Raised by an often absent, hard-working mum, Bara Prasilova knows nothing of a conventional childhood. Evolve, the series that won her a Hasselblad Master, examines the fragile threads that bind people to one another, finds Donatella Montrone
“Sometimes I forget to breathe when I’m working on a shoot,” says Bara Prasilova, who doesn’t consider herself a fashion photographer, though much of her livelihood comes from commercial and fashion shoots. “There’s often total quiet on the set when I’m shooting an editorial for a magazine.”
She plans each shot with near military precision: carefully storyboarded or sketched beforehand, Prasilova even makes some of the props herself. “The shots are often prepared for several hours,” she says. “Clothes, hair and make-up are arranged within one millimeter accuracy, and I discuss every detail with my stylists.”
Prasilova almost never improvises, she says, and because she isn’t “saying anything urgent” in her shoots, the results tend to be static and calm. “I don’t often work with emotions; what I value is perfect lighting, focus and technical perfection.”
Yet Evolve, the series that won Prasilova the Hasselblad Masters 2014 in the fashion and beauty category, is fraught with emotion, albeit in the highly stylised, meticulous manner in which Prasilova approaches her work. The series examines the delicate, often fragile threads that bind human beings to one another. “Through my photographs, I have been trying to understand human relationships and connections: the long hair symbolises the invisible strings we use to strap somebody to us, or perhaps the opposite, to let someone loose,” she writes on her website.
It’s ultimately a series about love and fear, the kind of rapturous love that’s liberating and beautiful and comforting – something human beings cannot do without – and the fear attached to losing it, often causing us to bind it ever-more tightly. “In Evolve, the hair represents the threads of our emotions, our worries and fears – things we are afraid to loosen, like hair,” she says.
Prasilova’s exacting methods and acute attention to detail belie her free-spirited, unconventional upbringing in the Czech Republic, which she describes as being mostly without “controls”. “My mother had a job in a psychiatric hospital, and because she worked a lot, my brother and I were often absolutely free, without any controls. We’d often conveniently ‘forget’ to go to school. The best thing about my childhood is that neither my mother nor the school could influence me as much as they probably wanted to, so I had the freedom to create my own inner world,” she says.
“I still live and work in Prague, and I rule my universe from here. Clients usually come to me and ask for my interpretation of their products, so even though I’m very lucky with the work I do, because I have a lot of freedom to be creative, I’d like to focus more on my own work. I’m currently setting up a company called Papernaut with my friend and designer, creating products that will feature my photos and make good use of my economics degree. I can’t wait to start doing my own thing again.”
Evolve was recently on exhibit at PAC Gallery in Prague.