The series called Enlightenment follows Breakfast and The Trip and ends my year-long work. At the same time it’s only a beginning of something much bigger. I’ve tried to tell a story about a life-changing event by the photographs. A story about apathy and aversion to start anything new, about a sudden reversal that can happen in one’s head, about a journey to a dream or to a better self, and about finding it while accepting oneself at both mental and physical level. I think it works and everyone can find even new stories and meanings in the pictures free to use their very own interpretation.
Kateřina Koki Mlejnková is an incredibly talented person and her ideas, artistic approach and ability to change looks like a chameleon have given totally original visual aspect to the photos. I’m happy I was able to fill such an enormous amount of awesome people with enthusiasm to help me with my personal work. Thank you!
Koki, when I first wrote to you to say I’m preparing this shoot, you said you might be interested. Why did you decide to do it? And did you enjoy it?
I get tons of people writing to me, saying: “Koki, you look cool and I’d like to photograph you, the way you look…” and I always write back saying: “Look, I’ll take my own pictures and show people what I look like on my Instagram. I do it every day, showing people what I look like.” That’s my response, and usually they don’t write back anymore, because there’s nothing you can say to that. But here I felt that there was something more going on. That you wanted to work with me as a person, who has something to give to this series. Which is just so incredibly nice, that someone believes in me like that, in some talent maybe or the faces and emotions and styling – that I’m not afraid of it, that I understand it all, or at least that I rework it in my own way. So, it seemed interesting to me in that there is something more going on than that we’re just making some kind of visual. It struck me as incredible that I could experience something during it. Of course, you always experience something in the end, but here it seemed to me that there’s really something happening, that it’s not just about someone being pretty, but that you have to show something. And play something. And I liked that someone was styling me. A lot of the time, people don’t even want to style me, because they think that I’m a finished product. I also enjoy working with a large group of people, because I love conversation and like to hear that someone has a certain view on something, and is going to stylize me some way.
People are afraid to style me because they think that I’ve got some strict visual, that must be maintained, but that’s not true.
People also often think that I’m infantile, but I just totally hate that! I hate Hello Kitty and unicorns! I love happy things, stylish things and provocative things and if they must be infantile, then at least smart!
Have you ever felt desperate about your look?
In the phase where I had to keep my natural, brown hair color, because my hair got ruined in one show and I had to let it grow out for it to recover. I went through hard times with that, it was totally screwed. At the time, I had started a collaboration with a hair salon, and the woman told me the best thing would be to let my hair grow out. And then we would color the new hair. OK, I can do that, I told myself. The last time I’d seen my natural hair was when I was twelve. Long, wavy brown hair. Yeah, beautiful, but fuckin’ boring! I just couldn’t handle it. Even if I was living in some tribe, I would still do something with my hair – beads, or braids … and it pissed me off that I attracted the attention of men whose attention I didn’t want, to have them be looking at me and saying: “You’re so pretty!”, and I would say: “Look, I don’t want be pretty for you!” I don’t need to be beautiful for everyone. I’m fine with it if just one person in the crowd says I’m beautiful.
What are you afraid of?
Of not being. I don’t know if I could be fulfilled not doing something. Just watching… I’m afraid of emptiness. Airiness. That terrifies me – that I would dissipate somewhere, that I won’t have that material presence, you know? I love touching things. I like it when things are tangible. For me the worst thing that could happen would be emptiness.
What is something that always makes you happy?
I love it when people think of me. The fact that someone has me in their head is awesome for me. I am incredibly happy about the things I have – I have a computer, a great apartment, beautiful chairs, great things, I have a ton of makeup, clothes ... I just don't need anything more. I have everything I ever wished for. So, it brings me much more joy when someone thinks of me. Real emotions instead of things, you know?
Are your decisions impulsive or do you think about the steps you take for a long time?
Impulsive, but then I’m always reflecting on the impulse, and trying to figure out why I felt it that way. I give myself feedback. And that works best. The impulse is natural. But then I think about it, and I realize how it came about, I always go back and thoroughly examine it.
You are yourself. How did you manage it?
I just am. It’s not that hard. I just perceive myself. When I buy clothes in a store, I buy what I like, and then wear it. I don’t say to myself: “What would my schoolmate say about this?! Would she say, you look like a clown??” And so, I’m a fuckin’ clown, so what! Or the way I act, it’s the same thing – what would my mom think that I’m sitting here smiling, and telling you I was doing Molly for a year – she fuckin’ knows it, that I was on it. Because I told her I have a problem. Because that’s just who I am.
Tomáš Vrana / photographer
Kateřina Koki Mlejnková / model / mua
Antonín Blažek / assistant
Julia Silajdžić / fashion stylist
Freshlabels / clothes
For full size pictures please visit my website.