Interview with Olga Steinepreis
BIFA 2022 Winner, 1st Place, Non-Professional People category, “Maternity 24/7”
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you come to fall in love with photography?
I’ve always been fascinated by photography. I remember my father taking a lot of the pictures, developing them, and printing them right at home. The beauty of an image’s contours emerging on a white sheet captivated me. I even got my own film camera.
I believe I have always taken photos.
About a year and a half ago, I was lucky enough to get into an online community, the main idea of which was the relationship between art history and modern photography. And this new perspective, this new world instantly absorbed me.
Q: Could you elaborate on how you took this award-winning picture? What was the main concept and what was your process for creating it?
My husband handed our youngest son to me that morning and told me he needed to brush teeth (which, according to him, was ‘mission impossible’ while holding a child).
So, with the same child in my arms, I went to clean myself up, right after my husband. As I was brushing my teeth, I was reflecting on the gap lying between my world of being a mother, constantly in charge, on alert, and his world of a father, endowed with a solid yet distant and background role.
Even though this is our third child, he has never had to brush his teeth, go to the bathroom or perform any other duties with the child. I have learned to cope with everything in the constant presence of my baby.
That’s how I came up with the idea of capturing such moments of a woman’s daily grind, and shooting them on the spot.
They’re the heart of this series, offering to reflect on the bitter fact that in the modern world we live under the influence of stereotypes that are shaped by advertising and social networks.
These stereotypes are trying to convince us that nothing can change with the birth of a child, whose life fits so easily into a mother’s life. It is still possible to look great, do sports, do the things you enjoy, wait for your husband in the evening from work while your dinner is prepared and served. Put the children to sleep and spend a romantic evening together. And if you don’t, then you’re just a failure. Society expects us to conform to these stereotypes, and we strive to prove it. But in fact, doing all this with a baby is not so easy. Mums get tired, but there is not always time to rest, because motherhood is continuous … It is 24/7.
Q: What does receiving this honor entail for you?
Receiving this award is a tremendous honor for me. Besides being a confirmation of my progress, it also resonates within the hearts of the audience and jury.
Hence, more people can now become familiar with the series, and, perhaps, someone will realize that their loved ones need assistance with a child or that a spouse should place fewer demands on them, offering more empathy. The myth of the almighty mother figure that can handle everything on her own must be dispelled.
Q: What other photographers’ work, practices, or styles have had an influence on your own?
I admire art and am inspired by the artworks of other creators. My favorite artists belong to different epochs, each of them has something to spark the interest and inspiration. The interconnection between painting and photography amazes me. For example, in this series, I was inspired by Edgar Degas and his captivating images of women showering, bathing, and combing their hair.
Q: Photography is a great medium for communicating various messages to people. What are your thoughts on this tool and how do you use it?
I definitely agree with this and believe it is crucial that a photo encourages someone to stop and reflect on someone else’s fate or some other issue. I like photos whose simplicity contains a thought-provoking idea or an image, not the beautiful shots made without any purpose. They evoke a feeling when you look at them.
Q: What difficulties do you think photographers face today?
The main challenge, I believe, lies in creating such an image that can be approachable for every viewer. It is important for a photographer to make the idea behind a picture understandable to all viewers, regardless of their background, so that no unnecessary barrier is created.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your projects?
Among my constant sources of inspiration are my motherhood, family, children, and life itself.
There is always an element of spontaneity in my work, and I have more ideas than I have time to implement.
Q: What would the setting be for your ideal photo shoot? Do you have any tools or accessories that you must include?
Experimenting and using different settings is something I enjoy doing. It is probably the remote control or the application on my phone for taking self-portraits that I would find difficult to live without. The rest can vary based on the idea.
Q: What are your future plans? Are you presently engaged in any intriguing projects that you can share with us?
There are several projects I am currently working on. They are quite different from one another. The first depicts a paper world that is beautiful and ideal, but in reality is a world of illusions.
I also created a series of collages exploring the issue of physical communication with relatives living abroad. In the upcoming year, I will also film a project about ecology and plastic.
View Olga Steinepreis’ Winning Work Here.