Dive into the minds of Sane Seven, two outstanding photographers from United Kingdom. Their passion behind the camera is beyond imagination!
The following interview is from MUSE.WORLD Interview With The 2021 New York Photography Awards Winner – Sane Seven
Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?
Sane Seven is a working name/photography pseudonym, I (real name Viktorija Grigorjevaite) create in partnership with my creative and life partner Marius Janciauskas. As a portrait photography duo, we work internationally with commissions ranging from fashion legend Jimmy Choo to Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
I found photography quite late in my twenties. I always had the need to express myself creatively but I could never find the right means. Marius, on the other hand, had been interested in photography long before we met but was always more interested in theory, meaning, light, and creative direction rather than capturing things on camera. The more time we spent together, the more photography became our common language. It became something that we could develop together, discuss, and use to express what was important to us. In 2014, we decided to start working as a duo. Our differences naturally turned us into a very good team that allowed us to see the same subjects from very different perspectives.
Where did you study photography?
I studied photography at Liverpool Community College (UK), and then I did a Fine Arts degree at John Moores University (UK).
Do you remember your first shot? What was it?
I took many photos before I realized I could not live without photography. If somebody ever finds the first shot I ever took, I will be interested to see it too. I suspect it would have been a photo of my sister taken with some old Polaroid.
What equipment do you use?
My go-to camera is Nikon D850. It has the right combination of quality, speed, size, and reliability. I often combine it with my favorite Sigma 35mm Art lens. In terms of lighting, I prefer Profoto equipment. I still use the older versions of D1 or B1 lights that give me everything I need.
What do you hope to achieve?
We enjoy the trip, not the destination. The most enjoyable trip is to work with the leading actors, musicians, politicians, business leaders, artists, and celebrities. We especially love social projects (gender equality, diversity, etc.) that have a positive impact and that involve high-profile people listed above. If I had to verbalize the direction in which we are headed, it would be to become the go-to photography duo for such projects internationally.
What compliment inspired/touched you the most?
Marius and I often debate the work of other artists we admire. The biggest and most inspiring compliment was when my partner said to me that I was his favorite photographer.
What inspires your unique storytelling?
I think we all look at similar sources of inspiration for compositions, lighting, sets, etc., but the actual storytelling usually happens when you’re face to face with your subject. Each individual is different and they take part in the creation of a portrait as much as the photographer does. In other words, you can only capture what people give to you. So, the storytelling often happens when two personalities meet – the photographer and the sitter. That’s why different photographers end up with different images of the same person. It’s just a matter of placing that interaction in some setting and inspiration for that can come from anything – the latest Wes Anderson movie, piece of news that is important you, or a random Pinterest journey that results in 200 opened browser tabs that you’re afraid to close.
What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
Personal, conceptual, daring
Congratulations! As the winner of the New York Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
What’s important is not so much the award itself but the recognition that what you do is relevant. Awards like this provide a reality check. Different countries, or even cities, value different aspects or traditions in photography. Winning an award can be a good indication of where your style is relevant. I love New York and perhaps I will move there one day so this award is especially close to my heart.
Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2021 New York Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
We live in a world where many people are greatly underrepresented. We have miles to go before every child can grow up seeing somebody who is like them equally represented in arts, literature, music, advertising, etc.
Kyra is a success story. She is a singer and model with a rare skin condition called vitiligo. It affects 1% of the population and can be psychologically devastating. Accepting it was an important and inspiring part of Kyra’s story. I found her by accident on Instagram and she simply fascinated me as an artist. Vitiligo makes her body look like a beautiful map of stars. At the same time, I can appreciate how difficult it must have been to accept the new look and all the unwanted attention that came with it. She is an incredible person to work with and I hope many young girls will find inspiration in her story and her success.
How has winning an award developed your career?
Awards often mean a lot to the clients. It acts as social approval that gives clients confidence knowing that they work with an award-winning photographer. It’s not always the case but it can help with new clients or publications.
Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.
Annie Leibovitz is hands down the best photographer of all time. I’ve never seen any single photographer creating so many iconic portraits throughout their career. I also like the earlier work of Mark Seliger or David Lachapelle.
What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?
One famous advertising executive once said to me that I was not a photographer but an image-maker. At first, I took that as an insult. However, later I understood the difference and it made me change how I saw photography and my role in it completely. So the best piece of advice is often criticism, not advice. Criticism is advice in disguise.
What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?
If you really believe that you can be successful, start writing a book about your road to success. You will have a very authentic book written to celebrate your success. To make the book interesting you will force yourself to do things that you normally wouldn’t do. After all, you want your book to be a great drama – blood sweat, and tears. Anything for the pages of the book.
What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
One word – networking. You can be as talented as you want but if you don’t know the right people, your talent will sit unused. It takes many years to build the right network but eventually all recommendations and referrals connect into a web of contacts that help you move in very different circles to where you started. I owe my success to everyone I’ve ever met by accident in the most unusual places across the globe. The key is that you never know whom else the people you meet know.
Something to keep in mind if you are just starting is that success takes many years. It takes time to develop your style, skills, and confidence, as well as to meet the right people in the right place at the right time. It’s important to know that when you meet the right people at the right time in the right place it will be too late to develop your style and your skills. Don’t think that you will create something when you get a job. Create something to get the job.
How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
I don’t think it’s a choice. If you are interested in something then you will seek information naturally. If you don’t have the interest then you’re not doing the right thing. It’s also important not to panic about things you don’t understand. You will always be bombarded by the headlines about various innovations or your own mind telling you that you’re falling behind with your skills and knowledge. Keep doing what you do with passion and there will always be a place for you regardless of what you know or you think you need to know.