A Journey of Resilience, Creativity, and Emotional Connection
The world of photography is incredibly diverse, and there are a few individuals who excel at capturing emotions that resonate with viewers. One such artist is Stefan Kokovic, a multi-award-winning photographer who has made a name for himself in the fashion, music, and advertising industries. His work is a testament to his resilience and perseverance, traits he developed growing up in the Balkan region. Despite the challenges he faced, Stefan continued to pursue his passion for art, and his work has been recognised with many awards, including the prestigious Fashion Photographer of the Year at the Vienna Fashion Awards. Through his photography, Stefan aims to capture authentic emotions in a way that resonates with the viewer, and his success speaks to his incredible talent and dedication.
Stefan’s photography reflects his unique perspective, which blends his love for classical painting, illustration, graphic design, and music. In this interview, Stefan Kokovic discusses his passion for art, his artistic journey, and the importance of emotional connection in his work.
Fab: What sparked your interest in photography, and how did you begin your career in this field?
Stefan Kokovic: Well, my passion for art began at a young age with classical painting, which then led me to explore different types of art forms. I eventually found my way to photography during my first year of university studies. I was drawn to the idea of combining my love for art with working with people and capturing their unique personalities. As a people person, I found it to be a truly fulfilling experience.
Balancing artistic vision and client needs: Communication is key
Fab: Speaking of being a people person, I understand that you run a business with your friend. How do you balance maintaining a friendly and family-like atmosphere while also protecting yourself?
Stefan: Yes, I believe it’s important to maintain a friendly atmosphere while still setting clear boundaries through contracts to avoid misunderstandings. By doing so, it’s possible to build a strong and positive working relationship.
Fab: You have described the emotional connection between the viewer and the photo as the most important aspect of your work. And truthfully, your photography captures emotions in a very natural and authentic way. How do you go about creating that emotional connection with your subjects? How do you balance capturing authentic emotion while also directing your subjects and creating a specific vision?
Stefan: As a fashion photographer, when I am working on projects, campaigns, editorials, or anything else, I have to meet up and follow up with the client to figure out how to incorporate my stamp while making the client happy. While working with my clients, I aim to find a balance between my own artistic vision and their specific needs. Communication is key, and I strive to create a positive atmosphere to ensure that my subjects feel comfortable and can express their emotions naturally. For me, it’s really important for people to understand and feel how genuine I am, even when I work. This is how I get the connection between myself and the subject I’m photographing. I always believe I’m not just someone who does this job; I’m also an artist. My ultimate goal is to capture authentic emotions in a way that resonates with the viewer.
Inspiration from various art forms: How music, graphic design, and classical painting influence Stefan’s photography
Fab: Your work spans many artistic fields: music, graphic design, advertising, classical painting, illustration, and photography. How do these other art forms influence your approach to photography?
Stefan Kokovic: For me, art is art, and I think that when someone is creative and does a good job presenting themselves and their ideas, they can excel in any art form. If you are a good painter, for example, I’m sure that there is another brand of art that you can do quite well as well. I was never scared of trying different things, exploring, and finding who I really am and how I can do my job the best way possible. You can see that everything is mixed in my artwork, with bits and pieces of each thing I learned during my life.
From the Balkans to Vienna: The Cultural Influences on Stefan Kokovic’s Artistic Style
Fab: You were born in Belgrade, Serbia, but now live and work in Vienna. How have these different cultural backgrounds influenced your artistic style?
Stefan: Yeah, it’s not that far away from Serbia, so that’s a plus I have. But I think coming from a certain background without having the same support as many people in Austria have has taught me how to fight, show what I can do, and prove myself not just to anyone but to myself as well. I think this is the main difference between someone who has had a personal experience, which is not necessarily always good, and someone who has never left their comfort zone. The Balkan region has been through some unfortunate events, and I think that’s where I learned how to show resilience and perseverance, which reflects in my artistic style.
The Balkan region has been through some unfortunate events, and I think that’s where I learned how to show resilience and perseverance, which reflects in my artistic styleStefan Kokovic
Celebrating Success: Stefan Kokovic on Winning the Fashion Photographer of the Year Award
Fab: Speaking of fighting, you have absolutely won. I believe that’s why you were recently awarded Fashion Photographer of the Year at the Vienna Fashion Awards. How does it feel to be recognised for such great work?
Stefan: It feels amazing. I try to be modest when I have to be, but I am not constantly modest. I can definitely say that I am extremely proud of myself. Everyone says, “Oh, you just moved to Vienna and you already received the best fashion photographer in the country award,” but I have been in this industry for over a decade now, and it is not overnight work. The only thing I do is work, so I constantly work on a daily basis, sometimes even spending 14 or 15 hours a day on different projects. I have two companies that need to be run by someone, so it is a constant process of growing and learning new things. It is not something that just came out of nowhere, which is why I am even more proud and happy to receive this award.
For me, it was like reaching the end of a road where someone recognises what I have done for this road. It is a very overwhelming experience, and it is actually the second time I have been awarded as the best professional photographer. It is quite intriguing.
Fab: You dedicate 15 hours—a whole 15 hours—to work? And you are still looking super fresh. Do you sleep at all?
Stefan Kokovic: Well, I do sleep. Sleep is quite important for work. Sometimes, I feel like a purely old-school person because I do not party a lot or go out that often. I am quite focused on learning, but I have always been a nerd. It is nothing new, and I just continue doing it at this age as well.
Fab: You mentioned that you stop during thunderstorms to sip coffee by an open window. Apart from sipping coffee, which other hobbies have you chosen to find balance and relaxation in your busy and demanding career?
Stefan: Right now, it is raining, and I am here beside my window sipping coffee (opens window drape).
For me, art is art, and I think that when someone is creative and doing a good job in presenting themselves and their ideas, they can excel in any art formStefan Kokovic
Fab: Apart from sipping coffee, which other hobbies have you chosen to find balance and relaxation in your busy and demanding career? It cannot just be work, work, work (Rihanna’s tune).
Stefan: We should all enjoy life constantly because it is given to us, and we need to make the most of it. My 21 is focused on photography and photography work, and the other one is graphic design, web design, and creative development. I have to be creative for so many clients and people that I need to know my boundaries. It’s important to recognise when my body or mind is losing it and say, “Okay, stop now. I need time to relax, chill, do my own things, read, travel, or fill my batteries so that I can be creative again for all these people.” It is essential for my creative process. For now, I think I am quite good at finding this work-and-pleasure balance.
Fab: That’s absolutely fabulous. There are days when you are just like, “I don’t think I want to work anymore. I think I just want to sit down and do nothing.”
Stefan: Yeah, yeah. Of course. This happens. You know what? People actually think that I’m extremely outgoing. I always say I am a friendly person, I guess. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily outgoing. However, I take this as part of my work. So when I have a lot of social events to attend or people to meet constantly because, as I said, the fashion and creative industries are like this, I feel overwhelmed. Regardless of how it looks on social media and whatever people think, what is your impression when we talk right now? I am friendly, nice, and outgoing again, but sometimes I really need my four walls and silence. Silence can be therapeutic for me.
Fab: How do you stay inspired and motivated in your work, especially when faced with creative challenges or obstacles?
Stefan Kokovic: I can show you here. You see this little tattoo? (opens tattoo) Yes, it’s Cyrillic writing. My mom wrote it, and I copied it on my hand. It means, “That as well shall pass.” So this is my life mantra. You know, when bad things happen, I try to think of them as life lessons. So I’m like, “Okay, this has to happen for a certain reason.” This made me stronger in certain relationships with people.
For example, if it didn’t turn out that way, I would say, “Okay, now I know how I’m not supposed to behave in certain situations or with certain people. But you know what I mean. So for me, every life obstacle is a lesson. And I always tend to learn these lessons well. And I always remember this little sentence. This too shall pass. So even if it’s difficult tomorrow, it’s already gone, or I don’t know when, but it shall pass, and everything will be alright.
The Intersection of Art Forms: Stefan Kokovic’s Unique Perspective on Photography
Fab: Speaking of lessons, what do you hope people take away from your photography, and what message do you hope to convey through your work?
Stefan: Through my work, I can definitely say that working on your dreams is possible. But even though I am quite spiritual as a person, I always tend to say that just sitting around and trying to manifest good things in life will not change anything. You need to stay positive and optimistic and believe in yourself, but you also really need to work. My mom actually says all the time that it’s 90% work and 10% talent. Maybe through my work model, this is something that I would like people to understand and maybe even be inspired by what I do and how I got to this pattern.
Photography-wise or creatively, I like to share emotions and show people that being real is extremely important during these weird times. If you’re not real with yourself, this might last for a while, but definitely not forever. And when it’s gone, you will be a mess. Just be real.
As a fashion photographer, I aim to find a balance between my own artistic vision and my clients’ specific needs. Communication is key, and I strive to create a positive atmosphere to ensure that my subjects feel comfortable and can express their emotions naturallyStefan Kokovic
Fab: For young, ambitious readers who aspire to become great fashion photographers, what do you believe makes a great photograph?
Stefan: That’s a tricky question because there are so many elements to it. From the technical aspects like lighting, composition, and camera settings to the creative direction and timing. Fashion photography is a long process that needs to be organised and dictated quite well. With experience and practise, you can master the art of capturing a great photograph.
Fab: You’ve worked on so many different shoots. What has been the most memorable photoshoot for you in over 14 years?
Stefan Kokovic: I’ve worked on many different shoots, and all of them are unique, like my babies. Every shoot is an opportunity to capture a moment and make someone feel special, different, and beautiful. I cannot say which one is my favourite. However, I really enjoyed the photoshoot with Conchita, the biggest European celebrity and one of the biggest stars in Austria. It was quite an experience because of his uniqueness, and he was such a lovely person to work with. But as I said, all of them are unique, different, and special to me.
Fab: What are your plans for the future?
Stefan Kokovic: I have no long-term plans for the future. Of course, I have big plans for June, July, and August. Other than that, I let life happen and try to plan less because, as I said, life has surprised me in the past.
Fun Zone: #FabFast5
- If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I never had a favourite this or that. I prefer a list of people and artists I like. But if I had to choose, I would say the soundtracks from the movies “Amelie” and “Left in the Middle” by Natalie Imbruglia.
- If you could photograph any historical figure, who would it be?
Nikola Tesla and Salvador Dali.
- Craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of creativity?
Oh my, I do crazy stuff all the time. When I work on my exhibitions, for example, I fully immerse myself in my work and switch off from daily life. This is my personal project, and there are no clients or external influences. It is all about me expressing my feelings and visions. The period of the exhibition depends on the theme I am exploring. For instance, if I am portraying faces, like I did last year, I focus on different nationalities and beautiful people I encounter on the street, irrespective of their culture, background, or skin colour. I just love experiencing and exploring different visuals. During this time, I am fully focused until the exhibition day arrives.
If it is more erotic-themed, then I get into a very sexual mood and stay in a hotel room to get an energy boost. This is my craziest period because I am fully unavailable for a month, and my friends cannot even reach me. I am doing my own thing and being weird for myself.
- Speaking of sexuality, have you ever had a celebrity crush? Who was it?
Actually, I am not sure. I never had a celebrity crush. But now that you have mentioned it, I remember Natalie Imbruglia being my childhood crush.
- Your favourite board or video game, if you play any?
Stefan: I am not much of a gamer, so I don’t play games. The only computer game I ever played and still play is The Sims, and I am obsessed with it. I have been playing it since 1999. But last month, I bought a PlayStation console, especially for the Harry Potter game called Legacy. I finished playing the game, and I am not sure what to do with the console now.
As much as I am not into video games, I adore board games. My friends and I have a little game night, and I enjoy cooking while they enjoy playing board games. We usually play the ones that I appreciate.
- Bonus: If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Potatoes in any shape or form!