by Polina Shubkina

© Halanova Laurinc from the series 'M = E x T' 

Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots?

Zuzana Halanova (ZH): I started with photography only when I was 30 years old. However, from the beginning, I knew quite well what I wanted to express with it.

Daniel Laurinc (DL): I always thought of photography as of an "immortalizer" of time. I liked looking at my father’s albums where I saw members of our family that I have never seen in real life. It was magical. As a child, I only took photos when we were on vacation. Photography was the exploration of new places, and it remains so for me.

Tell us about your educational path. What brought you to the decision to apply for a program at the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava? How did it affect your relationship with photography?

ZH: I studied fashion and textile design at high school and history of fine art at the Comenius University in Bratislava. Photography came to my life later on, when I worked as a journalist. I realized that I needed to do something more to communicate my thoughts; and this medium gave me everything I needed, to express the most important topics, which present in our society. I applied to the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava and was happy to get accepted at once.

© Halanova Laurinc from the series 'M = E x T' 

DL: After my “proper” education at Comenius University (faculty of philosophy) in Bratislava, I went to wander around in Spain. I was a vagabond with a camera in my hand. I illegally started to attend classes of photography pretending to be an Erasmus student at Faculty of Fine Arts in Barcelona. Within a year, I got accepted to study at Catalan Institute of Photography where I stayed for two wonderful years. Returning to Central Europe, I still felt like deepening my knowledge in the field and so I applied for ITF.

How did you decide to start working together? What was your first collaborative project? 

ZH: We met at the Institute of Creative Photography, Silesian University in Opava, and I think we immediately knew that we want to be together as a couple and that we want to do a project together.

DL: I liked her photos, and I guess she liked mine. One time we went to the bar after school, that very day I proposed her to do a social project together. Six months down the line, we were in Kenya documenting Slovak development aid. And we stayed together ever since.

© Halanova Laurinc from the series 'M = E x T' 

How do you share the tasks as a creative collective? 

ZH: It took us few years to figure out how to work together efficiently and still be independent and creative. In the beginning, we used to shoot together and then choose the best shot. But now, in our last project from India we started to shoot separately and create different layers of the project as diverse personal approaches. In the editing process, we try to find a way to put both approaches together as a coherent artistic expression. Of course, during the shooting process we talk a lot, we discuss the photos and ideas to stay on the same page.

DL: It is hard sometimes, and I want to encourage all creative couples who are going through their first crisis. Years have shown that each one is a little bit better in certain things. We do fight a lot; it is our way of evolving.

© Halanova Laurinc from the series 'M = E x T' 

What do you think about photography in the era of digital and social networking?

ZH: We live in the age of digital transition. Photography is just a part of a more global picture. Things get much more virtual; people print out their photos less than they used to.

DL: It is different than in the pre-ethernet era. But I don’t want to be nostalgic; I belong to this generation. Today, everyone is a photographer, and we all polluted Internet with gigabits of photos. On the other hand, if you have something fascinating to show, the whole world can see it which is great.

About your work now. How would you describe your personal research in general? 

ZH: We mostly focus on social themes or topics that are actual in society. In the beginning, we read a lot about the topic; we try to find as much information as we can, from different points of view – sociological, psychological, historical or political. Then we try to create a unique visuality that would reflect the topic.

© Halanova Laurinc from the series 'M = E x T' 

DL: I think we are shifting from being pure documentary photographers to being documentary photographers with a certain artistic or conceptual approach. We have realized that no matter what topic we are documenting, the subject always has a particular trace of ourselves. It always turns out to be introspective without the necessity of photographing our lives.

You just had an opening at the  Gallery Fotografic in Prague; please tell us about the project you are showing there. 

DL: The project is called Immersed in Time. It documents memory of the people who survived a tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004. We went there exactly ten years after and were interested in general how people deal with life trauma on both individual and a collective level. All portraits were shot with a long exposure and a tiny beam of a flashlight in the face. It enhances the idea of the time that has passed since the tragic moments, and the thoughts people carry in themselves.  

Installation view 'Immersed in Time' at Gallery Fotografic in Prague, 2016

ZH: We incorporated some archive materials in this project: old photos, newspapers, personal belongings of both the survivors and victims of the tsunami. Some survivors kept their small objects like a bracelet or a buckle, which they wore on the day of the tsunami as talismans, to protect them in the future. We also met one forensic doctor at Ruhuna University in Galle, who collected the remains of more than 500 unidentified bodies and different personal belongings of the victims.

Installation view 'Immersed in Time' at Gallery Fotografic in Prague, 2016

Do you have any preferences regarding cameras and format? 

ZH: We mostly shoot digital, but some of our projects we still shoot on medium format or 35 mm film. Sometimes it is impressive to combine different formats, but we are not obsessed with technical forms. We prefer to follow the idea, and the form comes as secondary.

DL: We have tried various things, and we would like to work more with medium format. Unfortunately, it became expensive and too time-consuming (because of the scanning and developing).

Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, that influenced you in some way?

ZH-DL: So many… Just to name a few: Alec Soth, Viviane Sassen, Rafal Milach, Peter Puklus, Salvi Danes, Max Pinkers, Olivia Arthur…

Three books of photography that you recommend?

ZH-DL: 'Ponte City' by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse.

'Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty' by Max Pinkers.

'Intimacy' by Dita Pepe.

Projects that you are working on now and plans for the future?  

ZH-DL: This year we want to finish our project from Bangalore, India. Last year we started documenting modern IT generation and its social impact in the city. We want to go back to deepen our observation about the topic. Hopefully, we will turn it into a book.

© Halanova Laurinc from the series 'M = E x T' 



Halanova Laurinc