a project during the day and then retouching at night. It’s a typical picture to see me editing images past midnight. That’s about the same time when I get the best ideas for future projects and frantically scribble them on post-it notes. There’s a lot of post-it notes on my table…
What about your processes, your workspace and your materials. How are these things important to you and do they have an impact on the finished work that you produce?
Oh, so I’ve mentioned the post-it notes just in time… In all seriousness, the most important thing is the environment I am in at that given moment. I usually shoot digital, less often film (mainly personal projects or travel logs) but pre and post production usually has to happen in an inspiring environment that helps me to concentrate. Even though it’s very hard to distract me from the process, I prefer to work in a place that has a similar vibe to the mood of the final product, be that photographs or videos. That helps to start and finish the story on the right note, tying all the elements together.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently very humbled to be working with an incredibly talented graphic designer under a creative name Olga&Kay. Together, our creative duo aims to document the way people interact through culture, lifestyle and their surroundings. We have already completed a project for the National Portrait Gallery and are looking forward to producing more exciting work in the nearest future. We’ve taken numerous shots around the world in locations such as, Jamaica, Amsterdam, Latvia, London and Athens and we’ve teamed up with Bright Ideas Trust and Westminster City Council on numerous occasions, which has allowed us to work with students by conducting workshops, career fairs and guest speaking at various schools around London.
Tell us about any projects you have coming up this year…
I am very privileged to have an opportunity to travel to a few countries abroad, all of which will be filled with days of shooting both candid street imagery as well as a few fashion editorials. Without giving away too much about what’s next, you’ll be able to find me in coffee shops around London in the coming months, where I will be gathering material for the next O&K project.