At Volt we’re always curious about new talent. Which is why we leapt at the chance to profile four recent alumni of the Mastered programmes. Mastered is a four month long, online programme that gives you the opportunity to be taught by industry heavyweights such as Nick Knight, Sam McKnight, Val Garland and Tim Blanks amongst others. Once enrolled, Mastered is committed to providing you with the right insight and openings, but also to hook you up with their network of creatives so you can collaborate and create your best work ever while learning from people who are at the peak of their profession. Working with this extensive list of industry people means the pressure is on; none of that laid-back college approach where you have months to turn around a project. As places on each program are extremely limited you’re more likely to be seen by their industry experts and get meaningful feedback on the work you create during your enrolment. A quick glance on the list of people involved should make your heart beat a lot faster as it is chock-full of serious heavyweights – no wonder they demand commitment, passion, versatility and above all, talent, from potential students. But it will pay off, the feedback from the first batch of alumni tells happy tales of work published in magazines and the excitement of your work being name checked by Vivienne Westwood!
Last week we profiled Hair Stylist Diane Dusting; this week, it is Photographer Tania Kezha.
My name is Tania Kezha and I am 29 years old. I was raised in the family of an opera singer in Minsk, Belarus. Growing up in a theatre surrounded by costumes, wigs and props has definitely left a mark on me. I’ve developed a strong appreciation of beautiful pieces of clothing, decorations and music.
Even though I received a BA in Business Administration in Lithuania, I chose a career as a fashion photographer and decided to move back to my home country. Nine years of hard work and here I am – a successful fashion photographer in Belarus, shooting editorials and campaigns for the leading fashion brands in my home country.
What attracted you to Mastered?
A friend of mine sent me a link to Photography Mastered with Nick Knight and after reading about the program I got really excited. It sounded like something I had been seeking for a long time. At the time I was feeling lack of progress in my career as it felt like I had achieved everything I possibly could in Belarusian fashion market. I still had a strong desire to learn but couldn’t find an inspirational teacher/mentor. So when I found out about the Mastered Program I didn’t hesitate a second to apply for it (even though I had to borrow money from a friend to pay for it). Just think about it: the opportunity to get inside the creative process of a master, the possibility of my work being reviewed by the top industry experts — I could have only dreamed about it. I really needed a nudge in the right direction, for after years trying to satisfy the needs of the market and making a living by doing what seemed like a dream job, I had almost lost my voice.
Did you have any concerns about the online aspect? Was it easy to ask questions and get feedback? Did you feel you could access it any time of the day?
Frankly speaking, I was concerned about the fact that there would be too many students taking the course and that it would be difficult to get noticed and receive personal feedback. But as soon as I’d completed the first brief set by Nick, I received an amazing in-depth review of my project by incredibly inspiring Alessia Glaviano, not to mention the feedback from fellow photographers.
What was your best moment during the program?
I was blessed with a lot of great moments throughout: I was chosen for the Wonderland opportunity, my projects have been reviewed twice during the live Q&As, you guys picked me for the Volt feature (yay!) and Vogue Italy will publish my works on their website alongside 27 other photographers from the program and an interview with Nick Knight. But if I have to choose just one moment, it is definitely the Vogue Italy website feature opportunity – it’s truly a dream come true!
And your worst?
I guess that would be the fashion video brief. There were so many obstacles to creating a good final product: the timing wasn’t on my side (the deadline was January 4th). Apart from having family commitments, my workload was insane, I was leaving for vacation on January 1st, and on top of that I had never made a fashion video before. I missed the deadline by almost two weeks. By the time I submitted the video everyone in the class had moved on to the next project and therefore I did not get any feedback. But I totally understand that it was my fault.
Do you feel the kind of work you do now has changed after being exposed to a very demanding, high-end fashion world through Mastered?
Absolutely! I still need to figure out how to make it a big seller in the market I work in though, but at least now I can spot the difference. Sadly, an average Belarusian client wants things that were trendy in Europe 5 – 10 years ago. So now my job is to figure out a way to keep my identity while making a living.
What was it like to have Nick Knight as your mentor?
Definitely inspiring! He is very successful, professional and creative. He challenged my whole approach to a photo shoot. I mean, we live in a “fast food” “copy-paste” world and Nick made me personally dig a little deeper. I’ve never attended an art school, so I haven’t been familiar with the whole research-project concept. It was very challenging and inspiring to go through all these stages while creating an image, so I am really grateful to him for that. Also, he introduced fashion video to us in a very persistent way. Even though my first attempt wasn’t a big success, I decided to try making fashion videos as an addition to each photo shoot for a while and see where it leads me.
Do you find the post-program online alumni helpful?
I didn’t have a chance to try it yet, but it sounds promising and very helpful to me.
How do you feel the program on the whole has worked for you? Are you more able to hold your own amongst your peers or when working with industry heavyweights? Do you find it easier to place your work in magazines?
I’ve spent so many years trying to satisfy the needs of the market that I almost lost my identity in the process. Using feedback from the industry experts and my classmates I managed to tailor my voice in fashion photography and become authentic again. I can’t say that it’s final, I still have a lot to explore, but I managed to cut off the nonessential and focus on the features that can make my style unique.
And finally, what are you working on next?
I’m doing personal projects to fill my portfolio with up-to-date work, hoping that it will lead to publication in renowned European magazines and collaborations with famous brands.
Mastered has openings for new programmes, all of varying length and cost. Check out the website here. Be brave! Take that jump.
Words by Anna Bang
Tagsanna bang, MASTERED, Nick Knight, Sam McKnight, Tania Kezha, Tim Blanks, Val Garland,