Behind the Image is an ongoing MODELS.com series taking a more personal look at both established and emerging creative talent.
Ina Lekiewicz, photographer
Representation: 2DM MANAGEMENT (New York, Milan)
How would you describe your work? What’s your trademark?
One stylist keeps saying that I’m such a “goth at heart”. I would say that my style is kind of raw, but also romantic and cinematic at the same time. Sometimes I feel like I capture my imaginary memories. I constantly have new ideas for stories. And many of those stories are patiently waiting inside my head, ready to be shot.
How did you get into your chosen career?
Photography was a passion of mine when I was a teenager. I remember when I’ve turned a bathroom in my parent’s house into a black & white darkroom. Sadly, those were the times when the industry was fascinated by digital photography and at the time, a digital camera wasn’t something I could afford (they were so expensive!). I’ve ended up writing and styling for fashion magazines and, over the years, I became extremely frustrated working on shoots that ended up looking nothing like I’ve imagined them in my head. Three years ago, I bought a few cameras and that’s when my photography adventure re-started.
What other jobs have you had?
Various, starting from random roles like doing visual merchandising, DJ’ing and playing keyboards in indie bands to more serious ones like lecturing on Cultural Anthropology at the University of Warsaw, whilst also working as fashion director in a magazine.
What have you watched/heard/read lately that has inspired you?
I love “Can’t get you out of my head”, a new series by Adam Curtis. I used to tell people “Hypernormalisation” is the best thing they can watch in their life. Literally, anything by Adam Curtis is a must-watch.
What do you love about what you do?
I love that the teams I get to work with are not only talented, but also so inspiring. I constantly meet people, from over the world, that I would’ve probably never had an occasion to meet. There are so many stories to hear and so much more to learn.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced professionally?
The career transition was quite challenging. This, on top of being a female photographer, raises questions like “Oh, and how do you deal with technical aspects?”. While I can’t believe these questions are still being asked in 2021, I’m also a massive nerd – for example, I can code in HTML.
What’s one thing outside of your work that you would like people to know about you?
Slightly work-related, so I hope that’s ok as it’s the most important lesson I’ve learnt. When I started teaching, my father – who was a philosophy lecturer – said there are two ways of lecturing: 1. “look how smart I am” and 2. “look how easy it is”. I’ve remembered it forever and translated it into my industry work. Some people tend to be difficult just to demonstrate how great they are. Shooting is not rocket science. We are so fortunate to be able to do fun things for living. I like things to be easy, I love for a shoot day to be a pleasant day for everyone.
Who do you think is one to watch?
I am extremely lucky to have incredible teams of talented and lovely people around me, and it’s so hard to pick just one person. However, whilst most of the artists I admire and work with are tagged on Models.com, it’s the hard work done behind the scenes (by assistants, lab guys, agents and producers) that I believe deserves more recognition. Since there’s only one person I can give a shoutout to, it would be Lou Greenaway – a producer that made many of my insane ideas come to life. A horse in the middle of a parking lot in Blackpool? Spending five days in quarantine with me in a little house in Iceland just to shoot an editorial? Adopting a goldfish just because I want to take a picture of one? Making some weird, lilac draped curtains that I “absolutely need” overnight? Name it and she’ll deliver it just to get the shot right. Plus, she’s just so much fun to work with (and cooks so well too!).
It was the first shoot with Erdem that started our collaboration and led to many others. I have always admired Erdem’s incredible mind – he truly is a genius. Working with him and helping his vision come to life has been the greatest honour and a dream come true. I admire his attention to detail and extraordinary talent.
It’s a special story – shot during quarantine in Iceland, while the entire team was locked in a little house by the sea. So many great memories, including my favourite of Anna Cofone, the hairstylist, cooking risotto out of rice we’ve used to remove condensation from the camera lens. Risotto ala Mamiya – we even named it!
A magical moment of the horse falling in love with our model. One of my favourite stories shot last year.
Shot in Texas with a lovely, small team – just the model, stylist and myself in a car. We went to the rodeo in Waco and people kept asking if we were from “Rodeo Girl” magazine. I’ve worked with Belle again later. I love shooting with the same model over and over again, as it allows the trust between us to strengthen and results in truly amazing outcomes. I don’t understand how people can say “No, thank you – I’ve shot her already”. Madness.
A good example of my love for locations that are not “obviously” beautiful, but seems so authentic and cinematic to me. Location scouting is one of my favourite parts of this job. I have so many saved for future projects.