Domenika Spexard is a portrait photographer based in Berlin. We chat to Domenika about her work, her influences and what it is that makes a good portrait.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first got started in photography.
The first thing that comes to mind about myself is that I’m a really open-minded and creative person. Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in my peers and their stories, personalities and their ways of living. It truly inspires and intrigues me. As time went by, I found that photography brought me closer to this desire, to get to know people and at the same time to support my creative development.
Has your work as a model influenced the way in which you approach your own photography?
I always say about myself that modelling makes me a ‘sensing person’ and photographing makes me an observer. Therefore, I know how my models feel in front of the camera and that’s why it is so important to me that they feel comfortable. Also I want to ensure that I’m changing as little as possible about their personality. I personally know as well that I feel most comfortable when I can trust the photographer. Many of my models tell me that they feel like they can truly be themselves when being with me.
Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?
My three role models in the world of photography are Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz. These photographers have their very own distinctive style which makes their work authentic, appealing and include a very strong character. Peter Lindbergh once said “For true beauty we speak about individuality, about the courage to be oneself, the own sensibility of a person. All of that together, this is beauty for me. Everything else, that delusion for youth and perfection, is just a manipulated fiction.” – I wouldn’t know how to better describe what beauty means to me. I love those words as if they were my own.
In your opinion, what makes a good portrait? Do you need a connection with the subject to get the ‘best’ portrait? What works for you?
In my eyes, a good portrait is made when it makes the observer stare at it in any way. Let it be through emotions, through clarity, vitality or otherness. For a good portrait, I don’t need a special subject. I prefer to work with the person as he or she shows up and with the moments the way they are given to me. I think about how to portray the personality in a photograph, so that the beauty as well as the uniqueness become revealed.
I have only been in Berlin for a few months, but I can clearly see that it is a really amazing city for photography and photographers; why do you think Berlin is such a magnet for photography?
Berlin is like a magnet for photography, because there are so many different people coming together in one city. There are so many ways of living and Berlin represents that incredibly well. I think this is why Berlin is not only offering great possibilities for photographers, but for any kind of art there are a variety of opportunities.
What is next for you? Are you working on any projects that you can tell us about?
In the coming months, I’m going to work more with interesting people and I want to focus on those who also want to create something creative and artistic. I also have thoughts about new projects, but those are still in development – but, generally, I tend to be a person who takes opportunities as they come.
Who was the last photographer whose work made you stop in your tracks and just say “Wow”?
A picture by Kevin Carter, which was taken in 1993. The photo is entitled ‘The vulture and the little girl’ and shows a little Sudanese girl who is completely malnourished and exhausted, sitting in the grass while a bird is watching. Even though many people regard it in a bad way that Carter used the plight for his photography, this picture is still touching. It’s been going around the world and makes many people think. It might have even changed the awareness for some, it remained in their heads. That’s what a good picture needs.
See more of Domenika’s work at:
All images copyright Domenika Spexard.