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Adrian Norbert Cuper: Penchant and Skill for Portraiture in Film

A Parallel Planets piece by Unknown

Parallel Planets presents Adrian Norbert Cuper
in Penchant and Skill for Portraiture in Film
Story by Joy Celine Asto and Interview by Erin Emocling

Mentioned: Preference for film, finding inspiration in one's self, and messy preparations

* * * 

Many take interest and try out portrait photography, but a fraction of them eventually realize that taking good portraits entails a lot more than just headshots of people. I haven't dabbled in portraiture long enough, but I've seen a lot of works that helped me arrive into this conclusion. I've been particularly interested in portraits that are done in film and outside the usual studio setup. So, when I came across the works of Warsaw-based film photographer Adrian Norbert Cuper, I found his use of outdoor landscapes and textures as backdrops for his beautiful subjects really nice and effective.

Being a film photography enthusiast, I am naturally inclined to find myself drawn into the works of people who also shoot film. But, it's actually not a case of bias towards film. Rather, looking at the works of film photographers like Adrian, it's about their choice and passion to work with something considered by many to be obsolete (such a harsh word, I know) and they excel at it -- even far better than some of those who work with more high-tech stuff.

Then, there's also the qualities of film that even digital photography still tries to emulate, especially in the case of portraiture, where depth, clarity, detail, and even a touch of retro are desired. When Parallel Planets got in touch in Adrian and asked him about his medium of choice, motivations, and other creative pursuits, among the things he mentioned is inducing feelings to the viewer through portraiture. "Portraits are the best way to connect me with the viewer, to tell him about my feelings when I was taking a particular photograph," he said.

photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper
photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper
photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper
photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper
photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper

Now, that's an approach to portrait photography that I think many of us haven't thought about. Anybody who has dabbled or expressed interest in this genre of photography typically adapt the school of thought that good portraits tell stories about or mirror the personality of the subjects. I find it interesting, therefore, how Adrian (and possibly other film photographers as well) tries to channel his moods and feelings through portraiture in film. Is it in the pose? In the colors or the absence of it? In the grains and contrast that add character to the portraits? In the outdoor textures and landscapes that he chose to place his subjects against? Do remind me to ask Adrian one of these days!

Aside from his portraiture work, Adrian has also been busy taking this “crush on analogue photography” up a notch higher by setting up Whattaroll Magazine alongside other fellow film enthusiasts around the world, including our very own Michelle Rae and Erin. Seeing the maiden issue featuring selfies, all the hard work and messy preparations certainly paid off!

Meanwhile, allow us to usher you into the Parallel Planets interview with Adrian Norbert Cuper where you’ll find out his views on film photography, motivations and pursuits as an artist, and some bits and pieces on what the first issue of Whattaroll Magazine is all about.

* * *

Parallel Planets: Hello, Adrian! How are you? What were you doing before this interview?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "Hi! I’m very, very busy! The very first issue of Whattaroll Magazine is scheduled for release in two weeks and our team still has a lot work to do. Photoshoots, writing, designing, etc. It’s kind of a mess!"

Parallel Planets: Tell something about yourself as an artist / a film photographer and before you became one.

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "I’m endangered specie. Film photography has been terribly neglected recently. People think all new things are better than the old ones. If that’s true, why do painters still use brushes and canvases instead of just using Photoshop? We need to rethink our opinion about the old techniques. So I stand on guard over the equality in arts. A few years ago, it was not necessary. Film photography was fine. Now we have to fight. Not against the digital flood, but against people who are discrediting the classic techniques. I don’t want to be fighter. I prefer to be a teacher."

Parallel Planets: When/How did your inclination with art and photography begin?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "I’ve actually been a film photographer ever since. How? I grew up in 90’s when colour film photography was very popular and available for all. Of course, my photos were not “artistic”, mostly just “family shots” and so on. But even then I knew that film has something magical in it.

The situation changed when I bought my very first SLR camera – the Russian Zenit 11. That was the punch! I started experimenting but I was not happy with the results. I needed something more. And then... I found it! Don’t ask me what it is, though. Everyone has secrets!"

Parallel Planets: What defines your artistic style? What are your “trademarks”?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "I think it’s portraits. Through my photos, I want to express feelings. I want to induce them to the viewer. And portraits are the best way to connect me with the viewer, to tell him about my feelings when I was taking a particular photograph."

Parallel Planets: What influences your work? Who inspires you?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "Me, myself, and I. Inspiration flows from yourself. You just need to listen."

Parallel Planets: Tell us more about your upcoming magazine, Whattaroll. What drove you to make your own publication that focuses on film photography? What should we expect from your first issue?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "Just like I said before, film photography is underestimated this days. People with analogue cameras feel like freaks on the street and might get intimidated by DSLR users, whose numbers are growing and growing every day. So we said enough! We want analogue photographers to feel proud of their skills! We are not the first ones to promote film photography, but still there are a lot of people who probably never heard of it, especially those born after 1990.

In the very first issue of Whattaroll magazine, we want to focus on the most personal part of every photographer’s work – the self-portrait. We want to see and show others the eyes of artists. The look in which the inspiration resides. The eyes which see the art wherever they look."

photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper
photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper
photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper

photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper
photo by Adrian Norbert Cuper

Parallel Planets: What is your mantra in life?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "Be a light to yourself."

Parallel Planets: Aside from art and photography, what other creative pursuits are you interested in?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "I’m a scientist as well, a biologist dealing with paleontology and entomology. In my spare time, I also like acting in the theatre."

Parallel Planets: Mention three of your favorite things in the world.

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "I think the whole Universe is amazing and my favourite as a whole. But if I have to mention my three favourite things, I choose the dawn in early June, the smell of pine forest and the blue of the sky."

Parallel Planets: Do you have any weird habits? Strange desires? Unlikely fetishes? Surprise us.

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "I have lots of them! My weird habit? I think that would be my OCD-thing when I’m organising stuff. Everything must lie in order. Ordnung muss sein! My strange desire? To make a photoshoot on the moon, like Neil Armstrong did! Unlikely fetishes? Viewing old family photo albums over and over again. Photography is the window to the past, and I’m a very inquisitive person."

Parallel Planets: Aside from Whattaroll Magazine, what other project(s) are you currently working on?

Adrian Norbert Cuper: "Taking portraits of people around me. Feel invited to be my model!"

Parallel Planets: In this planet that we're thriving in—

What is your power animal?

"It’s the peacock. He does what he wants and remains by himself even though there are tigers around him."

Who is your alternate ego?

"I think my alternate ego doesn’t exist. If it did exist, the universe would collapse!"

Parallel Planets: In an alternate universe where art and photography does not exist—

What would your name be?

"Lazy Bastard I. Because I love to lay down and dream."

What would you be doing instead?

"Dreaming about the world where art and photography exist!"

More from Adrian Norbert Cuper


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