František Konopa: When a Portrait Tells a Story
František Konopa is a promising young photographer and the artist behind many works of portrait photography filled with unique stories. His work is a reaction to contemporary Czech photography, which, in his own words, didn’t have much added value for him. In his photography, František likes to capture emotions and everyday real stories, including the almost unreal ones.
František teaches photography at the Secondary School of Arts in Karlovy Vary and we too have learned something from his photography. We wanted to learn more about how his work comes to be.
Hi František, you’re a well-known lover of photography. What do you enjoy most about photography?
My favorite thing about photography is working with people. Photography has allowed me to travel to many interesting places and meet people I wouldn’t normally have the chance to meet. I see this as a benefit. Learning and experiencing new things is exactly what fulfills me most.
You are not only a photographer but also a teacher in an art school. What do you tell your students that are just starting and in their first year of photography?
A photograph is about more than just the technique. It’s about the perception of light and people. I teach my students how to properly communicate with their models, among other things. I teach them to think of shooting a portrait as creating a work of art. The most important thing is to not give up! Reward yourself for even the slightest progress. This can motivate you to keep going. It’s important to keep your joy and love for photography. Otherwise, you will stop enjoying it and that will be noticeable in your photos.
What are some must-haves when it comes to photography gear?
In my camera backpack, you’ll always find a full-frame camera and a portrait lens. I have the Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art and the Sigma 35mm 1.4. Art. These two lenses play an important role in my photography. I like a more cinematic look, so the 35mm adds depth to the scene, while the 85 mm is used for details.
How do you choose your photography equipment? What is most important when choosing your equipment?
I always choose my photography equipment based on the subject I’m shooting. I’m a portrait photographer, so I choose portrait lenses and my camera body is a full-frame because of the quality. I’m also a reportage photographer, so I need a camera sensor with higher ISO sensitivity. As for lenses, that’s a no-brainer. I love prime lenses because of their quality, and their weight doesn’t bother me as much. The deciding factor for me is quality, not weight. I need very fast lenses for my photography. I shoot at an aperture of 1.4 most of the time which is almost standard for clients today.
What do you upgrade more often — camera bodies or lenses?
I definitely most often upgrade camera bodies. Lenses aren’t as dependent on the camera so they have a longer life.
Have you ever thought about switching to shooting on your phone?
I’ve never thought about shooting on my phone. The equipment is not quite yet perfected. I couldn’t shoot a prom, a wedding maybe, but then I’d have issues at night. And the portrait software on phones in particular is not good enough yet to replace a lens with an aperture of f/1.4. Phone photography is not something for me at the moment.
Have you ever had anything funny happen in a shoot that makes you laugh now?
A lot of funny things have happened to me in photoshoots. Especially when shooting my portrait series. Something always happens, but I can’t think of a specific story right now.
Have you ever gone out without your camera, or do you carry it with you everywhere you go?
No, there are times I go out without my camera. But my 85mm lens is cracked. I learned that always having my camera with me is bad for the lens. I just recently went abroad with no camera. However, that was the last time my phone took the place of my camera for taking pictures of the sights.
Is there an area of photography that appeals to you that you would like to pursue more?
Video. I don’t want to leave the genre of portraits or stop creating series, just try a new medium. Video offers different overlaps and possibilities for different nuances. This is what interests me most at the moment.
Are you willing to experience discomfort for a photo? Like waking up at dawn or waiting for shooting stars when it’s 10 below outside. Does it still hold true that as you get older it’s a question of the wrong clothing and not the wrong weather?
I’ve experienced plenty of discomfort while shooting these series. I’ve woken up early in the morning, which I don’t mind so much, but different natural conditions make shooting more challenging. For example, I took a self-portrait in a pit when it was -5 outside and snowing, and I was naked. So yes, things like that can happen. But then again, shooting in a field in the middle of summer when it’s extremely hot and 40 degrees can be challenging too. As a photographer, you have to go through a lot to get the photo you dream of. Otherwise, as the Norwegian saying goes, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.“
You can find František Konopa’s photography on his Facebook page. Let yourself be carried away by his portraiture work and breathtaking stories.
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