Born in the Czech Republic in the 80s, photographer Hana Knizova from Prague headed to London where her photography style was developed even more. She shoots fashion editorials and portraits for various magazines and works on projects which are deserving of a certain depth and artistic entertainment.
We had the genuine and considerate Czech photographer for a chit chat about her hometown Prague, studying and living in London and the importance of a creative network.
Hi Hana, great to speak to you! Where are you right now?
At my desk, close to London Bridge. I’ve got a flat with a huge space just under the roof…feeling really lucky about it!
Sounds good. Do you own it?
Well it’s not mine technically, but just as long as I am paying rent it is!
So it’s your creative workspace as well?
Yes, I’ve got everything I need around me. I don’t have an extra studio space as I mostly shoot in various locations, so it wouldn’t be worth it for me to have a permanent one.
As far as I know you haven’t been living in London for ages, right? When did you move from the Czech Republic to London?
I’ve been living here since 2010. I moved here to get my MA at the LCC (London College of Communication) back then…and I stayed! I can’t believe how long it is actually.
So it seems like you don’t feel like you’ve been there for ages… I guess you are happy up there on the Island?
I am trying to be! Ups and downs of living on a rainy overpriced island…but there’s something about the city we all love I suppose…
Damn right! I love that city as well, but after only spending a week in the capital city, I remember why I am not living there…
Ha! Yeah all my friends who come and visit say the same thing…I better stay quiet. Munich is nice though; I’ve been there couple of times.
Why didn’t you stay in the Czech Republic for your Masters? What interested you the most about living in London?
I was always attracted to the city before I’d even been! You know how you fantasise about places when you’re a child…so for me it was London! Then I came here many times for vacation and visiting some of my friends who showed me the universities. Then I decided that’s the place to be!
Which city exactly are you from?
I was born up North, lived in different towns and later on I moved to Prague after high school. All my friends are in Prague now. If I ever go anywhere I’d go there, that feels like home!
So you weren’t bored of your hometown, you just wanted to break away?
I suppose everything foreign has a certain appeal to it… I don’t necessarily think the education or the studying conditions are better here now, but at that time I thought so…
Does it make a difference to work in London?
For most of my work I feel I could work from anywhere really. There isn’t anything which would hold me to London in this sense.
There’s something about the anonymity of London which is appealing and challenging…but it is scary too!
That’s a good point! When I think of big cities my first thought is hiding behind all these masses of humans. Anonymity is the keyword!
Yes that’s true; the less people, the less direct judgement too, less interest…
For a creative it is always important or quite useful to have a certain network, a community which helps you and even supports you!
I felt like there’s a community in Prague, a “scene” which you become a part of very, very quickly. You realise you see the same faces, you know everyone which is great on one hand but on the other people care too much about other people, there’s more competition and gossiping.
The other point of a creative network is that if you are, for example, a designer it’s easier to have a producer who is not far away from you. Also other creatives in your field could be an advantage but simultaneously a disadvantage…
For sure! This alternation was much stronger in Prague. Small groups, less people are not very open to new things but that keeps changing massively!
As a photographer it’s very helpful to have ateliers, galleries and clients such as magazines or labels close by. Previously you said it doesn’t matter where you shoot, are these aspects included in your statement?
Well it’s of course great to surround yourself with people who can help creatives understand each other. That takes a while to build. No matter where you are I suppose, you just have to be lucky to click with each other.
How do you think about the network for you as a photographer being in London or Prague?
I think there are more opportunities in London in every sense – but there’s more people going for the same thing. In Prague it’s a small pool. I definitely feel like I have better connections – in terms of personal relationships – but work wise, the way I want to head, maybe there aren’t so many options.
In the era of Internet they say it doesn’t matter where you live anymore and in some sense it’s true, but of course having a personal connection at the place where you live is always better.
I think I’ve built some sort of network here, but it’s on a miniature scale, it’s rotating, people come and go…as we said before, a big city!
Have you got favourite spots to shoot in London?
Ah it’s hard to pick my favourite place to shoot in London! I don’t think there is one I’d highlight. I do shoot quite a lot in Hackney Wick area, which is ironic because I live in London Bridge – where’s there’s a real spirit of “old London” and I hardly ever shoot around here. I generally like shooting in people’s houses. It’s always interesting to see how they live and organise their space.
Did you get your first client in London or Prague?
Hmmm…that’s a good question! I did small bits and pieces before I moved to London, and I am trying to “break” the Czech scene again now, but really most stuff I do now is based in London. But I love how these days people find your work and can get in touch, no matter if they’re in Beijing, New York City or Scotland.
So your website works well…
How does it feel to shoot for a magazine for the first time and see your work printed?
I was super excited to shoot for “Dazed and Confused” back in 2011, a music portrait I think. That’s when I felt like: “Yep you see, this wouldn’t happen in Prague…”
Great magazine. Lucky you. Congrats!
Have you published any books showcasing your work?
I have made one small self-published book, it’s been a while. Currently I am working on another one but it’s very much in progress now.
We are excited! Let’s talk about your exhibitions you took part. In London some of your works were exhibited at the Portrait Gallery. Your first bigger show?
No, I had small ones, organised with friends. But with that one at the “Portrait Gallery”, I felt it’s important. I think I changed my style quite a bit and the way I want to present myself since then…
What kind of format do you use to take photographs? Any preferences in case of analogue or digital?
Both. I’d say it’s 70% is digital and 30% is analogue, but the medium doesn’t really matter for me that much anymore. You can use your iPhone or I can use a disposable camera, depends on what you want to achieve. I do like to print my work though!
Besides your commissioned stuff, you work a lot on personal projects as I can see on your website. Which project are you working on these days?
I have a few different on-going projects I’ve been working on simultaneously. Some are based in certain locations so I can only devote time to them when I travel, whilst some are not location dependants, like my project “Family Matters”.
How did the idea for your project “IO” evolve?
“IO” is my final University project. It was rooted in my interest in body dysmorphic disorder at the time. I’d say my work has changed quite dramatically since then though. From anonymous almost sculptural body shapes to concrete people and their personal stories.
When and where could we admire your photographs soon?
I update the website and blog quite regularly, so feel free to look in on my latest work whenever you like.
It’s been a pleasure to have a chat with Hana and having such an interesting talk. A big thank you to Hana Knizova!
Anyone who has been bitten by the bug and wants to see more of her work, has to visit her blog and her website.