Top Slovenia interview: Katja Jemec

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How old were you when you first knew you wanted to be a professional photographer? How did you first get into the profession?

I have always enjoyed taking photos. Mostly because I disliked being photographed. When I was 15 years old the social worker in primary school asked me “What would you like to do when you grow up?”. And, dreamer as I was, I answered “I wanna work do Movies!”. She recommended me a high school of Multimedia and that was the best decision ever. I never enjoyed going to school so much before. This is when I realise that I really love visual pictures, still or moving. Another big chance came when I was chosen to attend the student exchange to the Media School in Finland for a month. At that point I became curious about traveling as well. When I was 21, attending academy for Multimedia at the time, I had a chance to do an Erasmus Practice internship. I packed my car, my 1-year old dog Iža, and drove all the way to the Ireland. We stayed there for 6 months, I worked as a photography assistant and traveled all around this stunning country. This is how I realised this is “the movie” I wanted to live in. To do photography and travel. So far, this is more or less of what I’ve been doing.

Why wedding photography?

That was more of a coincidence. David, photographer I worked with in Ireland, was mostly a wedding photographer and since I was there during the summer, we did mostly weddings. At that point I realised I love working with people and even though weddings are a huge responsibility, are also big fun.

Why is it important to have a good wedding photographer?

Photos are the only physical memory left from your wedding day. It should be something that brings back all those feelings you had on your day. There is one person, a photographer, you have to trust with all your heart to capture this exactly the way it happened. And this is what is important. I believe that good photographer is a good story-listener first and this is what makes them a good storyteller. Knowing the couple, understanding their view on life is an important part of my job as the wedding photographer.

How do you differ from other wedding photographers on the scene in Slovenia?

Becoming a wedding photographer in Slovenia is easy, but to remain on the market, to keep on going, is something that takes a lot of courage, self-belief, knowing your path and being aware this is a lifestyle, not an eight-to-four job. What I believe that differs me from many wedding photographers is that I put photography as priority in my life, shaped my life around it. Photography is strongly connected to my life – I’m an outdoorsy person, working mostly with the same-minded people. I am also a dog lover, working mostly with people who own dogs or love animals in general.

How many weddings have you shot so far?

Hard to say the exact number, but definitely about 110-130.

Could you share with us, which is your favorite photograph and tell us the story behind it?

My favourite photo… The most difficult question, because there’s too many of them. I choose the one from New Zealand, because the whole experience was just so different. A simple ceremony happened on a sandy beach, just outside the lovely weekend house the groom’s family owns. The couple, Rebecca and Francois, started an early day with jogging on the beach and family breakfast to which I was invited to as well. It continued with the slow preparations for the day, finished with the romantic ceremony and the party on their backyard. The wedding was so authentic, because it was exactly how they liked it. Sometimes the couples have a lack of the authenticity, following expectations from their relatives more than what they really desire and what kind of wedding they wish to have.

We also notice you take a lot of photos of animals, dogs in particular. How did you get in this field of photography?

It all started with my Australian shepherd dog Iža that I got 9 years ago. It started with taking photos of my friends’ dogs and continued in an idea to offer lifestyle dog photography portraits. The idea came out great, and after a couple of years, I got another idea to do a dog camp – three day event with different workshops for the active dog owners.

What’s the most common mistake that amateur photographers make?

With amateur photographers I would say that they spend a lot of money on equipment, but not on the education. With education I do not only mean to learn how to use the buttons on the camera, but also to understand photography – how to tell the story.

Any tips on how to shoot couples?

The most important thing is the location – choose the one it will make them comfortable. Make sure they are comfortable with crowds, if you take them to the urban environment, and make sure, they have a proper clothing if you take them to the mountains. The second important thing is to avoid static posing – make them do something. Make them walk around holding hands, whispering something in each other’s ears, running bare foot, telling jokes to each other… Something, to bring up their true self and so they forget you are taking photos of them.

Where’s your favorite place to shoot weddings in Slovenia?

My favourite place to shoot weddings is Bohinj. I am exploring this area for almost 10 years now, knowing all the hidden gems and other beautiful spots for photography.

Everyone seems to be an amateur photographer these days, which we can relate to because everyone also seems to be an amateur writer. How has this affected professional photographers?

I think that competition always makes you stronger and move you a little bit of your comfort zone which means improving your work. This does not mean changing your direction or walking faster, so the others don’t overtake you, it just means making your steps more creative, more unique and different, to be more visible as you walk down the road alongside others. It can be challenging, especially if you are a really emotional type of person, but business is business and knowing your price and worth is an important thing to be aware of at every step on the way.

When you are on holiday do you still take a lot of photos?

I always choose travel destination depending on photography. My first question I ask myself when I plan the trip is “What kind of photos I wanna take?”. This is how I traveled to Mongolia to photograph tribes that live off-the-gird in the Siberian Taiga, New Zealand, to get beautiful landscape shots, and all around Ireland to take portraits of the Irish farmers and their working dogs. I try to travel 2 months per year to do projects for my soul, so the photography is not just my job.

Do you think that taking or not taking photos changed your experience of a place?

Definitely. When I take photos, it feels I’m in my little world, trying to understand what I see. In a little bit more poetic sense it is like what I see goes from my eyes directly to my heart and back to my finger to press the shutter button. Photography is my favourite way of communication.

What advice would you give to young photographers who are just starting out on the scene?

Follow yourself, look up to other photographers, but don’t try to copy. Try to see how they approach to the photography, then find your own way you’re gonna do it.

What is your life’s motto?

If you never try, you’ll never know.