The air was heavy with the dampness of a coming storm when we arrived in Bristol to meet with fellow photographer Kasia Kiliszek, who welcomed us with a refreshing lemonade and introduced us to Kiki, her cheerful and playful rescue dog.
We swiftly engaged in a stimulating conversation about photography and Kasia opened up about vulnerability, womanhood and self-love and the role they play into her creativity and how she started This Is Womb, a project celebrating femininity and reclaiming the meaning of feminism.
Her quiet, candid and evocative style of storytelling is pervasive across her work and the images that she makes are an essential reflection of life and human closeness and have the remarkable quality of bringing forth the soul of the Other.
Later in the afternoon, we took Kiki for a walk in the park and as the rain started we quickened our pace and found shelter under a tree, where we continued our conversation about her journey into self discovery.
How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?
My name is Kasia and I’m a photographer. I moved from Poland to Bristol 4 years ago. I live in Montpelier with my boyfriend Charlie and our dog Kiki. I have a candid approach to photography and I’m interested in and inspired by women around me, yoga, nature and rituals.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Playing cards with my grandma in her kitchen by candlelight.
What or who inspired you to study Anthropology?
My mother. When I was a kid, instead of reading Disney bedtime stories, my mom would read to me scary folklore tales from around the world. I’ve always been fascinated by magic, rituals, witches, demons and paganism. Studying Anthropology seemed to be a good way to explore more in this subject.
What about your journey into photography?
I got my first film camera from my grandfather, who was a photographer himself. Because I’m a self-taught photographer it took me a while to believe in my own skills.
Your earlier photography was focused on minimalism, architecture and urbanism rather than people and portraiture. What brought this shift about?
I always dreamt of photographing people but I never had the guts to do it. Starting This Is Womb was a way to leave my comfort zone.
We love your focus on selfhood, self-love and womanhood subject matters. What kind of messages or emotions do you want your work to evoke?
Self-love is something I’m working personally on at the moment. I’m learning how to honour myself. I’m learning that it’s OK to give myself space. I’m learning how to surrender and receive. I’m realising that any act of kindness towards myself, even the smallest thing like taking time to brew a cup of coffee in the morning or have a bath, can manifest as an act of Self-Love. I used to think about myself in a very self-destructive way. I would criticise and compare myself to others. That way of thinking never brings any good. You may have people around, telling you how beautiful you are but until you see it yourself, you won’t be able to believe in it. But here’s the thing! The moment you stop being your own enemy, the moment you start appreciating yourself is when the magic happens.
You founded This Is Womb, a project celebrating femininity and reclaiming the meaning of feminism. Tell us a little more about the story behind this idea and your interest in feminism.
I was growing up with a single mom and my grandma. They both made sure I was raised to be an independent woman both sure of myself and loving at the same time. I always thought I don’t get on well with women but after moving to the UK I found out how wrong I was. Inspired and surrounded by beautiful, talented women I decided to start This Is Womb as a photo story. Shortly after that I realised I need a partner in crime and that’s how Natalia and I found each other. Working together since that moment was an empowering, creative experience, which has not only strengthened our friendship but also given us the opportunity to create a community of inspiring women.
You are also a Community Manager at the Another Escape. How did your collaboration with AE come about?
Rachel, the Editor of AE, and I met through Instagram. We went for a blind friend date to Café Kino, which was really lovely and a few meetings later she offered me a role.
What other collaborations and projects are you involved with?
I collaborate with Clem, from Yoga Brunch Club. She’s a wonderful yoga teacher and her events are so much fun! I also work as a Social Media Manager for a few independent businesses in Bristol: Little Victories, Small St Espresso and Ordoo.
Do you dream of a particular collaboration on a specific subject matter?
I’d love to collaborate with an ethical, lingerie/clothing brand of some sort.
Are there any questions that you wish people would ask you more often about your work?
I don’t think so.
When it comes to commissioned work, what are some of the things that you refuse to compromise on?
I believe you can always find a compromise.
Tell us about your gear and editing habits.
I shoot using a Canon AE1, it’s a 35mm film camera. Film wise, I always go for Kodak Portra 400. At the moment I’m saving money for a Mamiya 6, which is a medium format camera. Recently I got my first digital camera and I went for Fuji X100F. I edit most of my photos using Lightroom.
Who do you admire in your industry and who do you follow for inspiration?
Alec Soth, Gregory Harper, Robbie Lawrence and Lauren Maccabee.
What is your favourite time of the day?
On the one hand I’m an early bird and I’m very precious about my morning routine. I like to wake up before my partner Charlie, have a cup of hot water with lemon, do my yoga, meditate and walk my dog. However at the same time, surely as many photographers, I love an early evening, mostly because of the soft, golden light.
How would you define home? What is home for you?
This is actually a tricky question. Even when I was living in Poland, I never quite felt at home. I guess I’m one of those people without a strong feeling of belonging to a certain place. At the moment I live in Bristol and I have to admit that I feel the most at home here. It must be because I surround myself with inspiring and loving people and since I moved here, my life has changed a lot.
When and why did you start practising yoga?
A friend of mine introduced me to yoga at the beginning of 2016. At the time, I was grieving very deeply after my grandma passed away. The first time I arrived on a mat I realised that I don’t even know how to breathe properly. I know it sounds surreal. I was hesitating to do yoga at first, mostly because I didn’t want to focus on how I feel. I had no need to go inwards. I knew this was not going to be a comfortable journey. However I tried getting deeper into the practice and I’ve been doing ever since. Yoga helped me heal my anxieties, shift my perspective on so many things and it changed my life.
What or who makes your perfect cup of coffee?
Brewing a cup of coffee is like my morning ritual. (I used to be a barista so I can be quite particular about the coffee…☺) At home I make coffee using Clever Dripper.
What was the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?
A good friend of mine, Lisa, told me once that the brain doesn’t recognise the difference between excitement and nervousness. Anytime I feel anxious about something I try to trick myself that I’m just really excited. And it works!
What are you reading at the moment?
I always read a few books at once. At the moment I’m reading a book about Kundalini by Osho and Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
If the politics were different probably in the USA, the variety of landscapes and wilderness is mind blowing.
What are some of your favourite travel destinations?
What do you love the most about living in Bristol?
There are so many things I love about living here. There’s so much awareness in Bristol about sustainable living. I also love the fact that we have so many independent businesses and people are very excited about the food scene.
What are some of your favourite places to hang out in the city?
If I want to grab a good cup of coffee, I always choose Small St Espresso, or Full Court Press. I also really like St. Andrews Park, Ashton Court and Leigh Woods.
What are your dreams for the future?
At some point in my life, I’d like to do a Yoga teaching course.