Too rarely one encounters true Ladies and honorable Gentlemen but even rarer are those who embody what the French call gentilesse – the simple quality of being gentle. To possess this aged a mere 25, as well as a distinct talent behind the lense would be quite enough but when combined with a joi de vivre and poetic zest for seizing life’s moments you are presented with something and someone quite unique. It is our pleasure to introduce Mr Martin Stranka.
PP. Martin you are a mere 25 years old and yet you already have a distinctive photographic style. When did you start taking pictures?
MS. Well, I didn’t inherit the skills or tools from my father! I started taking photos three years ago. It was like a bolt from the blue. I never believed I would one day work in photography.
MS. Because I was never really involved or thought about it. Some not-so-happy moments occurred and I felt the need to express my thoughts in some way. As I always say, real art doesn’t come from happiness. What do you think?
PP. Many artists state that unhappy or difficult moments are indeed necessary in order to create. Can you talk about these not-so-happy times? What happened?
MS. You could get to know me better from my Party Animals series. That’s one side of me. On the other hand, there is Martin’s inner world. And what created my inner world? Basically people are inextricably tied to each other and it really hurts when you lose someone who was so close to your heart.
My ex boyfriend died and I was suddenly aware of many unknown things, not identified before in my life. But people say that time heals wounds. That was more than 3 years ago, basically the time when I started to take pictures.
I know, this is not a very happy start but don’t worry, I feel much better now. It is one of life’s circles. Something had to end for something new to begin.
PP. True. Your work is very poetic, each image is almost like a poem. Is that intentional?
MS. Poetry? Well… I have to say I don’t write poems in that typical way. I really love short, striking lines. I often connect my art to some lyrics, that’s true, like:
“Leave me dreaming
on the bed
keep this scene
inside your head”
Things like that I really love… Maybe that’s why my images feel poetic.
PP. Where do you live?
MS. In the magic city of Prague.
PP. Were you born there? What is magical about Prague?
MS. No I wasn’t born in Prague but in Most, then lived in Litoměřice and now I’ve lived in Prague for two years. The city is a really amazing place to live in. I never believed that I could love a place so much. I adore the narrow alleys with little shining lamps, all these small cafés and bars. And the people are really friendly, I have visited other European capitals like Amsterdam, Paris and so on but it is Prague that I feel happiest in.
PP. Is it possible for you to live from your work? Many artists have to do so many different jobs in order to survive. What is your situation?
MS. I have to admit, I am one of the lucky ones as I can live from my photography. The last six months have been incredible. Lot of things have changed and moved forward. I have entered into the commercial world too. Now I feel I can do what I really love, my biggest passion as well as live from it.
PP. Do you show your work in galleries?
MS. Yes I do show in galleries even though I am only starting really. I have had exhibitions here, mainly in Prague and I will show abroad in the future. It is always so pleasant meeting people from different cultures and countries.
I believe that 2010 will be a key year for my work. I am lucky to have a manager Michala, who helps me a lot so I hope there is a great year ahead.
PP. What are you working currently on?
MS. Right now, my solo exhibition in Prague. It should be much bigger than last time, I guess containing about 20 images 1 x 1m big, many visitors and lots of fun. I am going through all my photos right now and trying to select the best 20 so I could share my world with people.
PP. What makes you happy?
MS. I really love those specific, unique moments in every day life. Walking against the setting sun, when you have to turn away due to the intense light and the streets turn gold. Or when I walk alone through the night, where only the street lamps follow my steps. I know it may sound crazy, but I love street lamps and the light they create, the atmosphere just filled with magic. That makes me happy. Oh and the floating pieces of dust in the room during the sunset. I love those moments. Do I sound foolish?
PP. Of course not. I would say you are a romantic.
MS. I really love it and that is also what I try to capture in my art.
PP. And you do so beautifully. Are you in love?
MS. Yeah, for 6 years now. And it gets better and better every day.
PP. Wow, how fantastic is that? Who is the lucky guy?
MS. Yes, it is amazing. I can still hardly believe I’ve been in love for all these years. But it is so often about people we meet in our life. And I think there is always The One, who can make you happy. We met about 6 years ago. He is the curator and owner of Gape Gallery. We compliment each other. I mean in professional way now! He lives in management and the world of galleries and I in my own creative place. Perfect couple, one might say.
PP. Is it acceptable to be gay in Czech Republic?
MS. Absolutely. I read often that people call Prague a cradle of gay life. It really isn’t a problem here as most of the people are open minded. Gay people can get married. It is written in our law.
PP. What a luxury. Unfortunately there are not many places even within Europe like that.
MS. I have many gay friends around the world. Sometimes, it is so sad hearing how they suffer from their cultures, habits and political systems. That’s why I support all concepts of freedom and rights. Openly! I hope you agree with me?
PP. Absolutely. Some quick fire questions now.
What is your favourite colour and why?
MS. Colour, colour, colour… mmm… A lot of my clothes are black or dark but I think I love different colours. Dark bottle green makes me calm, it could be my favourite colour I think.
PP. Your favourite food?
MS. Can one count life a food? I devour life! And I love potato pancakes, the homemade Czech ones! One day I will make them for you.
PP. I will remember that! Kissing or talking?
MS. Oh, one of the nicest questions I have ever been asked! I would love to combine these two things. Start with talking and end up with kissing.
PP. Playing or working?
MS. Playing! There is still a child inside me.
PP. What is your biggest dream?
MS. Do you know how difficult this question is? It is not fair.
Well, I would love to lie on the floor in my own studio, covered and surrounded by tons of photographs. To watch the setting sun and feel I could melt the society’s ice with art. See I am already lost in daydreaming! Actually I don’t want to wake up. The line between dreaming and waking is so very thin, isn’t it?
Images: © Martin Stranka, 2009. Courtesy of the artist
Text: © Predrag Pajdic