In terms of first commission stories, Macedonian photographer Viktor Naumovski has a really good one. Initially interested in photography aged 12 as a way to overcome his shyness, he began growing a Facebook page where he’d post all the images he’d taken. “I didn’t even know that photography could be considered a real profession or what art was – it just helped me open up and connect to people and made me feel like I could make anything happen in an image,” he tells It’s Nice That. Two years later a Macedonian fashion designer came across his work online and commissioned him to shoot his upcoming collection. “The entire communication went through my Facebook page so when a 14-year-old kid appeared, it was a bizarre sight to say the least,” says Viktor. “I still remember the look on the client’s face when I walked in the meeting with my father. I’m sure he thought its a joke at first.”
Despite the surprise, the shoot went incredibly well. Although the style was dramatically different to what Viktor creates now – strange, surreal and often nightmarish worlds inspired by Balkan history and visual culture – the job set him up for many good things to come. “Before I knew it, I was in my last year of high school and had already worked for the biggest advertising and fashion clients in Macedonia, which helped me gain serious technical, digital and communication skills.”
Now Viktor’s work spans photography but also video, 3D renders and spatial installations. “It’s sort of a universe where all these different segments piece together my vision,” he says of his interest in building sets for bizarre narratives to unfold. A lot of his current visual style stems from his time studying at the Royal Academy of Art in The Netherlands – not from Dutch visual culture but through noticing the dramatic difference between it and the vibrant and specific culture of Macedonia that he had previously taken for granted. “Consequently, that became the core of my artistic practice and my topics of interest,” says Viktor. “Through my work I turn to my heritage and memories – family dynamics, cultural and performed identity, intimate relationships and imagination serve as a key to self exploration.”
Viktor’s “hyperrealities” are often quite controversial and grotesque, built using the extreme contrast between a low-fi “simple snapshot aesthetic” and high-end post-production. Often they riff on his own background or the politics of the region. His short film Standing in the Sun is a coming of age story set in the Balkan conflicts of the late 90s, but with real and imaginary folded together. It’s an explorations of national pride, masculinity and his country’s passage from war to westernisation. Like may of his projects, the film features members of Viktor’s friends and family. ’If I started photography 10 years ago to help me meet new people and start a conversation, now it became a tool to help me strengthen my relationship with the people closest to me — to invite them into my ‘world’ and hopefully contribute to a bigger inclusivity and involvement of non-artists in the art discourse globally,” he says.
Viktor’s New Idols photo series for This is Badland and from Macedonia with love, a Gucci exclusive cover story for King Kong Magazine also has strong links to his family – with the latter even staring his grandma. New Idols was shot in five countries follows the journey his grandfather took through Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, where everyone in the story becomes him by means of wearing a 3D silicone replica of his head, made after his death. While in the King Kong shoot, Viktor plays with the cult-culture of Macedonia, mixing its with the “dreamy nostalgia” of Gucci. “I wanted to bring the viewer to a field where I used to play football with my friends, next to which there was a house where an odd-looking grandma was said to be curing fear and trauma through various traditional rituals,” says Viktor. "Of course, the absolute highlight of the process was seeing my 91-year-old grandma on the cover!”