Michael Stonis

Jesse Koska

Michael Stonis
Jesse Koska

Hi Jesse, tell us where you're from and how you got into photography?
I worked for several years as an Art Director and Web Programmer for an advertising company. There was a point early on that I thought that there might be a possibility that I would need to move on from the job, and so I invested in a camera as a tool that would help allow me to start my own business as needed. Although, admittedly the camera stayed on the shelf for more than 6 years before I really started to pursue it.

How does living in Nashville affect your fashion photography?
I don’t think that there’s anywhere that is truly ‘easy’ to forge into the world of fashion photography. While granted the amount of designers, agencies, and models in my area is by far a drop in the bucket compared to a major market, we all have our struggles. Because of these limited resources, I’ve spent a lot of time working with people that wouldn’t be considered agency material in order to build my skill sets and help define my style. So that when the few opportunities to work with the right people came along that I wouldn’t botch it. So now that I am starting to feel like I’m at a place where I need to branch out in order to get a solid grasp on improvement.

Would you ever consider moving to a bigger city such as LA or NY?
I’m actually starving to make my way out. I think NY is where my creative mind resides, although I grew up on Minnesota and I really don’t miss the northern weather for a second. LA is growing on me, I see photographers doing some new things that feel break the mold which I feel connects me. I could see myself moving to LA sooner than NY, but unfortunately there are no firm plans. I’m hoping to see where things are by the end of the summer and go from there. I definitely want to make a few test runs out before I make any decisions.

How would you describe your work?
It’s hard for me to say as I feel like I really am discovering what I like. It’s starting to become evident that I like to shoot a lot with a simple on-camera flash. I like that when doing so there isn’t tons of setup involved, it’s very mobile, the light is always great for skin, and there’s this feeling I get from it that brings me into the moment more. The feeling that seems like the image is more natural, untouched, and realistic, as if you as the viewer was the one there taking the photo which seems extremely awesome when you’re attempting to shoot the most beautiful people and clothing you can find. While there’s this whole other side of me that appreciates anything well done, so natural lighting can be just as wonderful. So I’m trying to develop more of that in my work, whether it be natural lighting, or complex off camera flash. But if those things get in the way of capturing a person offering some authentic emotion or experience I’ll drop the lighting and go what ever helps me stay fluid.

Did you go to school for photography?
No actually I haven’t. I’m not much for school; I’ve always loved to learn though. I’m one of those types of people that loves to take something apart and put it back together. Get to the core of things. So at first I’m sure I did what anyone would in my shoes, take pictures of still life and get familiar with how a camera works. Gradually I gained confidence and started to shoot models and get a better control over different lighting techniques. I remember that I had a friend that was astounding at photography, and I would look at his images and wonder what he was doing that was so great. I figured that there had to be some formula that made it work. That’s when I discovered the golden triangle. I’ll go to the grave promoting the use of it… makes a world of difference.

You also do a bit of video with fashion, tell us how you got into that.
It’s actually a bit backwards how I started to shoot video. It wasn’t because I loved the thought of artistry in motion or telling a story, I basically was completely feed up with retouching at the moment. So I thought hmm, with video I won’t have too! So I kicked a few things around and started to fall more in love with it. I progressed to see how the potential of a story in motion is quite epic. I know that in my future that I will pursue it even more than I am now. Directing and concept development are my better strengths, seeing how the pieces fit together and make the sum. But for now I’ve got a handle on my retouching woes and still loving photography too.

What do you typically shoot with?
I love Canon. While I’m not out there shooting anything else, all I know is that their gear has amazing quality. I work with a 5d mkii primarily, and actually for my video work I use a T2i as I have a 17-55 lens with IS that I find extremely useful with doing a lot of hand held. Plus it has the 60fps. I’ve got some 580’s along with 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8 is. Canon’s great.

You run a fashion site called VONMODE, what is it about and how did it start?
I started VONMODE because I felt like there was a need for a platform that needed to bring fashion creatives together and help make a their voices be heard. There is a ton of work out there that is brilliant, but it’s just sitting on photographers hard drives because it’s ‘only a test’ or they think that because it’s not their best work that it isn’t worthy. Just because it’s not their best doesn’t mean the work is sub par. Basically there is strength in numbers when it comes to the web and I just wanted to help out others that want it and have amazing work.

Who are some of you influences in photography?
First off I’d have to say that I’m pretty in love with Eudes De Sanata’s work. He captures some really creative things with film. Also Viktor Vauthier is very inspirational, there’s just a very whimsical and fun feeling in his work that makes me wish I was at the shoot, either for how much fun they were having, or how fun the creative process would have been. Also… for more ways than one, Jolijn Snijders. I like how she not only shoots great photography, but also with her work with ilovefake. Of course I could say Steven Meisel, as his work is amazing. But at this point, I like to see photographers that aren’t at that top level press through and rise. I think that’s also a bit of why I started VONMODE too.

Thanks Jesse!

Website: www.