I first became aware of Gisela Szlatoszlavek on social media. With an interest in street photography, I was immediately drawn to her work. Seen through Gisela’s eyes, Blackpool is funny, quirky and bursting with colour. I caught up with her online and learned more about her photography, and how she came to produce her beautiful zine.
Tell me a little bit about your creative background. How long have you been into photography, and how did it come about?
My love of photography started around nine years ago. I am purely self-taught and have developed over this period. I suppose I have always been creative, although photography found me as my husband Craig, the other half of the Szlatoszlavek partnership, gave me the interest to pick up a camera and give it a go.
I think I probably spent the first few years producing nothing much of interest as I was still developing myself as a photographer and hadn’t really found a purpose at that point.
It’s obvious your main photography interest is Street photography. Do you do other types of photography?
Yes, Street does have a strong influence on my work. I am also strongly influenced by documentary photography and a lot of my work crosses over. It’s also great being part of f8/documentary on Instagram as a collective of documentary photographers our work is very diverse which is a good thing.
I did try landscape photography once but I didn’t get the same enjoyment and satisfaction that I do with street/documentary photography.
Obviously, I have my That Golden Mile Zine out.
I have been in publication with f/8 featuring images from Appleby Horse Fair, Westmorland Travellers and also will be in the oncoming f/8 zine with work from Hull Fair with my feature Down Walton Street.
I have had an image featured in a book for Children in Need, This is England, which was a collaboration with Rankin and I had Some of my Blackpool street work exhibited in London. I think lockdown has played a big part in stalling projects I’m working on but hopefully, I can start picking up my camera again soon.
How did the Zine come about, and was it easy to produce?
I think I had a project all along shooting on the prom in Blackpool. It was never a case of randomly shooting in Blackpool it all had a purpose. It just was untitled at that point.
Due to the fact that most of my work was shot on that stretch between the piers North/South – That Golden Mile, so that’s how the name came about. I think once I had built up a big enough body of work, I knew images would resonate and bounce off each other, it was time to put my work out there. I contacted Fistful of Books towards the end of last year and we have been working together to put the Zine out
Favourite image in the zine?
It has to be Happy Dayz. This is the one I wanted in print also. It sums up the fun of Blackpool and something I always say to myself when I arrive in Blackpool. There are elements of buildings in the image that have been a part of the Blackpool landscape for a long time although the facias have continuously changed. The landau horse trough is quite important to the shot also.
What particular photography challenges have you had to face this past 12 months due to Covid?
I think most photographers that rely on social interaction in their images have struggled during lockdown. We have had quite a lot of documentation of the pandemic which has been vital to document during these challenging times. I suppose the time that we have had since last March has given me the opportunity to reflect on ways to expand my photography and push my own boundaries as a Social Documentary photographer.
Is there a big project you’d like to do in the future?
I do have a few projects due to start once restrictions have been lifted and I do want to pursue more of my documentary side of photography. So I am getting really eager to get out there and get started.
Favourite photographers? Ones that have influenced you?
I enjoy looking at images that appeal to me.
I have recently discovered a social documentary photographer from New Jersey Helen M. Stummer her work from the lower Eastside and Newark on the tenements in New York is awe-inspiring. What I also strongly value is how a photographer becomes who they are through their images and I have great respect for Homer Sykes and Barry Lewis. Both incidentally have shot in Blackpool so there a connection lies.
But my list goes on:
These sound like cliches but they are genuine influences.
Digital or film? Why?
Both, I shoot on both digital and film. I would say 60 digital 40 film, but that percentage is shifting the more I understand the importance of shooting on film. I think they both represent what they stand for in their own rights.
I suppose it’s depending on the situation that is in front of you at the one given moment.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about your work?
There isn’t much I can add to this although I will say staying strong to my roots and my working-class background has helped me immensely, I can concentrate on what I feel for me is important in street and Social documentary photography.
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