Interview with Bella Kotak
Tell us a little about yourself and your background in photography.
“I’m Bella Kotak and I’m a fine art and fashion photographer based between the UK and US. My background is actually in the arts, and then architecture before I somehow slipped into photography and it all made sense.”
At what point in your photography journey did you realize that you had a passion you wanted to turn into a career?
“That point came quite early. I was studying and later working as an architect because it was a steady income and an interesting enough job. All the while, I was taking photos and booking jobs as a side hustle. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t really present in my architecture job, all my waking thoughts were on how to grow and evolve in my photography and eventually I decided I needed to just go for it!”
For someone starting out on their photography journey, what advice would you have for them?
“Invest, nurture, and grow your skill set. Get to know your gear and get obsessed with all or any part of the industry that interests you, whether that’s lighting, retouching, the business, marketing, selling – it’s all connected and it all feeds the strength in which you can translate your inner vision into something tangible. Don’t be put off by what you don’t have but rather consciously channel a more positive mindset and ask what’s possible with what you do have. It’s this attitude that I work hard to nurture every day myself. :)”
What goals do you hope to achieve next in your career?
“Honestly, I try not to set any goals. I always find that my career shifts without me realizing and I shift with it. I used to have goals before and I’d beat myself up if I didn’t hit them. Now I focus on just setting little goals, achieving them and moving forward step-by-step.
One major goal that I do want to bring to life at some point (and I’ve already started working on it) is creating a coffee table book of my work. I think that moment when it’s in my hands, and then someone else’s would be something really truly special.”
We all go through periods of mental blocks. How do you push past times of not finding inspiration?
“Whenever I hit a big block, and it happens often, I realize I need a time out. I detach from social media, focus on my life and those around me, make notes in my journal analyzing what exactly is the root of this block and what are the steps I need to take or have taken in the past that helped. I’ve always noticed that traveling, and meeting other creatives on the way have helped me a lot when it comes to working through mental blocks. Also, looking for inspiration outside of photography, this has been really impactful.”
What would typically be found with you during a shoot?
“A wig, lots of bobby pins and safety pins, a smoke grenade, and many, many flowers!”
If you’re not out on a shoot, what might we find you doing?
“Lately, a lot of emails! Too many emails! After that, social media, editing and creating content for my color shop, while Netflix plays in the background.”
What fellow artists in the industry do you gain the most inspiration from?
“I get the most inspiration from my retoucher husband, Pratik Naik. You might know of him – he’s incredible! I see first hand how hard he works, how genuinely kind he is to everyone, and how he wants to grow and support the creative community any way he can. He’s inspired me to push myself, to really see what the best version of myself as an artist, businesswoman, and human being could be.”
What has been your biggest breakthrough in photography?
“When I was asked to create the promotional imagery for the Birmingham Royal Ballet company in England. My photos were all over the London Underground and printed big in public spaces. That was really cool!”
Everyone has a favorite shoot – tell us about yours and why it’s your favorite.
“My favorite shoot is when I created “The Kiss.” I actually wrote a whole blog post about it going into why I hold it close to my heart.”