Interview with photographer Irina Brana

HAZE.GALLERY: Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background?


Irina Brana: My name is Ira Brana, I am 32 years old. I have been involved in photography for a third of my life and have been studying modern art since 2018. I have been exhibiting my work since 2020.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a creative person. However, there was a moment in my childhood when my parents had to choose between enrolling me in a tennis or an art studio. Fortunately, the first tennis practice never happened because I lost the bag with my only sports uniform and shoes on the appointed day. Soon after, I started attending the art studio, and in a way, my absent-mindedness and forgetfulness predetermined my future in the arts.

I was fortunate to have my first painting teacher who became a true mentor, provided me with excellent foundational knowledge, and taught me to view the world with curiosity.

During my university years studying International Relations (don't ask!), out of curiosity, I decided to try myself in photography. I saved up for my first camera by handing out flyers during the summer. And it changed my life.

H.G: What drew you to the world of still life photography, and how do you find inspiration for your compositions?


I.B: Before I started creating modern still lifes, I spent ten years working as a portrait photographer and could not imagine my photos without people in them. At some point, two events influenced me: firstly, the 2020 lockdown when we were all stuck in confined spaces surrounded by our possessions. I tried to create something out of what was at hand and discovered that any idea could be expressed with minimal resources if there was something to say. Secondly, motherhood. I started working with images of fragments of my body, delving into the topic of corporeality, keeping a visual diary of my experiences, and still life turned out to be an excellent "stage" for expression and experimentation. One could say that I started making still lifes using the available conditions and themes that interested me at some point. I found a tool for their realization and, at the same time, a new vector in creativity and career, a new channel for dialogue with the world and the audience.

Inspiration is a constant shift in perspective, it's a search and an eternal question "What if I combine this and that?". I try to find it everywhere, and if it finds me on its own - I try not to miss the moment.

H.G: Still-life photography often involves arranging inanimate objects to tell a story. Can you share an example of a specific story you've conveyed through your work?


I.B: Every photograph is based on a story. The composition's characters are not random: here I am telling a story about sleep deprivation as a mother, and this series of photographs is about diabetes. Here I am sharing childhood memories, and here I am exploring the feelings of being an immigrant.

Okay, let me give you a specific example for clarity; a few years ago the builders demolished a wall* in our new apartment, and we found another wall behind it with seven layers of wallpaper left by the previous tenants. No wonder, the building is over a hundred years old! Unfortunately, we had to demolish the second wall too due to safety reasons, but I cut out a small piece of this “layered cake” and included it in a still life as a tribute to the history of this place. After the renovation, this still life hung in the living room, where my family's story continued.


(*photo above ) 

H.G: Lighting plays a crucial role in creating mood and atmosphere in photography. How do you approach lighting setups to achieve the desired effect in your still-life images?



I.B: I love daylight from the window, soft shadows, and indirect sunlight. To achieve light spots and special effects, I use mirrors, reflectors, foil, disco ball, and glass shards. Light is something that can be experimented with endlessly. I use minimal processing in my photographs and often leave, for example, wires or clips on which objects were held, but I usually retouch spots on the background, dust, and scratches.


H.G: Each object in a still-life composition contributes to the overall narrative. How do you choose the objects that will be a part of your scene, and what do you consider when arranging them?


Everything usually starts with the main hero, the center of composition and narration, and then it is surrounded by companions. Sometimes, the secondary objects are purely visual accompaniment, suitable in form, color, and texture, while other times they are full partners, strengthening the idea, adding contrast, adding questions and depth. Sometimes I use things that have been lying on the shelf waiting for their time, sometimes it's an impulse, a spark - I see it and immediately gather a still life. Sometimes I walk down the street, buy flowers from a street vendor, bring them home, and realize that this stone, for example, was just waiting for them. So let's get to work. I'm always searching, I've trained myself to notice that hero on the street, in the store, while playing with my child, while traveling, visiting my friends, wherever I am, at any moment there might be a "Oh, I need that!"


Arranging objects can take a long time; most often I rely on simple composition rules, fitting the heroes into a geometric shape (I have quite a lot of triangles) or using the principle of "more than one, less than another."

H.G: Can you share a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your creative process? How do you go from conceptualizing an idea to capturing the final photograph?


I.B: My still lifes are personal, but I try to maintain a distance between author and viewer to leave space for interpretation and dialogue. The search for metaphor is one of the main aspects of my work; I try not to take the idea "off the shelf" (although it's very difficult). It's important to create art using themes that excite you and really stir you up inside. These can be very different methods of working with ideas and associations. I can recommend the book "Fantasia" by an Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari; it's small but very visually explains how to develop and visualize an idea. Definitely, theory and exposure are important in creating conceptual works; it's important to know what has already been created for you. Being an artist is a constant process of learning and expanding your worldview, enriching yourself with information and experience that is converted into art, and working with feelings and reflection.


H.G: What is “beauty” to you?


To be charmed by the world around in all its diversity is what I strive for.


H.G: What’s the plan for your artistic future?


At some point, I decided not to set specific goals such as "exhibit in a particular gallery" or "be published in a specific publication." Being an artist is a process where success is made up of many factors, and first and foremost,I want to genuinely enjoy this process. I work with the conditions that exist and try to move forward at my own pace, learning not to undervalue my achievements, not to compare myself to other artists, and finding motivation within myself.


I dream of someday helping other authors develop, especially women artists, and mother-artists, because I know how difficult it is to combine multiple roles. I dream of having my own studio, with open doors for friends and guests.


I really want to create freely and with a lively interest for as long as possible. Not to be afraid of change, mistakes, and new circumstances, to feel that I am doing something important for the world around me. To be a responsible person and author while still childishly admiring the beautiful stone on the path.

Follow Irina on her INSTAGRAM 


interviewed by Irina Rusinovich