WORDS BY: Anais Stupka, Ajay Woolery

IMAGES: Anais Stupka

Since our inception TCK has been aiming to highlight the powerful stories of creative youth, in our latest instalment of our “Creator Spotlight” series we interviewed photographer Anais Stupka. Still in her teens Anais creative journey has led her to achieve some incredible accomplishments including winning her first Sony World Photography Award at 12 years old in 2016 as the youngest person to ever receive the award, this past year she reclaimed the prize 5 years later at 17. Having lived all around the world Anais finds inspiration through her unique worldview attempting to break down societal norms through her dynamic images exploring the “diversity of beauty.” We spoke to Anais about all this this and more...

For those who may be unfamiliar with yourself, give us a short introduction of yourself and what you do...

I am a Georgian-Italian photographer, but I’ve moved around the world 11 times, In each place I would constantly be bombarded with different narratives about beauty that had no alternatives in each new country I lived in. So naturally fighting beauty standards is something that has been a constant in my photography. Through my photography, I am engaged with politics in a way where I feel like I can change the course of history as opposed to being a part of it. I have been photographing the diversity of beauty, documenting the stories of the people in front of the camera and even though it is a small gesture it is part of the change because no real change can happen overnight. The world we’ve lived in has placed so many limitations on people of colour, members of the LGBTQ community and women, so simply representing them in our current world has become limited. What I am very conscious of is trying to correct that, trying to find and unearth talent and voices that maybe haven't been reached out to. It’s the active versus passive; if we say we want the change we have to make that change happen.

How did you initially get into photography?

When I was 12 and living in Germany I had a small camera I would use every now and then, I wasn't too passionate about photography at the time. My mother had submitted one of the photos I had taken in Kazbegi to the Sony World Photography Awards and I had become the youngest winner in history for that competition, I was awarded a new camera and opportunities that enabled me to see the power that can come in one single image.

What are some themes you explore in your work? Why are they important to you and how do they also influence your process?

What was perpetual with every single country I moved to was how vacuous and different each country's standard of beauty was. Fighting beauty standards is something that has been a constant in my photography. I want to represent the diversity of beauty of wrinkles with deep lines like carved wood, hair that women wear like a garden on their skin, skin the colour of the earth and the moon, lovers that no matter how much you pluck and pull reconnect with the unibrow, to stretch marks that are a woman's babies first painting. I want to teach young girls that other women’s bodies are not our battle grounds. I want to create a world where diversity becomes a natural part of life. My past experiences, good and bad, have now become a weapon to combat injustice and through that my art.

Tap to expand (SOURCE: Anais Stupka)

As you plan a new shoot, what's your process from ideation to execution?

I always set high standards but no expectations, I don't try to build set images in my mind because I feel like it could take me out of my creative process when the shoot is due. I try to stay as present as possible in my photoshoots and to make my models feel beautiful, safe, comfortable and happy. I simply try to create for sake of creating, not for results or something to be expected, but to enjoy an art form with individuals who are willing to share their trust with me and my camera.

You've been the recipient of multiple awards including the Sony World Photography award just this past year, what has the experience of receiving such incredible recognition been like?

Absolutely life changing. It has been the seed that allowed my photography to blossom. Because of the Sony World Photography Awards I have been able to create projects that are not just beautiful Images but have such important stories to be told, such as me working with the United Nations to document the stories of Refugees in Georgia, or even being able to talk about beauty standards in a very small radio from my hometown, it would have never been possible without the World Photo Organization.

Tap to expand (SOURCE: Anais Stupka)

Who are some of your greatest inspirations?

My greatest inspiration as a creator is by far Trevor Noah, the way he can express truth through comedy and talk about politics in such a kind-hearted and open-minded way is one of the core reasons why he is one of my greatest inspirations. As for photographers, Steve McCurry, Zhong Lin, Rafael Pavarotti. They are completely different photographers but all photograph physical form in such precious and beautiful ways.

Finally, what's some of the best advice you've received and, what advice would you give another young photographer?

The best advice I have received is "everything is helping you". I would pass on that exact advice to any other young/vintage/ antique photographers when you are photographing someone and you feel disappointed with the outcome, if you shift your perspective, and acknowledge this is helping you in some way shape or form you can only find that you will win in life. There is so much value and honour in trying and being active, it is the purest form of winning. If you create fear around failure you will be blocking yourself from any process or appreciation for the present moment. Failure does not exist. The only thing I think failure exists in is not ever trying, that’s the biggest failure you can commit.

That brings us to the end of our Interview, We want to say a special thanks to Anais for joining us in the Creator Spotlight series and we hope you learned something through reading more about her story. To learn more about Anais and the work she’s doing make sure to check out the links below. Make sure to give her a follow while you’re at it too ;).