Tereza Mundilová on creating an “Eastern European vibe” in her photography
The Berlin-based photographer works for a leading German fashion magazine by day, and in her own time shoots for publications across Europe and beyond.
- Matt Alagiah
- 30 October 2020
Tereza Mundilová sees in her photography work the influences of all the different places she has lived. While today she’s based in Berlin, her family is originally from the Czech Republic and she spent time studying in the US. “Maybe only to me, but I can feel the Eastern European vibe coming from my roots in Czech, my fandom for western pop culture influenced by the time I lived in NYC, a roughness from Berlin,” she explains.
Her passion for image-making goes back to when she was a child and – to add another country to her biography – growing up in Vienna. “My passion for photography started when I was four or five years old,” she recalls, “when I started photographing with a little Digicam (Sony Cybershot DSC-P73 blue) from my parents. I was especially fascinated by the integrated filter effects on that camera, like Pop Art and Sepia.”
In a story that will be familiar to many creatives, from there Tereza’s interest developed until, as a teenager, she was making short films and photography shoots with her friends (that were, she notes, “really bad but really fun”). She went on to study photography in Berlin, before enrolling at the University of Arts Berlin Visual Communication and later at the Cooper Union in New York. Throughout this time, she was working on side projects and the odd freelance commission.
Today, she is based in Berlin and works as the photo editor of Vogue Germany Digital. In her spare time, she shoots for other publications, including Crack magazine, i-D Germany, ZEITmagazin, and Vogue Czechoslovakia. One of the things that really jumps out from Tereza’s portfolio is the lighting. “I am a nerd about light,” she says. Subconsciously, she says, if she’s meeting somebody, she will “sit down with them where I see them in the best light. I can’t watch a movie without constantly analysing the light situation.”
GalleryTereza Mundilová: Ace Tee for Crack magazine (Copyright © Tereza Mundilová, 2020)
While she is definitely slightly obsessed with the techy side of lighting, she’s also interested in the way that lighting can evoke certain emotions. “My first step is always the light study,” she says. “It’s really crazy how this can affect everything, the way you feel.” The lighting provides a powerful, almost nostalgic atmosphere in, for instance, her portraits of Ace Tee for Crack magazine or her shoot for Vogue Czechoslovakia’s Hope issue. It’s perhaps also where that “Eastern European vibe” comes from.
From a more conceptual point of view, Tereza sees her work also as a form of activism. “I am interested in the way male and female bodies have been portrayed for a long time,” she says. “I like switching the typical style devices, such as soft and vulnerable and powerful and heroic perspectives, and portray it on other bodies, since images are such a fundamental cultural component of how people are perceived.”
Back in her student days four years ago, Tereza decided to set up her own magazine. Called XZY Magazine, the first (and to date only issue) focused on the question of what photography means today, “how it depicts reality or the opposite, the denied obligation of truth,” as she puts it. Four years later, it seems almost prescient. “It’s crazy how fake news seems to be not shocking or surprising anymore,” she says. “This must be the ultimate essence of it, the ‘getting used to it.’”
When you consider all of this together, you build a picture of a photographer with really broad interests and an energy that finds a range of different creative outlets. As Tereza mentions at the end of our interview, “I’m currently working on two books. There are some editorials coming out that I can't talk much about yet, as well as a music video.” Clearly she’s not going to be slowing down any time soon.
Tereza Mundilová: Ace Tee for Crack magazine (Copyright © Tereza Mundilová, 2020)