Artist Spotlight: Photographer Max Pollak
Artist Spotlight: Photographer Max Pollak
What are you studying at SCAD?
I’m majoring in photography and minoring in fashion marketing.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I like to explore different ideas through each of my projects, and I like to use people who, for one, like to put themselves out there, and also who aren’t really conventional models. I try to focus a lot on editorial and fashion-based work, because that’s what I want to go into, but sometimes I like to work on portraying broader ideas, rather than just focusing on lots of small details.
What sort of things influence your work? Where do you pull inspiration from?
I follow a lot of different photographers, so I kind of pull bits and pieces that I like from their work, and mash it all together into mine. I really like retro/vintage styles, so a lot of those colors and themes come through in my photos, I think. Not so much in the actual fashion, but a lot of the color schemes are ones that you see in retro ads and stuff like that.
What do you think is the most challenging thing about being a photographer?
I guess just putting yourself out there. I’m pretty introverted, and I don’t like talking to strangers that much, but a lot of what I’ve learned, especially at SCAD, is just to talk to people, to make connections and really put your name out there. You’re not going to do well unless you’re not afraid to make mistakes and just talk to people. A lot of times it was someone saying, “Hey, come along to this photoshoot with me”, and it was situations like that where I made a lot of friends and connections. It’s super uncomfortable at first, but it’s so worth it.
What do you think sets you apart as an artist? What makes you different?
Oh, geez. Okay, I think a lot of people edit in a very similar way. They use a lot of the same color palettes, a lot of the same tones, basically they all have very similar aesthetics. I feel like nowadays a lot of photographers shoot for Instagram. That’s not to say that they’re bad, but I personally try to branch away from that. For a while, I was really uncomfortable with my work because I thought that my stuff needed to look like everybody else’s, but eventually I was just like “Hey, I can’t achieve that aesthetic, so I’m just gonna do my own thing.”
What do you hope to be doing, career-wise, in the future?
I’d really like to work for a company or magazine, like i-D or Vogue, something that involves high-end fashion. I would love to do editorial work, but I would also like to do some freelance illustration and freelance photography.
How has art influenced or enriched your life?
For years and years I was super depressed. I was always a creative kid, but for a long time I had this sort of creative block, since I was so sad all of the time. Eventually, I found photography, and I found a really good community of people in my high school. You know, it was the drama kids, and we were all really artsy, and they opened me up to trying new things. It was a complete 360. Art has improved my life in so many ways that it’s hard to even explain exactly how. With art, there’s not really any boundaries. It’s freedom of expression, so you can’t really be told, “No, don’t do that.” I know that I’m a super anxious person, so I always feel like everything I do is being judged, but with my art, it’s the one outlet that I have for myself where I’m the only person whose opinion matters.
Would you consider yourself a misfit at all?
Yeah, I think so. This sounds really, really tacky, but the whole idea of normality is just super boring, and I no longer feel the need to fit in with that label. I don’t feel like I have to be skinny, or tall and muscular- I don’t want to look like that. I’m also just super queer, which seems pretty normal to me now, since most of the people at SCAD and in my life are queer. I do think, though, that being queer will always set me apart in some way, especially as I move up in the world. So yeah, I’m kind of a misfit, but I feel like everyone is in their own little way.
Do you think the fact that you’re queer influences or feeds into your work at all?
It definitely does. Art is a really good outlet to talk about any social issue. I did a nude project, and all of my models were queer in some way. When I was talking about this project to my professor she made a comment about it, saying “Oh, well I see breasts, so I assume that person is female.” I was just like “No, he is a man.” So I wanted to talk about those sorts of things with that photo series because nudity, first of all, isn’t inherently sexual, and it was also an opportunity to educate people on trans issues. As somebody who is gender fluid, it was really important that people understand what these photos were about. Being queer has definitely impacted my work, and I absolutely want to do more projects that are centered around that. Whether it’s simply using queer models, or even making a series about being being queer.
Photos courtesy of Max Pollak
If you could give any advice to future artists, or even misfits, what would it be?
Stop being f*****g scared to do what you want to do. Self expression is so important, and you really need to accept whoever you are. Even if it’s difficult for you, it needs to happen sooner or later, so just get to it. Get to accepting yourself. Get to accepting your body, accepting your brain. Even if art isn’t your thing, find some sort of outlet, and pursue that.