Explore the city of Berlin with us as we share stories, information, and highlight the women of Berlin.
May: Monika Kozub
After seeking a more affordable city to live in with a creative spirit Monika Kozub moved to Berlin one and a half years ago. A life long love of photography has led her to create a safe space for women to showcase their bodies in front of her camera. She is taking Berlin by storm with her empowering and sensual photography portfolio titled Berlin Boudoir.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
The funny thing is, I never thought I would become a photographer. Cameras were around me for as long as I can remember, as my grandfather used to take a lot of photos and my dad shared the same passion. I got my first analogue point-n-shoot Kodak when I was 8 years old and I got hooked on photography as well. As a teenager, I cried when my dad gave me a Minolta with zoom lens, which allowed me to take photos of architectural details as never before.
Photography was somehow always present, but it wasn’t my main focus – I just knew I want to be an artist. Many years later, when I was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in my hometown Krakow, I met an amazing teacher – Agata Pankiewicz. I would say that thanks to her I started treating photography as my main way of artistic expression. So it was rather “who” than “what” that inspired me to become a photographer.
It was no longer necessary for the photo to be amazing for everyone, when it was an important photo for a certain person.
What is the biggest roadblock you’ve faced professionally? How did you overcome it?
The hardest moment in my professional life was when I finished an internship in Amsterdam: left with no job perspective and no savings in one of the most beautiful but also most expensive cities in Europe. I wasn’t even considering looking for photography gigs, as I knew this profession is based on contacts – hard thing to have when you’re a fresh expat.
My boyfriend suggested looking into a new opportunity Airbnb offered to people – they were just starting globally with their “experiences” section: locals providing fun activities to tourists. I decided to apply as a photographer and after a few months, when they launched Airbnb Experiences in Amsterdam, I was one of the first 25 people to be on board.
It was something totally new for me – I came from the world of fine art photography, projects to which you dedicate months of work and you carefully think through every image you use. Here it was fast, fully commercial and generic: I was taking portraits of tourists along the same route every time. Someone even called me a “human selfie stick”. But suddenly I realized that there’s a shift in my understanding of the purpose of photography: from caring about the images, to caring about the people. It was no longer necessary for the photo to be amazing for everyone, when it was an important photo for a certain person. And that in the end led me to the Berlin Boudoir project – where images are just as important as the experience itself and it evokes emotions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Trust your guts! We tend to dismiss our intuition because of certain rules or expectations we have from ourselves and what other people would think about our life choices. Whereas from my own experience, it’s most important to remember what you believe in and surround yourself with people who support you in reaching these goals.
I love how much positive energy such women led businesses can create – empowered women empower women.
What is one thing you love about Berlin and what is something you would change?
What I love about Berlin – and I hope it will never change – is the common belief that you can do whatever you want with your life and no one should judge you for that. You can decide to focus on money making and getting a fancy apartment – go for it. You want to be an artist and a bartender and live in a co-living space for the rest of your life – why not?
I feel like in Berlin you can make mistakes, follow your dreams, pick up the craziest idea you ever thought of and try to make it real. The important factor in it is that it’s a very cosmopolitan city – with all it’s wonderful diversity and inspiration, but without the usual prices – it’s still pretty cheap to live here. I hope that the prices won’t go up too quickly – it would mean that experimenting will become much more risky and much less possible.
I would definitely change Berlin winter if I could – it’s long enough to make you question why the hell you ever decided to move here. Fortunately then spring happens and you fall in love with the city again.
Where is your favorite place to visit in Berlin?
I’m biased but it’s my neighborhood – area around Landwehrkanal and Görlitzer Park. In summer it’s a Guinness World Record for good vibes on a square meter! People having picnics on the grass along the canal, playing boule, making music. Berlin is a capital of simple pleasures to me – you don’t need money for that, just a little bit of invention and great people to spend time with.
What photography projects are you excited about in the next year?
I’m working on growing the community around Berlin Boudoir – recently got a new studio for summer, thanks to a wonderful help from a friend. Last week I had a first cooperation there – Berlin Boudoir with Anekdot lingerie and Fembelly belly dance. I love how much positive energy such women led businesses can create – empowered women empower women. I’m also planning a pop-up show in July with music and drinks, so please stay tuned! I’m very excited to see where it takes me.