Interview with Sarajevo-Based Photographer Maja Topcagic

Maja Topcagic is an unconventional freelance photo retoucher and one of the most inspirational portrait photographers of the new generation. Currently based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, she works as a self-taught professional, holding a degree in a completely different field: Mathematics and Computer Science. For Maja, taking and editing photos is all about dedication, passion, and love. “I think you can feel it when you look into my photography”, she says. And she is right.

Her creative portraits have been featured in major photography magazines like Digital Photo UK, EOS Magazine, Photography Week, Digital Camera China and Popular Photography. Also, her beautiful photos have been showcased in many digital exhibitions and been published on book covers worldwide.

Portrait of photographer Maja Topcagic
Maja Topcagic: Sarajevo-based Portrait Photographer and Retoucher

Being different is beautiful. [Maja Topcagic]

G.M. Could you please tell us about your first encounter with photography? What made you start as a photographer?

My first DSLR was given and sent to me as a gift, by a person that I actually have not met! That was one of the most beautiful moments in my life; I finally could pursue my love for photography. Back then, I was taking photos with my mobile phone, Sony Ericsson k8ooi, and I would retouch them in Photoshop. Then my dream came true. From that day, I always say: ´If you dream about it long enough, it will come true.´

I am entirely self-taught photographer and retoucher. I never took classes, but I have learned some things online. The thing that led me to all I know is experimenting. Even if you make a mistake, you have learned something, and gained experience, which is precious.

Portraits with a Soul: The Story Behind Maja Topcagic’s Photography

Maja Topcagic Portrait Photography

G.M. Your ‘Freckled’ portraits are hauntingly beautiful. Who is the redhead ‘inspiration’ behind the project and what made you choose this theme?

The model on most of my photos is beautiful Asima Sefic, a redhead with freckles and blue eyes, who become my greatest inspiration. The facts say that only 2% of the population on Earth has that combination. These images are part of a personal project that I started almost two years ago. My redhead database is still growing month by month.

Freckles used to be considered undesirable and unsightly, but today they have reached full splendor in the world of photography.

I want to show the world that if something is different, it doesn’t mean it is ugly or wrong. The real beauty is in being different, and redheads with freckles really are. I´ve got a lot of emails saying thank you for showing the beauty in redheads with freckles, because they were a subject of laughter in their childhood and after. I´m glad I made some people smile watching my photos! It makes me smile too :).

Freckles Maja Topcagic Photography
Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. What camera gear do you currently use? Do you take with you any additional equipment on a shooting day?

Now I use Canon 5D Mark III digital camera, Canon 85mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.4 Canon lenses. I mostly use natural light in combination with a portable silver aluminium reflector. It´s a very cheap thing that you can carry around in your rucksack, but it gives awesome results with natural light!

G.M. How important is post-processing in your work? Is there an editing software you prefer using?

I edit photographs in excellent Adobe Photoshop CS6. I do a lot of retouching, and I’m used to spending 10 hours or more in front of my computer editing photos. Programs for processing photos release a person’s creativity and allow you to be different from others. I love to compose several photos into one, or play with multiple layers.

Freckles Maja Topcagic Photography
Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration just by passing down the street. I imagine moments frozen and captured by camera. Also, I write down my dreams. Sometimes an idea bumps me in the head, but mostly I find inspiration looking the world through my eyes. Most often it is interesting, weird, and extraordinary. Movies, books, music, videos, ordinary people and conversations inspire my work too.

G.M. How would you define your photography in a few words?

M.T. Creative portraits with soul.

Follow your heart. Do what you love and love what you do. Because. When you do what you love, you don´t have to work a single day in your life!

G.M. If you could start again as a photographer is there anything you would do differently? Are there any sectors you’d like to explore more?

M.T. I would like to travel some more. I would like to have the opportunity to be a professional photographer and retoucher. Even though it ?s pretty hard to achieve that in my country, I will put my effort in it, and really try to change it!

beautiful freckled model
Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. If it weren’t for photography, what else would you do?

M.T. Photography changed my life completely. If I didn´t fall in love with photography, I´d be a teacher of math and computer sciences. But I always knew I would somehow be involved in the process of creating art.

G.M. Any words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts at the beginning of their journey?

M.T. The most important thing is that you don’t need to have the best camera and a lot of lenses, it’s the e m o t i o n s that count. If you make an artwork, which will touch other people’s hearts, then you have succeeded. Follow your heart. Do what you love and love what you do. Because. When you do what you love, you don´t have to work a single day in your life!

Beautiful Redhead - photo by Maja Topcagic
Freckles © Maja Topcagic

G.M. Can you tell us a bit about your curent and future projects?

A few projects are coming very soon. But I must keep them a whisper. I can only say that one involves publishing a ´Freckled´ book, and the other bigger project is finished, and it involves Canon Europe. I can´t say much more! 🙂 Also, I traveled to New York City in August, so if anyone wants to collaborate with me, feel free to email me.

Thanks to Maja for the opportunity to discover more about Freckles, her spectacular photo project that travelled the world. Discover more of her beautiful portraits on Maja Topcagic Photography website, Facebook, Instagram, 500 px.

Disclaimer: This interview has been proofread and lightly edited for style purposes. All photographs featured here belong to Maja Topcagic and are protected by intellectual rights.

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