The sensitive and emotional side of photography – Pion Studio

It all started with a dream that a passion could become a job. By intuitively pursuing this goal, two exceptional photographers, Basia Kuligowska and Przemysław Nieciecki, created the PION studio.

They feel best in interior photography. The portfolio of their clients ranges from hotel chains, through global brands, boutique hotels, to producers and designers for whom they create lifestyle photography. As they like to emphasize, the variety of photoshoot they do, gives them the greatest joy and is exactly what is needed for the work to remain passion.

They travel often and a lot. But every time they get home, they feel happy and get re-energized. Read our interview with Basia and Przemysław and have a look at their beautiful apartment. We are very glad that our pieces: Streiko bed, Folk pouf and Lina shelf, have found the place in their interior!

We change our goals and aspirations several times over the course of our lives. But in your case, it seems it was always meant to be photography. Is it so?

Basia: I've been involved in photography for quite a long time, for about 13 years, but I'm not from an artistic family. Nobody passed on to me the love for art in my childhood. My grandfather was keen for me to become a news presenter. After graduating from high school, I didn't have a precise vision for myself. I only felt that I should do something creative. I was drawn to the visual arts. After a few years of various adventures with studies I didn’t really like, I finally chose the Academy of Fine Arts. Photography was my conscious choice as an adult.

Przemysław: Somewhere before starting my high school, I began looking for a field in which I could develop. I liked skateboarding back then. At school I didn't find anything that would really interest me. From that moment on, I knew that photography was the field I wanted to devote to, and I was lucky enough to find a great teacher at my community center, who suggested that I apply to the Academy of Fine Arts. Photography is now a very important element in my life.

You met in Poznań during your studies. Is this where you both come from?

Basia: We chose Poznań because of the specific university we wanted to study at – the University of Arts. I come from Włocławek, but I lived in Łódź for 7 years, so I feel a strong bond with this city. Then I moved to Poznań to study, and right after graduating, we went to Warsaw together. We have been living here for 6 years.

Przemysław: I am not from Poznań, but I lived there during my studies. For me, Poznań means crazy parties, trips to Berlin to see exhibitions or to take part in workshops at C/O Gallery.

Can you recall your first client?

Basia: It is difficult to say who was the first one, because before we met, each of us tried to work on our own account. For me, the real beginning, even before PION, was my cooperation with Zwykłe Życie magazine. At that time, I dreamed of making a living from photography. I really wanted my passion to become a job. It was a great start for me: I met many interesting people whom I visited at home and photographed. It was then that I felt I definitely wanted to develop in this field.  

Przemysław: It might not have been my first client, but the first serious job I did was sessions for USTA Magazine. Just like in Basia’s case, it was a great opportunity for me to meet interesting people. Cooperation with the editorial office taught me how to work quickly and effectively.

"I dreamed of making a living from photography. I really wanted my passion to become a job."

- Basia Kuligowska – photographer, Pion Studio

You have travelled extensively in Poland and in Europe. Is there one project that you could call your favourite one?

Basia: Yes, there is. I think it’s the same for both of us. Our favorite and very special project was cooperation with Amour hotels in Paris and Nice. These places were created by amazing people whom we’d admired for a long time. While in Paris, we timidly dropped in for a coffee at the Amour Hotel restaurant and were impressed by the climate, interiors and atmosphere. Then, at some point we got an email from them – THEY wanted us to do photo shots for them! I can’t remember how we reacted when we first read this, but we probably fell into each other's arms and jumped for joy.

Przemysław: I have nothing to add!

Does everything always go according to the plan? Do you remember any special… mishaps?

Basia: (laughing) The worst mishap was when we accidentally deleted photos from the memory card. It really did happen!

Przemysław: Oh yes, there is nothing like deleting photos from the memory card ... This is quite an example! It did happen, but luckily we fixed it very quickly. The most problematic aspect of my work are my own doubts. Probably many artists face the same problem. Of course, internal criticism can make you change for the better, but sometimes your own doubts can prevent you from doing things according to the plan.

You always seem very much in agreement throughout the sessions and your roles are clearly divided. Has this way of working come naturally to you, or have you developed it through years of practice?

Basia: Working in a duo, especially when you're artists, is very demanding. Initially, a lot of things we did was pretty intuitive. The plans were not too far-reaching, we didn't stick to any rules. However, over the years of working together, we noticed that some rigid arrangements worked for us. This is why we developed our internal rules: a clear division of duties, fixed working hours, weekly meetings, etc. Although it is difficult, time-consuming and requires compromises, we know that such a mini corporate world is necessary in our case and makes it much easier to work together.

Przemysław: The division of roles is a difficult process. On the one hand, we try to focus on the things that give us most satisfaction and for which we have natural predispositions, and on the other hand, reality often requires greater flexibility.

You do many different sessions: for big names such as Hermes, Nobu Hotels, IKEA, and for smaller, boutique hotels, brands and producers. Can you indicate a specific type of photo session that you enjoy most?

Basia: For me, the greatest joy is to work with regular clients, whose expectations we already know. We all feel at ease then, we know that they trust us, they know our working style and aesthetics. Such freedom and understanding make us work even harder: we come up with bolder ideas for photos, we do analog photography, etc. It can be a session for a hotel, a designer, a brand, a magazine – when it’s our second or third session together, it is always the most pleasant.

Przemysław: I get bored quickly and I don't like monotony, so these changes in the scale of the clients we work with or the type of sessions we perform allow me to enjoy my work continuously. And I love job related travel! Before the pandemic, once or twice a month we would do a session abroad. It was an interesting experience for me and I learned a lot from it. Besides, I just like airports, hotels and being on the go.

When one travels a lot, it may happen one feels less attached to their own home. Is this true in your case?

Basia: Yes and no. On the one hand, I do not feel attached to Poland at all. I do not collect many things, I have no children, I do not own an apartment, so I could pack quickly and set off. I could change the city, the country. Moving houses was never a problem for me, I adapt to new places easily. However, since we moved to our apartment in Oleandrów street and created our nest here, I began to feel attached to these walls. I really like coming back here.

Przemysław: Because of my frequent travels, I feel that my own place, where I feel safe and where I know I can always come back to, is absolutely necessary. For me, coming back home is the moment when a photoshoot finishes.

"Because of my frequent travels, I feel that my own place, where I feel safe, is absolutely necessary"

- Przemysław Nieciecki – photographer, Pion Studio

Your apartment is beautiful. How did you find such a gem?

Basia: We always liked Oleandrów street – it has a very unique atmosphere. About 5 years ago I was invited to a photo session by Bartek Wieczorek, organised in this very apartment. I was a model. Bartek and Marta Mach (editor-in-chief of Zwykłe Życie magazine) used to live here. I instantly fell in love with this place and did not hide my feelings! Marta remembered about me when they were moving out and she let me know that the apartment would be vacant. So we abandoned Żoliborz very quickly and moved to Oleandrów within a month.

Przemysław: This apartment had many residents. I think there are a lot of such gems in Warsaw! The street itself is a great place – the buildings are inhabited by interesting people, there are many cafes, there is the MOD restaurant and a city bazaar. I love to sit on the terrace in the summer and listen to the sounds of city life.

Imagine a typical Friday, 7pm, slightly gloomy autumn weather outside. How do you regenerate after a whole week of work?.

Przemysław: For me, the weekend is the time that I spend largely in the kitchen. I noticed that cooking allows me to de-stress because I focus on a specific action. It often happens that I start preparing food on Friday evening, when I gather all the ingredients. But I also allow myself to be completely lazy, which I miss a little in my every day work.

Basia: First of all, I let myself take a break from social media, mainly from Instagram, which is our everyday work tool and I spend a lot of time following it during the week. Over the weekend, I feel that I no longer need to be up to date with everything on the Internet, which is a bit overwhelming for me. On an autumnal Friday evening we focus on the pleasures of the body – we stay at home, drink wine, take a long bath, sometimes massage and slow down.

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