Anna Mutwil: Contributor Interview

1- Tell us a little about yourself, and how you became interested in photography!

My star sign is Scorpio – we’re characterized by extremely contradictory features, which essentially translates into my work!

I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, but I bought my first digital camera 13 years ago. I began to learn the basics of photography then. I photographed everything that was around me – nature, sunsets, flowers, insects… I felt that I would like to create beautiful portraits, but I didn’t have the courage to suggest a session for a long time!

Some time later I became the happy owner of a digital SLR. Then my adventure with photographing models, styling the session and creating my own Wonderland began.

Photography is a way of life for me. It is my great passion, a need of the heart, a remedy for the repetitiveness of everyday life. It is the fulfillment of my artistic ego and the expression of my inner world. When photographing, I capture the fleeting moments, the emotions hidden in a unique moment, fleeting as a blink of an eye. They will be immortalised using the shutter button.


2- What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?

I would not be lying if I said ‘everything’! But to be more specific – I derive my inspiration from the surreal world of fantasy, influenced by elements from horror and period literature, as well as ancient legends. I’m in love with vintage and Victorian style. I’ve been reading or watching horror and fairy tales forever and I love both.

Inspiration can come from good music, a book, a movie, a painting, a beautiful girl passing on the street, or even leaves waving in the wind. Sometimes inspiration comes by itself.

I like to play with emotions and I like when my work evokes emotions.

3- Some of your work could be described as ‘dark’ or ‘gothic’ – what do you find most interesting about creating images in those genres?

Yes, you can see I’m in love with dark romanticism and gothic style! I’ve always been fascinated by mysticism and symbolism, intrigued by what is dark and uncontrollable. There is always a dark side to everything and I find it very interesting because it’s not always obvious. That’s why I think this is a great theme for artists when they create their own visions and artworks.


4- Many of your images have a timeless feel, which is really popular with clients writing historical fiction! What advice would you give photographers wanting to give their own imagery that timeless feeling?

First of all, I would recommend choosing a model that will work well with you. When there is a friendly atmosphere at the session, the model is relaxed and this has a great effect on your work. The model can show her true emotions, which gives the picture that timeless character and catches the eye of the viewer.

You do not always need to look for professional models. A random girl from the neighborhood might have “that something” that will make the photo unique and unusual.

5- What are your favourite sources of objects and costumes? Where do you usually find your locations?

I’ll occasionally ask a model if she has any retro, fancy clothes that we can use for the shoot, but I provide most of the styling myself. I usually buy clothes in second-hand shops, or find vintage clothes online. My friends all know that there is always a place in my house for gothic, victorian, retro, vintage and fantasy costumes, so they look out for them for me!

Sometimes I just walk with a model between trees or buildings and look for an interesting place to shoot.

Most often, however, my locations for the photo session are found by me earlier, because whenever I am driving a car or going for a walk, I am looking for interesting places for future photo sessions. When I have a vision for the photo session that I’m trying to implement, I will look for the right place for a very long time. I can tell you it’s really hard to find a good poppy field, for example!

I can see the potential in places which might seem to be bland, but after bringing in the model and creating a beautiful setup – and after the ‘magic touch’ of the software – they become extraordinary and unique.


6- Do you carefully pose your photos or do you take a more candid approach? How do you direct your models, if at all?

I ask the model to be natural and to try not to pose. I love natural emotions, so I’ll talk with the model in a way to evoke many different emotions. Sometimes I’ll ask them to present a particular emotion, but the best results are when the model is natural.

I also like when the model is moving – dancing or running – and when she is spontaneous. When I need any specific pose of the body I’ll just show the model what I need from her.

7- How important is Photoshop in creating your finished images?

For me, the photo taken with the camera is halfway to the finished product. I think of it as ‘digital magic’ when you can add the magic touch with software effects and filters to the photo. Sometimes the final effects are so different from the raw photo that you can’t even recognize the original!

8- What has been your funniest or most awkward moment on a shoot?

Every time a model wears a white lacy dress, people ask “Where’s the groom?” That makes me laugh every single time…

But I particularly remember one situation when I walked with a model over a small wooden footbridge across a very dirty pond. The model crossed safely, but I fell into the water! My first reaction was: “save my camera”!

Luckily I didn’t drown and my camera was safe, so we continued the session – but I was very wet and smelly…


9- Taking on challenging new projects can really help a photographer’s growth and creativity.  Do you have any you’re working on right now?

I’m planning to play around a lot with fire and water. Any fire effect that comes to my mind, like burning objects, sparklers, and smoke flares.

We’re in late autumn here, so I’ll wait for springtime and warm days to start shoots with models floating in the water. Even after all these years I do not have any Ophelia-style photos in my portfolio. It’s high time to change that!

10- What do you think the challenges are for the stock photography industry at the moment? What changes do you foresee over the next few years?

This is a very interesting question but also a difficult one, because we can expect anything and everything… I can’t predict what technologies may appear, but I am sure that there will always be place for real emotions and a pure form of imagery.

Thank you Anna!
Please click here to discover Anna’s portfolio of work.