Spontaneity in Storytelling
Born in a tiny southern town in Russia, Aks Huckleberry is a young filmmaker and a portrait photographer, who spent her most formative years in London. She prefers not to be based anywhere right now; continuously moving from one destination to another.
Late last year we partnered with Ello to launch an initiative to support new talent through a series of grants aimed at helping creatives advance their art and craft. Aks is the final Hero from our three first year grant winners and we’re excited to catch up with her to take a closer look at what inspires her and the process behind her work.
"These are not voyages to go to as many places or to take as many pictures but rather to see the loved ones and have time to reflect."
Whenever and wherever she travels, she takes a moving portrait of the place - which includes family, friends and strangers she encounters on her journey. The majority of her work isn't staged, nor does it allude to the documentation; rather it is about capturing the mood, the atmosphere and the beauty of the place and memories of the people involved in it.
Having developed her photography for over 10 years, Aks is now more involved with filmmaking. She's been mostly working on travel diaries, young actors testing series, art and fashion shorts, including editorial and music videos. It’s the most natural medium for her aesthetic - honest characters in surreal setting seen through her gentle gaze.
Fabrik: Hi Aks and first of all congratulations on your win. Any plans on how you’re going to be making the most out of the Grant?
Aks Huckleberry: "Good morning! Thank you! It was so lovely and unexpected. Two main things I spend anything I ever earn on are travels and gear. Hence, as soon as I received a cheque from Fabrik, I’ve booked myself a trip to Budapest. I’ve never been there before, so it was particularly exciting! I shot some new self-portraits and another travel diary, that I am yet to share with my dear viewers."
Fabrik: Would you like to offer a little bit more insight on the creative process and the thoughts on the concept before taking the camera ? How do you start a project?
Aks Huckleberry: "So many things I’ve shot are rather spontaneous, especially when it comes to portraiture and travel. However, when it comes to more conceptual work, then that requires a certain degree of preparation.
I am a very visual person, and can sometimes be terrible at explaining my concepts. It is a great delight, if people I am working with are trusting my vision and do not pester me about what I want to achieve as a result. I tend to do the same thing, working with individuals, whose artistic approach I adore - for instance, I give a complete creative freedom to make up artists I choose to work with. My dear friends/team mates - make up artists, models and stylists - learnt to guess what I like just by reading my face. I am a terrible liar, and you can see most of my emotions on it, and that apparently proved to be helpful on set."
"I am a very visual person, and can sometimes be terrible at explaining my concepts."
Fabrik: You describe your fondness of natural settings with natural lighting. In the era of an ultra-filtered digital reality, do you find it difficult to pursue this approach?
Aks Huckleberry: "I think modern world is about adapting, hopefully without loosing yourself in the process. Occasionally, you have to compromise and learn new skills, challenging yourself for the greater goodness. One of the shoots I did for a magazine, required building a very specific lighting set. We were re-constructing a movie still, but enhancing it with high fashion styling. It was heavily out of my comfort zone, but the stylist wanted me for the project and in the end, I couldn’t say no. So I borrowed some lights from a friend, studied the lighting used in that particular movie and, before the models arrived on the set, we spent about an hour just playing around with the light to achieve that beautiful deep cinematic look.
I do, however, believe I thrive the most just catching the beautiful natural light and people hiring me tend to appreciate that, without forcing any sort of artificiality on me. After all, they pick me for my specific style of shooting.
I think photography has to be rather spontaneous to touch something in you. There is so much beauty in not quite being able to control the process of the final outcome - you can plan most things, but you cannot tell the sun to come out. You have to let go, allow for the magic to happen, and keep your eyes open and shutter closed in the right moment."
Fabrik: Have you ever had any difficulties pushing your creative and artistic approach to clients?
Aks Huckleberry: "I have to say, I am rather persuasive and can be quite 'difficult', in a sense that one cannot force me to shoot something I absolutely do not want to shoot. After working many years, you often know what will not translate well as a picture and have to warn clients about it. I am, however, very open for suggestions and trying new things. Everyone’s input on the set is valid. Often, you get so focused on your subject, that the most obvious thing of why something isn’t working, escapes your vision and you need a clear foreign mind to weigh in.
I have been rather fortunate with my creative clients - we have a perfect flow of ideas between us, tossing them back and forth until both are satisfied with the concepts. There has to be a mutual trust on the set, otherwise things get tricky and unbalanced."
"I think photography has to be rather spontaneous to touch something in you. There is so much beauty in not quite being able to control the process of the final outcome."
Fabrik: Is there any piece of work, be it a film, a song, a painting, that has left you with a lasting impression or any mentors you have encountered throughout the span of your career? Or any work you admire, but it’s not yours?
Aks Huckleberry: "Ha! How much time do we have? I don’t quite remember the time when I haven’t been obsessed with all forms of art, be that photography, cinema or more broadly painterly and sculptural practices of arts. It seems, people occasionally find some artistic influences in my works, which aren’t always planned. I suppose, you do take things in like a sponge and sometimes they suddenly manifest in the most unexpected places, like that double portrait I shot of my dear lovers in their concrete boat, which accidentally ended up looking like a Pre-Raphaelite painting.
I am not going to talk about my favorite photographers, but let’s talk about film, as I am slowly but confidently moving in that direction with my career. Moving image is so powerful. I am terribly sensitive to a beautifully told story, and those affect me heavily. When watching any movie, I try to take something away for myself - whether it be something I like, or something I absolutely would not want to see in my work - it is a wonderful exercise in getting to know yourself/your artwork/your influences.
If we are talking more exemplary, there is a beauty of stillness and contemplation I adore in Andrey Tarkovsky’s work. I have been watching and learning a lot recently from Paul Thomas Anderson. His unique characters are hiding within these incredibly beautiful sets, often shot at my favourite times of day - sunset and sunrise, with the most gorgeous sun tones on the faces and landscapes. Another favourite film maker of mine is Wong Kar Wai - he is the person, who makes me painfully nostalgic for film - the richness and beauty of grain and those special colours, his specific way of filming and cutting scenes are forever engraved in my brain.
There is so much to discover in cinematography, it is often way too overwhelming for me, so I try to take it in slowly. Classics like 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Mulholland Drive' shook me. I know, objectively they have nothing in common, but I am putting them here together solely due to my sensation past watching them. 'Mulholland Drive' was so intensely confusing, beautiful and mad, that walking out into the sunshine after just felt wrong. 'Apocalypse Now' crashed me, I left the cinema and couldn’t talk to anyone, just wandering the city heavy hearted and empty."
"Moving image is so powerful. I am terribly sensitive to a beautifully told story, and those affect me heavily."
Fabrik: What are your plans for the future? Do you have any project that you’re currently working?
Aks Huckleberry: "Have you ever heard of this saying roughly translated as “If you wanna make God laugh, tell him about your plans”? I just got back from London, where I was shooting a week long project for a musician friend of mine, 'Easypeel', soon releasing his album, and I still have some exciting work to finish for that. I am plotting a couple of projects, which will be heavily referencing the old arts of painting and sculpture, but those are just in my head at the moment, waiting for their time to be unleashed."
Fabrik: Final question: What do you like most about Fabrik? What is your favourite feature?
Aks Huckleberry: "My favourite thing about Fabrik is how welcoming and supportive you guys are, especially when it comes to setting anything up on the website. It is rather minimalist in design and easy to use, but occasionally, I did have a couple ideas I wasn’t sure how to bring to life myself and one of you would always come to the rescue."
Aks is using Tocuyo, a theme for creatives that want to introduce themselves as well as their work. Using Tocuyo’s homepage cover layout with a video. Tocuyo creates an immersive experience that begins at the landing page. What’s more? It connects seamlessly with Vimeo.