Q&A With Photographer | Founder & Director of Devojka Models Tina Nikolovski
By: Michael Suber
In the broad prospect of fashion and lifestyle, Promo Magazine I had the opportunity to interview Tina Nikolovski, who is a photographer and also the founder & director of Devojka Models in Australia. In this particular interview, we asked a series of questions about her creative process and how she got her booming business off the ground. We are very happy to have met with the amazing Tina Nikolovski. You can also find her latest editorial in our latest issue with her image on the front cover, be sure to purchase your copy and see what beautiful work Tina has produced. Take care everyone, and enjoy the read!
"The reason I have stuck with photography is because of the way it makes me feel, the second ‘eye’ it gives me to see the world, the way in which it allows me to connect with others and empower them."
-Do you agree that you are challenged everyday to create something that has never been created before?
I agree with this statement - every shoot, subject and intention is different and I see myself as an artist more than a business woman, therefore in every shoot I am certainly challenged to create something that is unique. Something that both aligns with my aesthetic and intention, but also the intention of the subject and one in which captures their essence.
-Can you describe your creative process? What do you look for when creating a shoot and do your shoots line up to be what you expected?
My creative process can be described as ‘beautiful chaos’. At any given moment I can have a number of ideas in my mind - triggered by any aspect of life: music, a location, the way that light hits a particular surface, the texture of a wall, an item of clothing. Once I am inspired by something, my mind automatically creates an entire concept around that piece, and this evolves over time. I then try to draw / write it down (more like a brainstorm) with the perfect model, makeup, everything I can think of at the time. From that point - the logistics are organised (teams, timelines, etc) - and on the day it is a mixture of both intention and spontaneity to achieve aesthetically pleasing, unique results.
When shooting I look for something outside the norm, one may call this the ‘wow’ factor - and usually the eyes (and/or emotion) are the most powerful element of my images. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my work - so every element (lighting, composition, intention, styling, makeup etc) must work together beautifully to convey a powerful, aesthetically pleasing image that aligns with my intention as an artist. My shoots normally line up to be what I expected but sometimes they exceed this - because of a number of uncontrollable factors when shooting on location this can quite often be the case, but I have learnt to flow with it as an artist.
-You have to have a favorite artist in mind that drives your creativity or inspires you, who is it? / -Do you have a favorite photographers who inspire you? Why is that?
I absolutely adore the work of Emily Abay. Her work definitely inspires me in terms of aesthetic, light and simplistic beauty. I also adore the masters of photography from the 1960’s/70s who shot in film - Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton. These days however I rarely set out to look at any artist’s work more than now and then, as I have too many organic ideas of my own and I love making my work as authentic as possible. When I become inspired by someone I like using one element as inspiration rather than the whole, as I strongly believe in authenticity as an artist. Intention is such an important component of the final result.
-How would you describe yourself as a person & artist?
As a person and an artist, I would describe myself as driven, visual and pure. As an artist I would say I am a perfectionist when it comes to the delivery of my final pieces. I don’t necessarily fit the mould of a standard commercial photographer, for me it’s never been about money. Since I began my career in photography my decision was to always live as close to my creative values as possible. I’ve always had the idea that I want to wake up everyday doing what I love for the rest of my life and that’s something that is a huge driving factor day to day.
-How did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
As a child - the first camera I used was a red Kodak film camera which was our family camera - which somehow always ended up in my hands even back then. I loved taking photos - at 14 I remember appreciating and capturing the architecture in Italy, France, Austria
- in a juxtaposition against the polarised skies and dramatic clouds. When I chose my electives in college I chose photography, which enabled me to get a grasp on the basics and develop through to advanced photography with 35mm film cameras and processing in the darkroom. After finishing college I actually pushed myself to attain the highest UAI possible (perfectionism trait) to become a psychologist - and two days before the course started I changed my mind and enrolled in photography instead. The reason for this is I was aware that my mind was already over-analytical, so I knew that to achieve some sort of balance I would need to pursue something creative. I have never looked back - starting my business in second year of my degree and finding my calling. Throughout my life, especially though turbulent times something always kept drawing me back to my preferred art form - photography - it has been an outlet for me in many ways and has brought so much richness to my life and the lives of others. I live to create.
-Can you describe one of your favorite projects that you have worked on and why was it your favorite?
I would have to say that the image below is definitely one of my favourite ever photographs and most enjoyable photoshoots. I captured this as a photography student in my second year of study - and I asked my parents to help me carry, up a hill, a heavy battery pack and lights, stands, sandbags and other equipment. I created this image in-camera (it is not a composite) - all I have edited is grass at the bottom and an extra layer of intensity to the colours. This image to me is magic. It symbolises how photography makes me feel and what is achieved when I push myself outside my comfort zone.
-We have taken a look at your website/portfolio Online, how do you want the viewer to feel when looking at your work?
I would never dictate how I would want the viewer to feel when looking at my work. I think the beauty of art is that it has the power to make people feel different things. When viewers look at my work - if they feel something, anything, that is enough to bring me satisfaction in producing something that moves people. If they feel nothing that is fine too. It is all relative and subjective and I don’t create art with the intention to make people feel a specific thing.
-Do you ever collaborate with designer brands.
Yes I certainly do. Another one of my favourite photoshoots, ‘SPECTRUM’ was a collaboration - I spotted Bianca Pavlic’s work at Fashfest and I asked to photograph her garments. She gave me a bunch of them and I styled my model (Emma, Devojka Models) - and put together a killer team in Canberra whose aesthetics aligned beautifully. I planned the shoot around a specific time to capture powerful lighting, which I had been keeping an eye on for days prior to the shoot. Whilst this lighting was tricky to capture well, I think something very powerful is illustrated in these images. Here is a sample:
Full series here: http://tinanikolovski.com/spectrum
-In the artistic world of photographers, do you see yourself not only trying to achieve your perfect shoot but also being known for your work?
As an artist and human who has been through an ‘awakening’ I no longer compare myself to any other artist. I wish everyone success and can appreciate what they do. I focus on my ideas and creating incredible powerful images that align with my intention. Whether or not I am known isn’t so much my focus from an ego perspective, however I do love sharing my art with the world and being known is one way to ensure that you are able to continue capturing photographs for the rest of your life. So in that sense - I would love to be known as much as I can as it would help me achieve longevity and abundance, to support creating art forever.
-If you could shoot an editorial anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why is that?
If I could shoot anywhere in the world it would be somewhere on the Greek islands (Santorini, I am yet to see and capture the beauty) - I love the blues and whites and authentic architecture. I would also love to shoot in Morocco - in the beautiful unique colourful streets, as well as on the incredible sand dunes. Imagine that.
-What was the main reason that you decided to become a photographer?
I decided to do photography to balance out my over-analytical side; to give me a creative outlet. The reason I have stuck with photography is because of the way it makes me feel, the second ‘eye’ it gives me to see the world, the way in which it allows me to connect with others and empower them. Capture their essence. Inspire others. See new places, appreciate the world in a different way. Photography also helps me live out my higher
purpose which is to connect, inspire and help others achieve their full potential and overcome their self-perceived barriers to really understand how unique, beautiful and powerful they are in their most authentic state.
-Tell me about your latest shoot. What was your vision when you created it?
My latest shoot was actually a test shoot in the studio with a local model. My intention was experimentation and the vision was ‘beauty’ style images. My aim was also to push myself to light my subject in a way that I have never done before. My vision was dark but crisp - showing beauty but also the essence of my model, and a strong yet feminine way.
-To be a photographer, you had to undergo a lot of struggles. What was the most diﬃcult obstacle for you when putting together a shoot?
The most difficult obstacle in putting together a shoot - there would be a few! The weather (rain), lighting and other factors that are out of my control and can affect the outcome of the shoot. Also, mindset - when I first started I used to battle my own mind (‘Am I good enough? Will I know how to achieve this? What if I can’t light it the way I need to?). I have mastered my mindset to a point but the biggest obstacle would be putting myself out there to capture something that is outside my comfort zone (technically) where I don’t quite know the outcome.
-Does your personal life ever eﬀect how you compose your shoots or do you have a set schedule/formula that you follow? What is it exactly?
After hitting rock bottom at 25 years old, I finally faced my fears head on and made choices that allowed me to live my life with as little anxiety as possible. Prior to this awakening I struggled with 10 years of depression as a result of a traumatic childhood. In hindsight, I know now that everything happened for a reason. But prior to that enlightenment my mindset stopped me from doing a lot of things - I quit, and started photography so many times in those 10 years. The fears that I had were blocking my ultimate state of thought and ‘flow’.
In terms of a schedule or formula, over time I guess I have refined my organisational practices leading up to shoots - I also run an agency of 37 models so I have become very organised (www.devojka.com.au). I used to be all over the place (typical artist). I still write on 100 different scrap pieces of paper and have piles of ideas that are not consolidated or not yet executed, but I have a system that I loosely follow to organise everything and it seems to be working.
In terms of the actual shoot day - although I may have a mood board and timeline I still allow myself to get lost in the moment and allow for a great degree of spontaneity. Some of my best work has been produced ‘in the moment’. The ultimate state of shooting is a state of
‘creative flow’ - which is in absence of all thought, where I just get in my ‘zone’ and shoot driven by something much more powerful than the mind.
-Who excites you the most (Celebrity) & why?
I can’t say I follow celebrities at all. But Russell Brand excites me - so does Jason Silva - I feel euphoric listening to their talks about consciousness, metaphysics, reality - life. Jason Silva talks about the ‘creative flow’ that I have experienced and it is amazing to witness how he articulates this. Both of these humans excite me the most, especially Russell Brand, because of his search for meaning and the way he deconstructs the material world which acts as a curtin that has been placed in front of our eyes. I also really admire him for overcoming so many years of addiction/depression and setting up cafes for recovering drug addicts, speaking his truth no matter how absurd it sounds to the general viewer, and still using his humour to lighten so many unjust situations. Challenging people’s mindsets and not conforming to the matrix in many ways.
-If you had to pass on a suggestion for someone starting out in photography, what would you tell them?
I would say to any new photographer - that the sooner you stop comparing and allow yourself to just be, to create from the deepest place within you regardless of how it may be perceived or whether or not it is ‘better’ than someone else work, the sooner you will feel freedom and ‘success’ in your chosen field of endeavor. As soon as you can, create from a place of authenticity in the absence of fear and you will then produce your most powerful work because it will be a pure reflection of YOU.
-We ask these questions to every brand owner; What is the biggest factor when you come up with a new idea for your brand?
This is a tough question! For me, my mind has never worked in the traditional way of thinking ‘I want to start a business, let me brainstorm what I could do’. It is always the other way around. I have had countless of business ideas over the years, but I feel that I am constantly limited with time and with what I can execute.
Before I launched Devojka Models as Canberra’s boutique modeling agency, I already had at least 8 years’ experience as a commercial photographer. This meant that I had a multitude of networks built up, along with an extensive knowledge of the industry. I understood the dedication and commitment it would take to make my vision a reality. It was through my previous experiences that I decided to take the leap to pursue my passion, into a business.
The greatest factor in coming up with my brand that can be summed up in one word: UNIQUE. Devojka Models is unique in many ways. It is a capped agency, meaning that I can personally mentor models and maximize their job prospects. I run the agency with extensive photographic and industry knowledge - therefore I have a distinctive insight and approach into the industry, one in which a standard agent would not necessarily entail. Most importantly I don’t just see it as an agency, but more as a catalyst of change. I run Devojka Models with a higher perspective and intention in mind. Devojka has never existed to support the superficialities that may exist in the industry - it actually aims to abolish them. In a society that profits from the vulnerability of many, I set out to empower my models - develop them, grow them and encourage them to embrace their own uniqueness and diversity. I encourage my models to master their mindset so that they too can perceive their unique traits as strengths not weaknesses, and to translate this inner confidence on set. I set out to challenge industry norms - in particular to challenge the negative labels that are applied to models such as ‘the coat hanger mentality’, and body image categorizing and labelling. Each and every one of my models has a profound individualism that should be celebrated not alienated. Every action we make in this industry has a cumulative effect on society and we need to ensure that we are putting out the right message, especially to our younger generations.
-How do you measure your customer satisfaction?
I am an open communicator. This directly stems from my background as a photographer whom has mentored and moulded models for over a decade. As an agent, I close the gap between agent and client - I am always open to receiving feedback for my models including the degree of customer satisfaction. To me, it is not just the feedback I receive from my clients, but also the way they speak about the agency to others in the industry. From the way they continue to contact Devojka every time they need a new model, or the way they post and repost images / footage, that they are proud to tag and acknowledge the model and the agency. Customer satisfaction can be measured in many ways, but I strongly believe that the most powerful is the general energy and satisfaction that can be read in the way that clients communicate, and particularly the feedback they give. It can be both direct and indirect communication in regards to any aspect of the process. I value all types of feedback especially improvements - as it allows me to further develop my models and team as a whole.
-As the owner, do you see yourself more on the design side or more on the business side? Or is it pretty much balanced?
As the owner of Devojka Models I see myself more on the business side - particularly organizing and networking the brand to ensure my business runs smoothly, and that it is constantly growing. However, I am responsible for many roles on a daily basis, therefore I am accustomed to the concept of diversity. I certainly design quite a lot when it comes to the agency. This includes designs for the website, social media and advertisements, only to name a few. However, the majority of my work would have to be client liaison. Therefore I would say it is weighted more to the business side.
-Were there any setbacks to getting your label off the ground? How did you overcome that?
There have definitely been challenges in the Devojka Models business lifespan. However the launch of Devojka Models in terms of exposure, certainly wasn’t one of them. Having those years behind me as a photographer and in many other creative roles such as styling, creative direction and videography, I already had a network of support even before I officially launched. The minute I announced my intention to start an agency, I had models making contact eager to sign, as well as respected industry leaders and creatives expressing their support for the agency. It was truly humbling and inspiring. Teaming up with a local boutique at Devojka’s initial launch resulted in maxing out the number of patrons in the venue in which the launch was held. As you can imagine this was an overwhelming response from the fashion community and it inspired me to ensure that Devojka Models will set out to be an industry leader. The growing and overwhelming support for the agency and models just solidified my belief that there was truly a gap in the market. I began receiving business enquiries within 10 days of our official launch with our first client being FSW Shoes, and second client being an international Bridal label. Since then, the agency has secured an extensive number of local and national opportunities for our models, and I have even bigger goals to push it to the next stages.
-How is your style of photography diﬀerent from other photographers & what are your world-dominating goals?
My style of photography is authentic to myself as an artist because it is a reflection of my authentic ideas and unique combinations of light, styling, angles, etc. My world-dominating goal would be to never have to worry about money - and to be able to be free to travel the world and continue to take images of fashion, portraits and landscapes. There are so many beautiful places around the world and I want to witness them, appreciate them, and capture them with my eye and my lens.
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FOUNDER + DIRECTOR | DEVOJKA MODELS