Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, Justina Smile now lives in Dundee and studies psychology. In addition to being a committee member of Dundee University Photography Society, Justina is constantly filling her portfolio and looking for greater opportunities in the photography world.
Justina took time out of her busy schedule to photograph team Creative Dundee for our new ‘about’ section on the website. We also had a chat with her over coffee to learn a bit more about her background and how she came to photography.
What drew you to photography?
“It was my dad. He was a photographer when I was growing up and I was inspired by his work. When I was around 10 years old I asked him for a camera however, he said I wasn’t allowed one until I knew how to take photographs properly so he bought me a huge book on photography and made me read it from cover to cover. Finally, he bought me a small compact camera and I started taking pictures of butterflies, flowers and nature.
I got my first proper camera on my 18th birthday and I was in floods of tears – I was so happy! All the photos of me from my party are of my crying with happiness! From that day onwards, I started taking photos of my friends as I was able to use the camera features which I had read about back when I was 10!”
What made you move to Dundee?
“I moved to Dundee to study psychology which I then related to photography. It has helped me during photoshoots because I need to understand how the model is feeling. The majority of people I photograph are doing it for the first time so I appreciate that they may be feeling stressed. I am currently in my final year and I’m planning on incorporating elements of photography in my dissertation.”
What do you like photographing most?
“I like doing portraits in nature – most of my pictures are taken outside. When I was younger we used to travel a lot and spend weekends outside camping and fishing so I’ve always felt a connection to nature.”
How does living in Dundee impact your work?
“The great thing about Dundee is that it’s a smaller city so it’s easier to promote myself and get to photoshoot locations. When I moved to Dundee I realised that I wanted to continue with my photography and started my business. I used my University mailing list to promoted that I was looking for experience and would take photos for free and ended up with 40 requests but now, these same people are coming back to use my paid services as they were happy with how it went.”
What’s the most challenging thing about being a photographer?
“I’m afraid of people who don’t like themselves. I have never met anyone who I think isn’t beautiful – being a photographer makes me look at people differently and I sometimes get mesmerised by someone’s features such as their hair or eyes. I think it’s quite difficult when people are not sure of their appearance however I can’t expect everyone to be confident.
Around 5 years ago, when I first started doing my own photography, I met this girl who was extremely unconfident and didn’t know what she was doing. When I took some photos she was very reserved and quietly said that she actually liked them so I made her shout out that she liked herself which helped grow her confidence and now she’s a model! She was extremely beautiful so I’m glad she went on to be a model.”
What are your future plans after you graduate? Do you plan on continuing with photography?
“At the moment, I live with my boyfriend so I need to take in to consideration what he would like to do as well. My dream is to travel and get a taste of different cultures across the world – but who knows what the future will hold?! The main thing is that I would like to start my own photography business full time after I graduate.
I’ve also considered studying photography because I’ve taught myself over the years and it would be nice to have a certificate. In Dundee especially, there’s a lot of creative people however being surrounded by photographers and on a photography course could help me to build more connections.”
What advice would you give to photographers in Dundee?
Try not to copy others. To be honest, sometimes if I’m stuck for ideas I’ll go to Pinterest for some fresh inspiration however some people study photoshoots and produce exact replicas which don’t look or feel genuine. At the moment I’m still trying to find my style but I know that I like portraits in nature.
You can see a portfolio of Justina’s work on her website.