Art is a difficult concept to define but if one thing’s for sure, then it’s the fact that art is a means of self-expression and of generating emotion through beauty. If you look at a painter’s remarkably detailed canvas portrait of someone, or their realistic depiction of a landscape, none of us would think twice about calling it a beautiful piece of art and marvel at the painter’s talent.
Photography, however, was, for a long time, the topic of debate on whether it can or cannot be considered an art form. When it first started becoming established in society, over 150 years ago, it was considered by many to be “too literal” to compete with a work of art, as they claimed it did not rouse the imagination. Perhaps, looking at those first pictures taken, showing, still, stern, and stoic-looking people, then you may not blame them for thinking so.
We sat down and talked with someone who has made photography not only a means of artistic self-expression but also a way of generating some beauty out into the world. Norik Uka is a photographer from Pristina, Kosovo who has been taking pictures professionally for seven years now, having accidentally discovered he has quite the talent for it while trying to dodge the dreaded political talk at a family gathering.
“Beacuse I did not want to discuss those political topics,” he tells us when asked how he went from an aspiring artist to doing it professionally. “I decided to take all the family children that were there, and I started doing their portraits.” He took pictures of them playing and having fun, and after one of his cousins posted the pictures to Facebook, the reaction was instantaneous: people now wanted to pay Norik to take pictures for them.
Having quit his previous profession, he never looked back and has dedicated his life to photography, and has now reached hundreds of thousands of people through his pictures which he shares to social media.
Norik explains that his favorite pictures to take are portraits, something which he links to being able to show his subjects’ souls through their eyes and a lens.
“Getting people’s quality portraits is very hard, getting people’s faces is very hard,” he says, adding that he believes it has something to do with their soul. “I try my best to reach out into their soul and get their best emotions, so they bring out the best emotions in the picture.”
He drew inspiration from Modigliani, an Italian painter who was known for his portraits and who did not paint people’s eyes unless he felt like he knew their soul.
“He’s a rare artist who gave the soul through the eyes,” Norik explains. “And I have the same feeling that every time I want to do a picture, it always has to do with the eyes. Eyes are married to the soul, and in my opinion, portraits are like that.” If someone can manage to show emotion through their eyes, then Norik believes you will be able to get a great picture out of it.
When we asked him what he wanted to say through his photography, he said:
I love to express love, I love to express happiness, I love to express enjoyment, I love to express beautiful things. Everything which is nice in the world, I like to put it through my pictures because we are filled with a lot of fake and bad news which come to us every day, and burden [us] a lot, and it is something that people shouldn’t be bothering with but they do bother [with] every day, so with my pictures I try to remove that type of emotion, and I try to bring only happiness. At least for five minutes.
He explains he loves the feeling he gets when people reach out to him to tell him they can’t wait for him to post because they love what he does, and his pictures make him feel better.
According to him, real beauty is inner, and it’s different from what he refers to as being “photogenic”.
My best pictures didn’t come from the most “beautiful” people – calling them ‘most beautiful’ in the photogenic way – they came from people who were just ordinary, without a photogenic face, they were just beautiful moments giving the best from themselves, giving the best from their inside and I got that outside so people can see it and perceive it.
He adds it is those pictures, the ones that show a person’s inside, which are the most popular on his sites.
Norik revealed that when he first began taking pictures professionally, he was afraid his inspiration was going to run dry at some point. However, that has not happened. Quite the opposite, really.
“Every day I get to have more and more ideas; creativity is something that is just growing and growing. It’s just like a big universe, and in that universe, hundreds and millions of ideas,” Norik says. “Now, I’m driven by thousands and thousands of photographers, who are growing every day.”
He credits social media sites, like Instagram, for allowing aspiring photographers to grow and become better, and through them, he finds inspiration to do better and more with his own work. He says he is the biggest critic of himself, which is as good of a thing as it is bad since it always pushes to do better.
Speaking about his favorite project, he revealed that it was a photo shoot he did last year in Japan with a model, artist, and future architect named Veronica, whom he describes as “an extraordinary soul”. The two collaborated with different fashion designers in Tokyo, and Norik explained he loved shooting there because Tokyo “is very versatile. It is traditional, modern, super modern, extreme modern, then it goes back to tradition again.”
As for Veronica, he said: “It’s so easy and engaging to have a person who knows exactly what you want. And knows to deliver it to the max, and gives the best of [herself].”
Norik is currently working very hard and is in the process of opening his own studio, from where he says he wants to deliver even more of his creative work. He excitedly explains that is is almost finished.
He also says he will also be traveling a lot, discovering and learning about new cultures, and meeting new people in order to broaden his perspective and to keep on improving his work.
Other than that, Norik says he will also tackle his own culture, which hasn’t been presented as much before. He tells us that he thinks he has a “great idea” on how he’ll present his culture – “the old people of Europe, which have a great history and a great culture” – to the world through photography.
And we have no doubt that he will do that and much more in his future, and very promising, career!