A girl photographer who has been photographing South America alone for eight years and has won many international awards - Anna Gibiskys.
Maria talked to our new protagonist, photographer Anna Gibiskys, about how to arrange with the Yampara Indians to shoot and her unique experience working in the untouched ecosystems of the faraway continent.
Artifex: Can you tell us more about your work, your technique? How did you realize that landscape panoramic photography is your thing?
I show my perception of the world. My most successful works are born in moments of total fusion with the moment and the place, often hard-to-reach locations in Altiplano. For these expeditions, I do not spare any time or money. It is easy for me to photograph these beauties, every meter on the plateau is a field for creativity. I sincerely admire this high mountain plateau and its weather phenomena. Often I shoot in panning technique - horizontal or vertical. The panorama format is not easy to work with; you must think a lot about the composition and try it out. I place great importance on color in photography; it has to be ringingly pure. It has to be exactly the way I remember it on the spot. And that's a dozen layers on the original image, with fine-tuning tones. My landscape is an admiration for the beauty of nature and an appreciation for the opportunity to live on this planet; for me, it is a portrait of character. I am concerned about ecology, garbage production, melting permafrost, ocean pollution, and mink coat factories. My photography will attract the beholder's attention to the world's pristine nature, inspiring him to think about his role on this planet.
Artifex: You have a series of wonderful portraits of the Yampara Indians. Tell us more about that. How did you negotiate with these people to create their images?
It was a very long journey. The Yampara are very closed and small people; they don't like foreigners. On my first visit, people threw stones and vegetables they sell at the market to try to take a photo with a person in it. I attempted to guffaw at the time, but I felt desperate. Their culture is exciting to me; in 2012, I knew almost nothing about them. The first time I could take some photos of children and teenagers, it was much easier to communicate with them than with adults. They are shy but try to dress fashionably, and these are chokers and olimpikas against the background of traditional ponchos and bowler hats. Later, I printed out some A5 photos to claim a place in the frame and returned to the village a year later with the pictures. I had prepared myself, I could already speak basic Spanish, and I tried to use words from Quechua or ask how it sounded in Quechua. It was challenging to track down people from the pictures; I canvassed the whole village and handed out a stack of photographs. People asked how much the photo cost; I refused the money, offered to take another portrait, and said I didn't know when I'd be back. And so three years passed, I would come once or twice a year to distant Bolivia, to the tiny village of Tarabuco, where the Yampara culture was born in the 5th century AD.
2014 I was lucky enough to spot Martin Maldes' forge open. He was forging some plow. Honestly, I froze in the forge aisle and couldn't leave, obscuring the doorway, the only light source in the smoky room. I wanted to photograph every detail, every tool, and this man. I felt embarrassed by my behavior and asked permission to stay and watch him work. He forged what he wanted and asked me to get him a cold Coke. We became friends with his family, and it turned out that I had already photographed his granddaughter the year before, and this time, she appeared on camera as a young girl instead of a child in grimy pajamas.
When we meet, she gently takes me under her arm and walks with me the whole time I'm in the village. We have some tender mutual love; the last time, she asked permission to photograph me with my camera. She was struck by the heaviness of the equipment and the process itself. It was very delicate to get photo permission from a bruja; this woman has everything for white and black magic and sells rare ingredients for rituals at the market. And so, from this street, began a friendship with a village of a hundred houses. In 2018, the women welcomed me very warmly, started showering me with fruit, hugging me, and asking when I would come back again. I am anxiously waiting for another opportunity to visit them.
Artifex: Tell us about your photography of South America's unique ecosystems.
I usually go through a couple of days of acclimatization in the foothills of the Andes, about 3,000 meters above sea level. I've been working with a Quechua expedition driver for eight years now. We equip a Japanese jeep with fuel, and expedition equipment, take all necessary water and food, and set off on an expedition along the route, which I usually work out for several months. The Altiplano is a jewel box. First, it is striking Bofedales; it is a prickly swamp, hard bright green bumps with prickles, like cacti, through which icy streams run from - under the ground.
At an altitude of 4,000 meters, you can see even tiny fry; they are brought in from other regions of South America by Andean gulls. Llamas and alpacas adore bofedales; these succulent pastures are a source of life. The first time I didn't know the thorns existed and decided to sink to my knees in search of a good angle; how this unexpected pain struck me; my knees were bleeding for a long time because, at altitude, the blood clotting is reduced. The edge of the colorful lagoons in Eduardo Avaroa National Park is unimaginable. These are ultra-red, sky-blue, white lagoons, and even an arsenic-poisonous green one; pink flamingos do not live in it, but other lagoons are very fond of others. It is impossible to go close to the shore, as very delicate vegetation grows there, which is quite a difficult condition for creativity. Still, I am always looking for new species and constantly analyzing how not to harm the fragile ecosystem. The desert is named after Salvador Dali, who was called by the first travelers for its resemblance to the artist's surrealistic landscapes. Can it be described in words? The elegance of the volcanic icicles, the endless expanses of sandstone in different shades, the red mountains in drips of paint. Here we always try to climb higher on the hills and look for the right views.
The geothermal valley in Sahama National Park is a boiling river with acidic shores. Geysers gush out of the ground, and streams converge into warm rivers, and a riot of greenery forms all around. Once, I climbed a volcano six thousand meters high to see the Lagoon Verde from above; I thought the view would be fantastic. After seven hours of climbing, I saw another volcano and realized that was where the view I wanted would come from. From mountain sickness (which develops in five to six hours at an altitude of five thousand meters or more), I forgot Spanish and English. My guide, who spoke only Quechua, was very puzzled because I could only sing a well-known song from the euphoria that began: "I'm a little horse, and my life is not sweet." Thus began my history of climbing volcanoes and the most unusual photographs. People feel differently about the Altiplano, some feel bad, but I feel euphoric when I'm oxygen-deprived; I focus during photography as if in meditation.
Artifex: What is your first memory in life associated with art? It was the chamber theater in the 2000s, which Tatiana Frolova is doing now in France (art director of KNAM theater). Her theater in a small black space was a breath of air for me in stuffy Komsomolsk, which had no interest in art. The guys were staging Kafka with a minimum of scenery, and it was amazing. And then, there were the Polaroid phototransformation slides from Lucas Samaras. I was blown away by his series of photographs that I was lucky to see at the New York Museum of Photography.
Artifex: You won the Pano Awards, an international photography competition. Tell us about that experience.
The photo was taken in Rio de Janeiro. That evening didn't promise anything supernatural in terms of light. After the sun went behind the mountain, there was an incredibly harmonious moment of color and shadow balance. The setting sky lit up the ocean in the background, while the foreground glowed with the city's lights and illuminated Guanabara Bay. I started shooting the HDR panorama, and by the time I was done, all the glow was gone. After stitching the files together, I had a great view, but it was spoiled by the cable car wires right in the middle. I set about learning the technique of frequency decomposition of the image. The retouching of the wires took a few weeks, and at some point, I wanted to quit because there was so much to redo. Wires were superimposed on the tiniest details - the roofs of houses, balconies, natural undertones on the rock of hills. After the view without wires was revealed, this beauty struck me a second time, and the judges appreciated it. When I was invited to judge the contest, I was already looking not only at the composition and subject matter but also at how hard it had been achieved.
Artifex: Tell us about your education.
I graduated from KNAGTU with a degree in organizational management, although I dreamed of becoming a biologist. I had to think strategically, so I left the biology department for a second higher education. I tried my hand at corporate work and realized that I was not interested in this work format, so I went straight into free-floating. From the first money I earned, I invested in professional photographic equipment, a line of lenses, and accessories. I wanted to avoid tying the funds directly to photography, although I took commissions to photograph luxury real estate while looking for my way. I am very passionate about modern interiors and creative architecture. I invested much time in self-education in photography. There were several years in my life when I studied at night. I learned masterpieces from museums around the world. In the quiet of the night, I watched video tutorials on Photoshop and applied everything to my photographs. I assembled panoramas, worked with color correction and perspective creation in the frame, and experimented extensively. And she wrote for herself the routes of photo-expeditions on which she dreamed to pass.
Artifex: What is the secret of successful landscape photography, in your opinion? Which established photographers are you particularly fond of?
There is no secret. It's about diligence, persistence, curiosity, observation of compositional solutions, endless practice and improvement of skills, and a sincere love for the subject, in the search for my style of photography in the landscape. Among photographers, I like the epic style of Max Rive; he can stand out both with composition and photographic manipulation of the image.
Artifex: How do you see your further development in the profession?
I plan to finish analyzing the contemporary social landscape of the Quechua and Yampara cultures and turn it into a project. Recently I realized that I found a small group living in the canyon region in the south of the country who are considered Quechua. Still, they are descendants of the disappeared Chicha culture, even though they speak Quechua. I want to live with them for a few months, plant quinoa, and celebrate important holidays. An interesting picture and full understanding of these people's self-identity will open up. A culture that survived the Inca occupation and survived the time of the conquista, retaining its authenticity unchanged, is worthy of recognition. Their amazing identity fascinated me, even though they are guys with explosive personalities. I want to finish a project about the demons of South America, which will reflect the meaning of the phrase "what they believe is how they live. I want to show Bolivia to Bolivians in La Paz and do a solo exhibition. In general to continue exploring the surrounding reality and shape my worldview through visuals.
Artifex: What are your most important/relevant projects, past or perhaps future?
One project surprised me. I received a request from a major cosmetics brand for images of South American flora. I pulled up a huge archive and found a lot of interesting endemics; my love of botany awoke in me. For some time, I was involved in the identification of plants. The exhibition was in the center of Moscow; it included photos of unusual ecosystems, such as the páramo from Colombia: rare bromeliads and exotic succulents, and the endemic jareta, which was the basis of human survival in the highlands for centuries. Working with National Geographic spurred me to dig deep into South American history, culture, and background. As I parsed and researched, I became an expert on the subject. In the future, I am interested in collaborations with large organizations in ecology and social support.
Artifex: You know, like in quizzes, if you had to pick just one spot on the planet for a single shot?
What would that place be? I would wait for the lenticular clouds in Patagonia, in Torres del Paine. It's a never-ending playground for a master landscape photographer: rapidly changing weather patterns, a gorgeous scene of granite mountains, ultra-blue lakes, glaciers on mountain slopes, and rushing waterfalls.