Serbian fine art photographer Jovana Rikalo combines fashion with nature to create dreamy escapist images that look like scenes from a storybook. From a mom and child wearing matching ballgowns in a grassy meadow to a woman wearing an ethereal white gown and leading a horse through a field of flowers, each photograph offers a portal into a lovely world you’d want to visit.
As a mostly self-taught artist, Rikalo began practicing photography while she was studying law. During this time, she quickly fell in love with the medium and its capability to create different narratives. Since then, she has channeled her love of clothing—particularly dresses—and respect for nature into transportive images that straddle the line between reality and a dream.
We recently had a chance to catch up with Rikalo. Scroll down to read My Modern Met’s exclusive interview.
What is your background in photography? What drew you towards this particular medium?
I started taking photos nine years ago. Everything started spontaneously. I always loved photography but I never imagined myself being somebody who would hold a camera non stop and thinking about new concepts and ideas. Back then, I was taking photos on my trips with family and self portraits. In the second year of law studies, I discovered a website called Flickr and amazing fine art photos there! They left me speechless. They had such strong emotions and stories. I started looking at photography with different eyes. That kept me motivated and inspired to try something new, different.
(continued) I started taking photos of friends, familiar faces. I was too shy to ask somebody to pose for me. Slowly, I was opening for new faces and breaking the ice with people I didn’t know. It was hard, I didn’t know where to start and how to pose people but we learned this through the process. After nine years, I worked with more than 300 models.
Your photographs are incredibly transportive and feature many fantastical elements. Do you see your photos as scenes from a story?
Yes! My photos are stories and scenes. Each element has a big meaning. I love to explain every photo and why I choose this element, but every person will see it differently and make a new story. Once you publish the photo, it is not yours. Everyone will see their own lives and stories reflected in the image.
What inspires your stories?
My huge inspiration is life, nature, and people. I love to connect the three to make a story. Almost all of the stories you see in my photos are based on my life. I connect these stories with nice dresses, natural elements, and fresh faces. Additionally, photographer Tim Walker was a major inspiration when I was beginning my photography practice.
Do the models in your photos represent characters or ideals?
I am very picky when choosing models. Each model must connect with the concept character and the whole story. Body language is also very important. It is like a movie and models are the main characters. I love seeking fresh, unusual beauty, and features like freckles, very long hair, bright eyes, tattoos, and so on.
How important is location for your photography?
Very important. Every element is important: model, location, outfit, hair, makeup, and props. It is important to know from the beginning how you will connect all elements and what is important for each story. Location represents the whole scene, where the main action is happening. There is no rule for how I choose a location. Sometimes I know what to look for and other times, I find a location by accident and then think of the whole story.
Clothing and costume appear to be distinct components of your world-building. How do you choose the garments?
When it comes to outfit, most of the time I choose dresses. Why? Because you can choose different colors, shapes, sizes.. You can play with many options. And it also looks nice in the photos. I am all into dreams and magic; and dresses represent that, right?
What is the most important part of your photography process?
Thinking of the concept, planning each scene, communicating with people from my team what props I need and how to make each. What you are thinking and what you are seeing on the set has to connect that day and that is the hardest thing, if you ask me. But that feeling, when you see your idea on the set, can’t be described. Especially If you have a big scene and lots of elements.
Do you have any advice for aspiring fine art photographers?
Practice, think about the concept, write down your thoughts, but most importantly don’t be afraid to start. You will see how important this step is in photography. Each photoshoot will bring you a new point of view and lesson.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can talk about?
I am planning to visit different countries where I will create different scenes. Lots of amazing things will happen next year!