This year marks the third anniversary for the creative double act of makeup artist Stefanija Vektere and fashion photographer Robert Lipnicki. During this relatively short period of time the tandem has proved its professional qualities to meet the highest standards of the industry as well as their notorious vision of the future trends in creating breathtaking conceptual art editorials to turn the fashion photo world upside down.
This is the perfect interview with minimum of text and maximum of visual content: we let the talented duo’s works speak for themselves.
ENGINEER AND KNITTED APPAREL DESIGNER
Stefanija was familiar with the fashion industry thanks to her studies of knitted apparel design in Riga. But this was not what her heart and soul were longing to do. Stefanija is a true artist who expresses herself in creative makeup and nail art as well as in bespoke avangard accessories design.
“When I design makeup looks for a shoot I pay attention firstly to the conceptual idea that I am going to create and secondly to the details that will compliment the natural beauty of a model, or in case of creative makeup to the things that will make her step out of her comfort zone and embrace the character“, – points out Stefanija.
“I like to be innovative with the use of materials and always experiment with it before shooting. It takes a lot of preparation including making new head pieces or other accessories specially designed for the shoot. It is not only about beauty, every work has a certain hidden message to the audience“, – this is how she explains the essence of her favourite job.
Robert has engineer’s diploma but completely no interest in this profession. His grandfather, who was a photographer, and Robert’s first teacher showed him the magic world of photography with the atmosphere of producing photos in a dark room with all the chemist’s stuff that was used in the old school pictures’ processing. “Granddad told me that I have to shoot the things that will faint away to the past and never come back, such as architecture and history“, – admits the artist. Instead, he started his photo career by shooting landscapes.
Robert compares this to the fishing process, that is a relief of the soul for him. Shooting people is a completely different thing. First portraits by Robert were severely criticized. He was very emotional about that, but the process has already enthrilled him so much that he put all the landscape shooting and other things aside and worked hard to become a true portrait photography master.
“My idea was to make a model trust me, to have a dialogue with her. To know her as a person so she can open up for me as a photographer, and this is the key to success“, – confesses Robert. This concept was very effective. Creative ideas, technical knowledge and sincere attention to all people who take part in the shooting process made him successful and sought after fashion photographer.
HOW DID THEY MEET
ROBERT: I was one among thousands of ordinary photographers shooting everything around. One day, after another shooting that had no sense to me, I came home very disappointed. I didn’t want to shoot concerts or other events, instead I was willing to do something very creative. Browsing Facebook I came across Klaudia’s picture (Stefanija’s sister, a model. Editor’s note.) with unusual makeup and immediately decided that I want to shoot something like that. That very moment I wrote to the makeup author and offered her collaboration: to make a photoshoot in this similar style together.
STEFANIJA: And he wanted to pay me for my work. Respect! The picture that introduced us to each other was taken during the makeup contest. And that was the first time when I also showed my nail art too. We met with Robert to discuss one photosession but ended up making a life changing project together that lasted for 12 month. It was a very serious commitment. The idea was to make something extraordinary together every month. This is how our art tandem was born. And we did 12 sets inspired by the architecture of the different cities.
VISION OF THE FUTURE
STEFANIJA: We are trendsetters, we create photo and makeup trends, that is why our job is so important to us. We literally put our hearts and souls into that. We like to create something different, innovative and very often we see similar works being published after our shoots.
When others were shooting classical beauty concept photos and did Kim Kardashian’s style contouring and makeup, we started doing our creative editorials. Every set we create is a new challenge and mission to tell a new story. Not everyone understands our work, but the main concept is to get emotions out of people and make them remember our work. It’s a piece of art that will stay ageless forever. The year project we did when we just met has been republished already twice this year. The creative makeup and concepts we did then are in fashion now. But all we wanted to do is not to follow any trends but to make a statement.
ROBERT: It’s always better to keep all ideas and concepts to ourselves till the moment the shoot is actually published as with strong social media presence there can be a leakage of ideas and we don’t want that to happen before publishing.
STEFANIJA: We always have plenty of new ideas. We get them after brainstorming or visiting an exhibition etc. Honestly, it can be anything that inspired one of us. And then we are moulding that into a new piece of art.
ROBERT: I take my time to shoot until I have that one perfect photo. It is said that photographers have 10 percent of good shots in total of each photoshoot. Don’t believe it. The real number is hardly 2 percent!
I get the best shots usually by the end of the photoshoot, when the model is tired. She gives up and can’t go on anymore. But I insist: “Come on, let’s make the final shot!“ And this is the moment when she looks at You with the right emotions and You get that golden shot! It’s like a shot in between shots, when she is not posing. It looks very naturally.
STEFANIJA: That’s the style that Robert is admired for. Especially by editors of American magazines. They love all unusual things, this is exactly our style: edgy and elegantly crazy. We have lots of fans in the States. We have done editorials as well as covers for “Scorpio Jin“, “ Elements“ and “Elegant“ magazines.
STYLE: BRUTAL “LACHAPELLE“
ROBERT: I like brutal style. This is my signature. I didn’t do it on purpose, it was my heart’s desire so to say. My photographer friend had criticized me for not having my own style in my works. When he ran out of arguments he sent me an instagram screen with comments: look, that’s the style! And he was very confused afterwards when he found out it was one of my shots. (Laughs.)
I like working with models that do not have the classic appearance. I like interesting faces. These faces can work. Usually, a beautiful girl completely trusts her looks, she doesn’t care how to pose or what to express. She thinks: “All I have to do is just to be beautiful“. I’m choosing models with whom I can make true art, interesting expressive shots. I’m “breaking“ them catching their face expressions on the verge of being ugly. “Disgusting!“ – this could be your first reaction to the picture, but then you realize that you want to stare at that face more and more. We are always trying our best to make such irresistible shots.
Honestly, as an artist I’m not completely satisfied with my works most of the time. I’m always focused on shooting better and better, get the utmost out of every shot. I’m a perfectionist and I am ruthless to myself.
STEFANIJA: Me and Robert are working at the same wavelength. As an art director I usually come up with the concept of the photoshoot, and Robert takes care of all the visual content of it.
STEFANIJA: To promote our brand Steff and Robert, to organise our artworks’ exhibition in Los Angeles… Speaking about the dream, mine is – to create an art makeup for Lady Gaga. I’m sure we will understand each other very much, because we are both freely expressing ourselves in our creative work.
ROBERT: I’m planning to shoot covers for “Vogue“, “Bazaar“, “Playboy“ in the nearest future. As to career prospectives I’d love to follow Mario Testino’s example but do it my special way. And to be honest with You, my dream is to leave a footprint in the history of photography with some “Lipnicki method“ that I will invent myself.
(Editor’s note: I would absolutely love to see the cover of “Playboy“ made by Robert in his signature style).
“IT` S GONNA BE NATURAL“
ROBERT: Figuratively speaking, the process of retouching pictures begins long before the shooting. I’m very carefully choosing the colour palette for the future shots. I give Stefanija notes of what colours to use or avoid in the models’ makeup. It’s very important for me, because I usually leave the original colours in the pictures. Me and Stefanija absolutely agree on leaving also models’ skin on the final shots as much natural as possible, so you can see the skin texture etc.
STEFANIJA: The complexion, freckles, blush – we are showing all of it. Moreover, we adore it instead of covering it up in the photoshop. Speaking about the makeup techniques that I use on the set, I do soft contouring, to make face look as natural as possible. For example, my idea of famous “smokey eyes“ is not glamour with glitter but more of a beautiful “grunge“.
ROBERT: I am fascinated and inspired by fashion sketches. I’m trying to shoot the model according to this idea in my head so with the minimum retouching she would look like an illustration from the fashion book. It’s very important for me to stick to this proportions of the sketch in the photo. This is what I’m currently doing. This photo, for example, shows my idea even in a more artsy way. The image was inspired by ice cream. Look at it from afar – it looks like this dessert!
Speaking about hot trends such as plus size models, everybody is shooting them now. I’m also interested in doing this, but in my signature way. I will use the stylistics of the famous voluptous women admirer – Rubens.
STEFANIJA: I will give you a real life example. When we did “What IS Art“ project together with Robert, I used to go to British Museum to get inspiration from ancient Egyptian artefacts. It wasn’t pyramids or Cleopatra I was interested in. I see things differently than most people do. I was enchanted by textures, colours, lines, mostly the shades on the faces of Egyptian sculptures – their face contouring.
Another source of my inspiration is amazing art of Alexander McQueen. He is one of a kind genius in the whole world. I adore his works, they always inspire me. His creative energy, through my inspiration of his artworks, touches everything that I do.
Finally, architecture, basically asymmetric shapes also make me very emotional and creative.
MESSAGE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS
STEFANIJA: Never ever doubt yourself or your kind of crazy creative ideas. The heart will lead you towards your own way, just follow it without hesitation.
ROBERT: If you lack knowledge and experience – get them in the working process, ideally watching the best of the best in your industry doing their job. Observe closely what they are doing but have your own vision too. This is what makes you stand out from the crowd of ordinary people.
STEFANIJA: I love books as a source of information, but you can get the real experience only by practicing things. Not a single book in the world can give you the knowledge you can get by working with a great teacher. Become a shadow of one, pay attention to all the smallest details of his craftship, this will make you more confident and professional in your work.
Photo courtesy of Steff and Robert