With a list of clients that includes Ralph Lauren, Urban Outfitters and Harper Collins Publishers, Montreal-based Irene Suchocki has made a name for herself as an evocative photographer. Her beautiful, dream-like images of locales such as Paris, London and New York have a nostalgic, soft-coloured treatment that induce feelings of wanderlust… it’s no wonder she is the top-selling photographer on Etsy.
Irene’s work has been featured on television on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Nate Berkus Show, and Steven and Chris. It has appeared on film sets, in gallery shows, and is in thousands of private collections worldwide. A selection of her photographs can be purchased at Impact Galerie in Old Montreal, and a full selection is available from her Eye Poetry online shop. It was very difficult to choose only a few images for this post, so be sure to visit Irene’s shop or her main web site and see more of her beautiful photographs.
As a fan of her work, I am delighted that Irene agreed to an interview for Pennello Lane, and am also excited to host a giveaway for one of her prints! The details are at the end of the post, but first… read on to learn more about this talented photographer.
How did you first get started in photography?
It was a particular photograph I took after I bought my first film camera. I was photographing a flower in the garden. I was really just fiddling around with the camera in order to learn what the various knobs, buttons and settings did. When I got the film back from the lab, I was overjoyed with the result. I was shooting with black and white film and the areas that had been in shade were almost completely black and the flower was lit perfectly to stand out against this simple background. That was the first time I experienced for myself the creative possibilities of photography and it gave me such a rush that I was hooked.
What new technology over the past 15 years has made the biggest difference for you?
The move to digital has made a big difference to me. Although I love the look of film, the immediacy of the digital format has become a big part of my process. Being able to download photographs right after a shoot and edit them with the complete technical and creative control of Photoshop is just amazing.
What kind of camera do you use?
I primarily use a Canon 5D Mark II (a digital SLR) with a variety of Canon lenses.
How do you achieve the dream-like quality in your images?
A big part of it is the lenses I use. Lenses such as the Lensbaby and Tilt-Shift allow me to choose what is in focus and what is blurred, and that blur around the edges of a photograph is part of the dreamy style I have developed. Other elements that come into play are the choice of subject, composition, the quality of the light, and the colors I use, which are adjusted in Photoshop.
You’ve photographed some amazing locations – Paris, London, New York – do you have a favourite place?
I fell in love with Paris at an early age. While studying French at elementary school, and later high school, my mind would wander to the Paris in my imagination. I was able to visit the city for the first time in my teens and was so taken by its beauty that I could barely believe that it was real. Upon returning to Paris as a photographer, I tried to capture that feeling of being caught up in an exciting and joyous dream.
What do you never travel without?
Comfortable shoes! I often photograph cities, which means walking around for many hours each day with heavy camera equipment. My feet are my foundation and if they are unhappy it is miserable or impossible to keep going.
I am so grateful to be in a position where my work is self-directed and I have complete creative control. Creativity is involved at all of those stages to bring to life a vision in my head. I find that process exciting and very rewarding.”
If time travel was possible, and you could take your camera, where and when would you go?
It would have to be Paris of the 1920s. I suspected this for quite a while, and after seeing Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” I knew it for certain. Between the city itself, the cultural explosion, and the fashion, it would have been incredible to witness and document the birth of a “new age.”
Your photos of wild horses in The Camargue, France are gorgeous… what’s the story behind them?
I am not an equine or wildlife photographer per se. However, when I saw a series of photographs of these beautiful creatures, something in my brain just clicked and I envisioned my own series almost instantly, complete with a certain style and a colour palette of pale whites, creams, and grays. I booked myself on a photography workshop, since that is the only practical way to photograph these horses. It would be very romantic to say that I just showed up in The Camargue and stumbled upon these horses galloping through the water, but the fact is, it takes a lot of work to make it happen. I was blessed with the right weather conditions, which actually meant pouring rain almost the entire time and a couple of cancelled shoots. However, the weather would let up now and then at just the right time and the light would be soft and beautiful and the colour palette I imagined at home was right there before me.
It must have been an amazing experience!
Aside from the photography, the experience of being with those horses for a few days was one of the most inspiring and exciting of my life. On our first shoot, our instructor informed us that we would have 25 horses galloping straight at us and that they would swerve away from us only at the last second. I had to muster up the faith that he was right. I’m glad I did.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
I am so grateful to be in a position where my work is self-directed and I have complete creative control. The vast majority of the time, I choose what I want to shoot and then worry about finding a market or clients after the fact. This means that I am able to choose where I want to go, the subjects I want to shoot, and the stylistic choices I make to express my ideas. Creativity is involved at all of those stages to bring to life a vision in my head. I find that process exciting and very rewarding.
Where do you plan to go next?
Ahhh, that’s a big question. I am still very drawn to a pale and neutral colour palette, so places like the Arctic and Antarctica are calling to me right now.
Thank you, Irene, it’s so interesting to learn more about the woman behind the camera!
And now for the Giveaway!
Irene has a special gift for one lucky winner…. enter to win an 8×8” or 8×10” print of your choice! Click here to visit her Eye Poetry shop, then leave a comment below and tell me which of her images is your favourite, if you can possibly choose just one!
The contest will close at midnight (Pacific Time) on Saturday, November 17, and one commenter will be chosen randomly. The winner will be notified by email, so remember to check your inbox!
The winner will have 12 hours to respond and provide a mailing address. This contest is valid in Canada and the U.S. only, except where prohibited by law.
Update: the lucky winner is Beth Palacios. Congratulations!
All images courtesy of Irene Suchocki.