I learned that a good lens is half of the job. — Interview with photographer, graphic designer, and model Artiste Ancalimê.
Photo credit: Ancalimê
Butterfly Fantasy, Model Simona
Hi, I know Ancalimê for a long time. I followed her progress while she was studying photography and admire her work. In my opinion she is one of the best photographers and graphic designers in Vienna and I also had the honor of doing one of my first photo shoots with her, when we both were a bit less experienced than now ;)
I recently met her at the Vampires Ball, where she did a photo exhibition, and invited Michi aka Ancalimê for a chat, asking her about her work, her take on beauty standards, her most bizarre experience at a photo shoot, and to share her #1 advice for aspiring models and photographers.
The following interview was conducted in German. English translation by Sonja Jauernig.
Hi Michi, please introduce yourself briefly!
I’m usually known as Ancalimê (pronounced “an-cal-eem“), but many also call me Michi or Michaela. I was born in 1980 in Oberpullendorf (Burgenland, Austria) and raised there in Deutschkreutz. Even as a child, I occupied myself with photography and with all things creative. Thirteen years ago, I moved to Vienna. And this is where it all started in earnest, about 5 years ago: I got my own DSLR camera and attended a photo workshop. Even back then, people were enthusiastic about my pictures, which encouraged me to carry on. I also attended Fotoschule Wien, where I learned many interesting and useful things, and started to do more and more creative shootings. And now I am where I am: with heart and soul committed to my work. Now and again, I’m holding vernissages for the events of “Dark Society Vienna”, which pleases me greatly.
Model Leon wrapped in silver paper
You have recently finished Fotoschule Wien (Photo School Vienna) and started working as a professional photographer and designer. How difficult is it to start a career into this super-competitive market?
It’s very difficult. Competition is tough. I greatly value creative photos with which I want to stand out from the crowd. Standard photography can be learned quickly, but what really counts is personal style and creativity. I want to give everyone the opportunity to get an extraordinary photo shoot.
What else do you do for a living?
Apart from shooting, I’m also a proud mum. My son is a central part of my life, and he often inspires me. We had a couple of shootings together already. I also enjoy sewing dresses for shootings, events and everyday life. Besides decorating for Dark Society Vienna events, I do encaustic paintings and some graphic design. Creativity is my great passion.
Ancalimê's son Daniel
What is the background behind the name Ancalimê?
I first used the name Ancalimê when engaging in online fantasy RPG games. My character was called Ancalimê. I was very good at writing and so popular among fellow players that I often had to set appointments when to play with whom. But eventually it became too much for me, and I started with photography. But I kept my name, which is known to many – be it as role-player, photographer or designer ...
Model Aniko with injection nails
Many of your photos are actually a sophisticated composition of real pictures, fictional design elements, and fine art. How important is this mix for you and how "real" should a photo be in your opinion?
I have a passion for surreal images. It’s my own style, and it has much to do with one’s own imagination. What’s more, surreal pictures are the kind of pictures which fascinate the most. People ask a lot of questions about them. It takes several hours to complete such a picture. How „real“ a photo should be always depends on the shooting. There are shootings that are carried out bearing in mind that the photos will be used for composing afterwards. And then there are shootings where most things are created on the spot and nothing will be altered since the setting and style already express a lot. What matters is creativity, you just have to know what you want.
Ancalimê composing a photo in Photoshop
Adding to the Photoshop and beauty standards discussion. What is "real" beauty for you and what is your standpoint about the kind of uniformity we see in advertising?
In my opinion, every person has something special about him/herself. But advertising projects an unrealistic ideal of perfection. I’m often asked to retouch photos. People wish to look younger, skinnier and so on. I think that both has its advantages: Naturalness can be very expressive and very emotional. Retouched photos, on the other hand, mesmerize due to their flawlessness. I think it’s okay, as long as you don’t forget how real people look like.
Do you select your models yourself or do they come to you? What kind of people are they?
I choose my own models. For my vampire project, for example, I deliberately chose people who had a certain vampiric aura. But there are also many people who simply come to me with the wish to pose as someone or something else. There are a number of shootings yet to come, for example Marionettenpuppe (Marionette), Die Schneekönigin (The Snow Queen), Dark Labor, Geburt Jesus – Susej Trubeg (Birth of Jesus) ...
What was your most bizarre moment at a photo shoot?
During one of my vampire shootings, there was a moment which sent shivers down my spine. I glanced through the viewfinder all the time giving instructions, in fact I was so concentrated that I had a terrible fright when „the vampire“ approached me. His flashing teeth, his gaze and the long hair – he looked just like a real vampire, which gave me goose bumps! It all felt so real and unique, like being in another world. And this is why I choose individuals who fit into certain roles.
You have also a cool collection of self-portraits, other photographers (and models) could get envious about ;) What is your experience switching the roles and stepping in front of the camera?
It was always clear to me that I don’t want to stay behind the camera all the time. I also want to experience for myself how my models feel in front of the camera. I really like it, but I must say it’s almost more exhausting than shooting. Still, I’m always up for a photo shoot, especially if it’s of the really creative kind.
Getting technical: RAW or JPG?
RAW, of course!
Canon, Nikon or Sony?
Back then, I opted for a Canon and I intend to keep the brand. I think you should choose the camera you’re most comfortable with. But it’s the result that counts!
Ancalimê at work, photo by Daniel
Instagramification. More and more photos are shot with cheap (or not so cheap) mobile phones and are quickly edited on the go. How do you see this development which is also ubiquitous on blogs? Do you like it?
I think such apps and blogs are great. The photos aren’t high quality, but they have their own style which makes them something special. Personally, I like Instagram a lot. It’s a nice gimmick for times when I’m not in the studio.
Model Flo Graf in front of Schönbrunn
You are now also working for Dark Society Vienna. Tell us a bit about your latest cooperation?
Dark Society Vienna is multi-faceted, just as I am. The founder, Petra Sopper, organizes truly fascinating events. Some time ago, Petra invited me for a talk about my exhibitions and I suggested that I could help her with event decorations. So now I’m always in the venue one day before the event, decorating for a few hours. The last event was the Vampires Ball in the Viper Room. Together with the Dark Deko Team, I made bats out of old stockings, wire and cotton. We also cut out vampire teeth and fixed them onto a curtain. Apart from that, we hung lots and lots of pictures using various picture frames.
Model Mjumju Mau Mau above a pile of skulls
#1 advice you would give a model in front of a camera ...
Many models are nervous, so I always tell them: Just be yourself! Humor usually helps a lot, and eventually they jump and dance around and bend in all directions. In short, we all have a lot of fun together. Once more, I’d like to thank all the models with whom I have been privileged to work so far!
Model and dancer Marie-Therese Leopoldsberger whipping her hair
#1 advice you would give an aspiring photographer ...
I learned that a good lens is half of the job. It’s important to try out various views from different perspectives instead of just standing in front of it. What’s also essential is the light. You have to pay a lot of attention to it and experiment around with it regularly. It’s great fun.
Thanks, Michi for the chat and for sharing your wonderful photos with us! I’m already looking forward to your upcoming photo projects and I wish you all the best for your photo and design career.
I thank you for the interview. It’s important to me that people understand that photography isn’t just a job for me: It’s my heart, my soul, my passion. But I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help of many people out there. Their support and feedback mean a lot to me. I’m all for constructive criticism because it’s the best way to improve. I’m looking forward to many more shootings with a lot of different and highly interesting people. Thank you!
Composing, Model Leon