We discovered the work and creations of Masa Dizdar (@prozdrljivac) a short time ago and were instantly mesmerized by the colors, shapes and sheer ingenuity found in each one of her pieces. Ranging from beautifully obscured landscapes to hauntingly gorgeous portraiture, Masa’s work is both memorable and unique. Each of her pieces have the potential to leave the viewer with an illusory or dream-like sense as they stare into the world that Masa has created. Masa was kind enough to allow us a glimpse into her life, her creation process and how she uses Mextures to achieve certain looks and feels. Keep reading to learn more!
I am Masha. I was born in Sarajevo in what used to be Yugoslavia when I grew up but is now seven different countries. So now I am from Bosnia and Hercegovina. I experienced war when I was a child and during these war years I moved to Sweden. From the mentality of southern Europe to this new and completely different mentality in the north. During this period I partly lost faith in humanity and in the future. Since then I never make plans for the future more than just week to week plans. I never think I know anything. Things can change very quickly and we don't have control over those things. I am not a pessimist though. I am just very flexible and I leave most of it to faith.
Now I live in Dubai and travel a lot in the Middle East. I studied art and I used to paint a lot, mostly using oil and charcoal. I am an archaeologist, classicist, and I have excavated in both Italy and Greece and even Turkey. Now and then I try to write a book but it always get too personal and I stop writing.
I love editing photos because I don't have to start from scratch. My trouble with painting was that I feared the start. The whiteness or emptiness of paper scares me. It paralyses my fantasy. With photos I already have something - a base that I can work on. Editing photos is a substitute for painting for me.
How exactly did you get started with photography?
I had photography courses in art school and I must have taken and developed thousands of pictures during these years but I didn't really love it. It was too much work and I never had full control over the result. I am impulsive and I lack the patience needed to be a good photographer. The patience to wait for the right moment.
Many years later - maybe 7-8 years ago - I got my digital Nikon and I fell in love with it. I remember I went to Paris and spent a whole day at Centre Pompidou and took pictures of people in front of artworks and those photos were amazing. I realized that I could arrange my photos to construct the right moment. So I have been taking photos ever since.
With Instagram I think I was the last one to join. It was in April I think and before then I never really used my phone to take pictures. But once I realized I could edit anything from my phone and that I could recreate any image it became a huge passion for me. I can do it any time and in any place - in complete darkness with my phone as my only tool. The thing with Instagram is that I prefer iPhone photos.
What inspires you to take pictures?
I travel a lot and take a lot of pictures. What inspires me for Instagram pictures is the light. I spent last week in the mountains in Bosnia and one morning was foggy and that alone was a huge inspiration. But those photos were so good that they didn't need any editing and I really love to edit - to create a story.
Your Instagram work is certainly very unique. How did you come about that particular style?
I always enjoyed editing photos, but before it was more about making them look better - playing with contrast or adding some filters. When I started with Instagram I wanted to show the Middle East - where I live - in the way that I see it. To show some beautiful and hidden corners of that world. But somehow I couldn't post just ordinary pictures. I wanted to give them a story or a message and these stories became more personal instead of geografical.
I started enjoying editing more than photography and I did (and still do) try to create things that I like. Something a bit disturbing but not too obvious. Beautiful and dark. The subjects that I work with are actually very limited. I wish I had some skinny models and much more fog to work with and dark lakes.
In Sweden there is a type of lake that they call horse's eye, because it is dark, deep and like a mirror. I am going to Sweden next week and I hope I will find some dark foggy lakes with very thin pale people swimming in them.
So to create that beautiful and dark style, what does your editing process generally look like?
It never looks the same. I am trying not to repeat myself. I take pictures quite a lot and if I feel that some of them have the potential for editing then I start playing with them. I am very impulsive and if I take a nice photo today I will edit it the same day and then share it. I can edit one photo for hours, usually at night time. I sometimes do layering and test different filters using VSCO, adding some Mextures effects, playing with color, contrast and such. When I paint I am the same. I don't have a clear vision of what I want to create but I get carried away and when it feels right hours can feel like minutes. With my photos it is the same. When I feel I am on the right track I enjoy it and can't stop until it's done. Sometimes I wish I could take a break and wait a day or two, but I don't have the patience for it. When I am happy with it I want to show it and afterwards I need a new photo to work on - something that feels completely different.
When you use Mextures for an edit what does that usually look like?
Since I discovered Mextures I think I have used it on all of my Instagram pictures. I have never used formulas, but instead I am testing different options constantly. Mextures is really amazing and I love how using it to add some subtle filters can change the entire picture. I usually work with VSCO, then mextures and sometimes I might add some effects or do some layering and remove something from my picture in another app and then go back to mextures. And then sometimes I just use it for the final touch.
Is there any particular method to your process and are there overlay packs that you tend to use the more than others?
I probably follow the same pattern more or less but I wouldn't say that I have a method. I might have fifty alternatives for one picture and still feel that I have nothing until the moment it feels right. In Mextures my favorite overlay packs are Grit and Grain and Emulsion. I've used some of them in most of my pictures. I also like Landscape Enhance and the Atmospheric textures a lot.
Do you feel like Mextures offers anything unique to your editing process?
For me Mextures is great because it offers so many editing options that can be combined endlessly. I can make very subtle changes or completely make-over my pictures with it. For quick editing or just to get a feeling of what type of edit that would work I can always use ready made formulas which I later can work more with and remove some texture or add some other. I also like the layout, the stories about people that use Mextures for editing and I love the content.
What has been your favorite piece to create so far and why?
My favorite piece so far has been this one that I took it with my phone. It was evening and the light was not good enough but once I saw the picture I knew it would be nice. The original photo has sun and palms in the background, so I had to eliminate those elements. Then I played with contrasts, and in doing that the transparent curtain started to look like a veil, which was gorgeous. I actually didn't have to do very much, but I tried a couple of different edits and all of them where good so I had trouble picking just one. This was the edit that I chose.
What have you found inspires you to create more than anything else?
A good picture. A picture that I feel has potential is definitely what inspires me. Then I just can't stop working on it. To me capturing a good picture usually centers around a moment; windows, good light, open empty spaces. I also collect books about photography and find them indirectly inspirational.
What are some photography books you have discovered that are special to you?
I have many books focused on individual photographers like Sebastião Salgado whose photography I adore. Last week I discovered this book called Mono. It is a collection of black and white photography made by different photographers, most of whom are new names to me, and they all have different styles.
Who are some people from Instagram whose work inspires you?
There are many fantastic photographers and creative people on Instagram, but I can't say that any of them inspired me in that sense. From the start, I was mesmerized by all of the fantastic feeds out there, but later I discovered that some of the image types circulating on Instagram are repeated, copied or taken from other photographers. Anyone familiar with Francesca Woodman's work will soon find that many 'artsy' photographs on Instagram are inspired by her and some even imitate her work. And those get thousands of likes and look really nice, but for me, knowing the source takes away some of the excitement. I do check #rsa_mystery and ig_ artistry for inspirational images because every day they choose some nice and artistic images from the Internet and post them.
But here are some feeds that I really enjoy:
@bleeblu - for beautiful, mysterious portraits.
@katrinaleeford - for all of those cold black and white images of faces behind rainy car windows.
@somewhereincopenhagen - for city images.
@ovors - for blue mystery.
@utopiayana - for artistry.
@dailyoverview - simply amazing.
Discover more of Masa’s sensational work here!