When it comes to producing award winning photography, Ilan Wittenberg is the man to talk to. Recently adding the Sony Alpha Award 2018 (winning both the Portrait category and the Grand Prize) to his collection of industry accolades, Wittenberg says that the key to producing the award winning eerily beautiful portrait was collaboration with model Alicia.
The two found each other online and began brainstorming ideas for a portrait photograph that was ‘timeless’. “I loved the idea of applying a mask onto her face and extending it to her torso. The idea was to create a cracked earth background using drought as the theme”, Ilan says.
“We actually first discussed doing something quite elaborate but the more we talked the more it developed into more of a personal piece”, Alicia comments.
Collaborating with someone else is always a risk Ilan states, it may not always work out the way you envision it to. After finding a potential model, the next challenge is to ensure that there is a shared vision. “We plan, we talk, we think about the outfit, about the theme. We talk about what the model is comfortable doing etc. The stars have to align too… The model and I have to be on the same wavelength and if they bring an idea that I think works then together we’re a great team.”
Ilan and Alicia both stress the importance of having an open mind when it comes to collaborating with someone, particularly for a creative project. “It’s difficult to add anything new to the creative space without honesty because it allows our unique selves to come through”, Alicia says.
Ilan focuses on monochrome portraits that allow the subjects to really shine in their channel of storytelling. His portraits often involve “ordinary people”, posing nude, which opens them up to a new sense of vulnerability and allows the audience to focus on the bare elements.
Sony Alpha Awards – Winner of Grand Prize and Portrait Category
“Most people stay hidden behind technology these days and lose that special human connection with each other so it’s a real art to work with people and bring out that magic in them.”
Ilan has won a plethora of awards and also judges at competitions for the Photographic Society of NZ and the NZ Institute of Professional Photography.
In a world overloaded with information and sensationalistic “visual clutter” which are competing for our attention; Ilan states that his goal is to create pieces that distinguish themselves as “extraordinary” “Forgetting the technicality of the picture, you really need to ask yourself, ‘is there a visual statement? Does it have any emotional impact?’”
Alicia agrees, “There are plenty of photos out there, of women especially, who try to look how they think they should look when in front of a camera due to the huge pressure on us to look a certain way. So the idea of (the winning portrait) was to try and work against that”.
Ilan strongly encourages budding photographers to meet up with like-minded individuals such as through the NZ Photographic Society meetings, to have their work critiqued by professionals in order to grow, just like he does. “It’s a friendly environment for people to be critiqued and grow because you don’t know what you don’t know. Even listening to critiques of other photographs really helps”.