All images by Kristina Gentvainyte. Used with permission.
“I wanted it to be enigmatically creepy, and also a bit crazy.” states Kristina Gentvainyte, a Lithuanian visual artists based out of Ghent, Belgium when asked about her black and white photography series on masks. Gentvainyte describes her style and work as a collection of visual graphics and digital photographic manipulations with a heavy emphasis on minimal monochromes, perfect symmetries, modern forms, and organic surreal stories.
Although there are many eye-catching projects in Gentvainyte’s repertoire, it was the starkly haunting “Mask” project that immediately caught our attention. From the sheer creep-out factor of the animal masks themselves to the cornfield backdrop; “Mask” was a project that required further exploration.
Mask continues to be one of our favorite and most memorable collections in this month’s issue; the project illicit a primal fight or flight response and there are times where if you get lost long enough, it feels as if the masked models are staring right back at you. If you’re interested in checking out more of Kristina’s work, be sure to check out her personal projects page on Behance and her professional page as well.
Could you tell us a bit more about psyche of Masks? What was the inspiration behind the project?
Masks are always intriguing, there is a mystery around it because it conceals something. That is also what drew me into making this series. I wanted it to be enigmatically creepy, and also a bit crazy. That’s why I choose the rabbit and sheep. In the end, the result was more creepy and weird, rather than I expected; I liked it even better. Sometimes when I start with something and it turns out differently than anticipated, like in this case. I couldn’t be happier if you ask me!
The setting was also very important of bringing the right atmosphere into images. I don’t think, I could have made the same or similar images in a different location. Personally, I always felt that cornfields have a weird feeling around them. You see it as a wall. Then you see the row, the second one, the third, the fourth, and after it just goes into darkness. I don’t know if you know the feeling, when driving on a small road with cornfields on both sides. You always feel like something is watching you!
The Tone of the project is very dark and gritty; is there message behind the project?
Not really, except that I like dark and gritty; it has become a bit of my trademark. I like contrast in images, it defines the lines, shapes and textures more than usual. Less details, more chaos in this case! Or vice versa.
What was it like to work with your models; are there any tips you can give photographers with respect to direction and help in keeping of the mood of the project?
One of the models was my husband, who is also a photographer. You would think “Oh nice, so he knew exactly what to do”. The fact is that we both have different styles and directing him, was not so easy as I first thought. To be honest, I was a bit rough with him. He did not understand my idea, so I had to turn up my “explaining speaking tone” louder! I guess that was the reason why he was posing so rigid and cold (Kristina joking adds). Which in the end was exactly what I had in mind. The other model was a friend of mine; I did not handle as hard as my husband.
It’s [not very common] that I take pictures of people, but when I do, I like to let the model feel my intentions and take enough pictures so that after a while, the model really gets into the shoot. I am not a fan of over-directing. It has to come natural, even [if the shoot does not] feel natural, I do what is takes to get the shots that I want.
From a more technical stand point, can you walk us through your process? Were there any technical issues or challenges that you had to overcome? What are some of the tools used to create the mood and effect in Mask?
I have tons of ideas in my head, but most of my work is very unpredictable and spontaneous, although I’m myself a freaky perfectionist in my daily life, it’s quite weird! But when the moment is there, all hands on deck! So, a few days after I saw the location, I was already in the shop buying the masks. It was important for me to see and feel them in advance. These are things that help me to get into the right mood. In a day or two, I prepared everything, called my friend and two days later we were shooting.
The shots were made with a Canon 5D, but that is not a reference for me. I shoot a lot with my Canon Powershot G10, an oldie but goodie! [The G10] is still reliable and has a nice amount of digital noise in the shots. I also do not hesitate to use my smartphone sometimes. In the end, these things do not really matter to me, it’s the end result that is the most important.
Finishing happens in Photoshop. Also there I prefer the intuitive approach. I have an image in my head and I just use Photoshop as a tool. There is not really a fixed way I do things.. I add a lot of layers, self-made textures, while working. Sometimes going back through my stack of layers to adjust and tweak. I think it’s really important, because while being creative myself, I often go too far. So when I go back, I make some effects less heavy and most of the time results are much better.
How long did the project take from concept to finish?
This project took me no longer than a week. From picking the masks to the final Photoshop touch up. If I am busy with making my ideas real – I can easily forget to sleep and eat!