November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Janez Vlachy/Photographer

© Janez Vlachy

ooo

“There is always some idiot

smarter than you.”

An Interview with Janez Vlachy

By Mike Foldes


Janez Vlachy was born in 1954, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, as he says, “A small country, two million inhabitants. Two hours from Venice, Italy, the best cappuccino in the world.” His parents both were economists and his grandparents “were something extra. One came a long way from being a shepherd to studying law in Wien, Austria. That happened a lot at that time in

Vlachy

Europe, if someone was poor but observed for some potential, usually church provided money for education. He was an officer in the Austrian army in WW I. Later on, in WW II, when we were under German occupation, he talked a German officer out of destroying the city bridge. That was quite a bit of courage, I suppose. A civilian talking in perfect German, feeling as an officer talking to a younger guy! “The other one was Czech, playing a clarinet in the Philharmonic in my country.

Vlachy has no siblings, but says he “always wanted a brother, or at least a sister….” He studied economics at university, but felt “misplaced”. “Those guys are so without humor!” He quit everything and started taking photographs. When he won some awards in juried shows in Europe, he also quit his  day job (as an economist) and devoted full time to photography.
Vlachy likes to tell jokes. His best, he says, is this:  When my wife came home, she said: “You know what I saw when walking through the woods? Five lizards – those black and yellow colored ones.
I answered: “Can you imagine what they said they saw when they came home?”


The following interview was conducted via an e-mail exchange in March and April 2011.

Q: When did you start taking pictures?
JV: About 25 years ago. I started with my family. I never read a book on photography in my life (it shows, ha). I’m too lazy for that. It must come intuitively. I look and learn. Mistakes and strong will, that’s the best teacher you can wish for.
My work was published in Graphis Magazine NY photography books several times, along with some famous names, and I’ve had exhibits in Tokyo, Prague, Montreal…. For me this was a great recognition of my work. I am most grateful for that; it gave me self-respect, some confirmation that you are doing okay. My Nudes 4 photographs in Graphis (in print now) appeared alongside images by Sheila Metzner, Herb Ritts, Albert Watson, Mark Seliger, Joyce Tenneson, Lisa Spindler, and portraits of Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Bruce Willis, Elton John. It is also great inspiration, which you need for your future work, as well as the feeling of contributing as an artist to the hectic world around us.

Q. What kind of camera(s) do you like/use? In what situations?
JV: I use a Bronica middle format for my model shots. For City Scapes I use a wooden 4×5 Wista field camera.

Q: The cameras you use are not digital, so, where do you do your printing? Do you have a preferred paper, processing technique?
JV: I do transparency film, used to get it developed in two hours, now I must wait two days. I scan my work then jet print. I want the scans to be same as my work, color, contrast.
Was just trying Hahnemuhle paper. Very close must say.

Q. What do you think of the state of commercial photography today?
JV: It’s as good as it gets. (There are) so many good professional photographers out there. I think that sometimes it is hard for a photographer to make better work because of the limitations of  the taste of the customer.
I especially like the modern photography of food. I think there is no more leeway there, some images are really art. Also in fashion I enjoy good images. I like Vogue, especially Italian and German editions, those guys are the best in the world. They really pushed the limits. Of course there is no limitation in creativity or budget. But then you see a simple image, maybe some erotic fashion shot, and your eyes take a rest. I say to myself: This guy is good. So simple and strong.

Q: What do you see as the direction of photography as art?
JV: It changed incredibly a lot over the last 20 years. From side A (on an LP) it went to side B or even C. By side A and changing to B or C on an LP, I mean that photography changed its subject, stepping down from angels to mankind, going to places it has never been before… Searching and searching for new approaches.
It is hard to think it will slow down, nothing has. Look at the music, the modern styles like Acid, Lounge…  they evolved into something even more update. But I cry at some old traditional melody like “Danny Boy”.
The same is happening with photography. Everybody is a photographer. More now than ever. But the quality is well defined.  Old masters are still going strong, still fresh, unique, original.  All that takes time and sensibility.  I’m talking about sustainability, intelligence and ability to observe and see things.
That has never changed. The profession should be more professional — the modern curator has too much voice, or (is on an) ego trip. Always something new, searching for new rational tricks for the cost of quality. That is the way of modern photography.   Too much energy lost on a wish to be original, too much tautology.
And with a digital post production we have new possibilities, new combinations. There should be no fight between New and Old, there also should be no win (? Do you mean Victory?) of the New. Sadly today I observe that the Good-old-feeling must fight for its own right to exist. Show me  your guts and I will tell you who you are: that should be the only criteria for the quality of work. Added value, that’s the name of the game. This world needs more sensibility, humanism and understanding.
That’s where art kicks in, photography also.

Q: Who have been your greatest influences and how did he/she/they influence you to see the world as you see it?
JV: Maybe the greatest influence was that girl some years ago: she changed from walking to running. With that also her face changed, the expression. It started me thinking, something so unimportant and yet so beautiful.
When I discovered photography, it was Ralph Gibson. We actually met once in his New York studio. I called him, told him I’m a photographer from Europe. He said, “Come over if you have time.” I mean, that was really something. I was calling my hero and he said to (come) visit him. Ha. We spent two hours talking. I told all my friends, you can imagine. I still call him every so often; he doesn’t remember me anymore, I’m sure. But today a nice thing happened: I got mail from a Beijing student painter. She wants to use my images for her paintings. That’s funny,  a photographer being an inspiration to a painter. Ha, that’s a good one.

Q: How has politics shaped your approach to photography?
JV: There is no connection to my work.

Q: What effect did the conflicts in Slovenia have on you?
JV: Only bad for my creative happiness, otherwise no influence on what I photograph. Just bad feeling, like now with the Japan disaster and Libya war … makes me sad.

Q: What are you plans for new projects, commercial or personal?
JV: Working on exhibits for Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Houston, Texas. We shall see. There are also some prospects in Miami, Florida, but it’s the galleries’ turn now.
Also my Boston rep gallery, Tepper Takayama Fine Arts, is very active and making me some good PR coverage, especially since the book on NASA astronaut Sunita Williams (mother Slovenian, father from India) is coming out with my portrait of her on the cover.

Q: How long have you been able to support yourself with photography and what did you do before that “to survive”?
JV: Actually I have some hard times right now. I am working on a new subject,  a new exhibition that is almost finished.  It’s my 45″ work, “Night City Scapes and Jet Engines”. I want to give it some modern name like: “Stop for Coffee”, or something like that, not connected to the subject of the work. That’s very modern in Europe now.
I was doing a project for world known Akrapovic Exhaust Systems, one of the best pipes high-tech manufacturers for motorcycles and F1. A friend of mine was traveling America with their exhaust pipes, with people asking him where is he from, how come he has Akrapovic exhaust, does he know him … that kind of thing.
The images made it to Graphis NY Annual (2009) advertising book. I was lucky, a guy trusted what I was doing. Actually it was his wife. Some day they will make an exhibition of the works in Tokyo, ha.  What more can you wish for? It was done on my almost 100 years old 8×10, the lens same age. The light source was a spot light a friend of mine made from a can of beans, ha.

Q: Anything you care to add?
JV: I would only like to add the two wisdoms I sent you already, if they fit the profile. You can skip the joke of the lizards if you want to.
For someone who doesn’t know much, he knows a lot.”
And, “There is always some idiot smarter than you.”

Photographer’s Note:
Graphis Advertising Annual 2009. The original transparency is 4×5″, done with an almost 100 years- old lens. That was quite a project. The tubes looked photogenic when I first saw them.
But when laid down on a surface, it was hard to do anything, to change from what they were to something sophisticated, as they are. Considering that the guy (Akrapovic) is a genius and started in his garage, dreaming the shapes of tubes, thus making them better than  the whole Japan Motorcycle industry. When a delegation from Japan came, they couldn’t believe their eyes. After three weeks of throwing away all the film, I came to this final solution. The background is a shirt wrap paper, doing a perfect job in this situation. My wife goes crazy by all the stuff I salvage. It’s hard for her to understand the pre-vision of my thinking process. But that is the old age fight between the sexes. When I contacted the Graphis, they gave me a two-page spread at my disposal to arrange at my will. As mentioned, the light I used was done from a can of beans and a cut paper in front of it making the shadows.

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Janez Vlachy


View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

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To see more of Vlachy’s photography visit his website at:

3 comments

1 G { 05.05.11 at 4:36 am }

Nice article, great photographer.

2 Marko { 05.09.11 at 12:10 pm }

I know the guy, he is a superb artist but locked in the “small” Slovenia, he needs more international support.
Invite him to show you his unique photos, he is unique!
Marko

3 Dora { 05.13.11 at 6:04 pm }

Great artist who makes simple objects amazingly sensible. He is the best photographer in black white technique and deserves worldwide recognition.Strong mentally and sensitive in feeling thus giving his photos extreme value.