1. Hello Jovana, nice to have you here and thank you for agreeing to the interview. Many people however don’t know you by your real name, but by your modelling name Obsidian Kerttu. How did you come up with that name and does it have some special meaning?
Hello! Well sure, it is my pleasure! Back in the days when we all were using My Space, there were all kinds of name generators – I simply typed my name Jovana into one of them and I got Kerttu with the description ‘black-haired’. Later on, I have discovered Kerttu is the Finnish translation of the name Gertrude. Obsidian, however, is one of my favourite rocks. It can be used as a blade or as a gemstone, it’s both beautiful and dangerous. I simply liked how those two words sounded together, so I got related to that name.
2. When did you start with your modelling passion and was there any special story behind that decision?
I can’t say exactly when that happened, because I am taking photos of myself for years now. It was kind of ‘makeup of the day’ and ‘look of the day’, simply showing off my style and creating my image. People started noticing how photogenic I am, so my first real experience was during my studies. I had Photography as one of my classes, so we did a lot of self-portraits and other assignments and practising. I never really felt good behind the camera, but pretty comfortable in front of it, so I was one of the most photographed students in the class. I started working with my friends and photographers, and soon I was invited to shoot for Villena Viscaria clothing, an alternative fashion brand from Serbia. It felt good and I knew what I was doing, and what I am supposed to do. After I was accepted by few really good alternative modelling agencies, I could say I grew fond of it and started my official career three years ago.
3. You are a person of a great visual aesthetic that can be seen on your pictures; you always seem to put something extra in your work besides pure posing. How do you work on your ideas for shootings?
I don’t really think of it beforehand. I discuss general ideas about the shooting with the photographer, but I let the clothing, ambient or location to inspire me with the theme, accessories and makeup. I just become certain character in my mind, and I am trying to bring the atmosphere of it. It is different when I need to shoot for example conceptual from commercial or blog type photography, I need to show various emotions or no emotions at all, different poses and facial expression – so either I go for bringing the overall atmosphere or showing off clothing and accessories in the best way possible. The process is going simply by building things one on top of the other until I have the perfect result.
4. I know you collaborate with a lot of designers and brands. Can you reveal some names for us?
Collaborations I am most proud of are with The Gothic Shop, Sinister, Killstar, The Rogue + The Wolf, Hysteria Machine, Iron Fist, Disturbia clothing, Punk Rave… For many of them I am also the official face and ambassador. I am really sorry I can’t name them all because I really enjoy working with all of them!
5. How does one collaboration usually looks like? Can you explain the process itself?
When you start out with modelling you actually promote the brand/designer/shop on social medias, or to simply say work in exchange for their stuff. Some of them send things they want to be promoted, sometimes the model is allowed to choose. It is not always perfect, because you can get size too big or too small, something that is not your style or preference, but you still need to make everything work as perfect as you can! When you get to some level, either with experience or credibility, gain some fame and become a professional model, you actually can’t accept these terms so you negotiate rates rather than clothes or accessories. After that you eventually switch to only paid shootings.
As for photographers, everything is how you agree with each other. Most of the time I am working TFP (time for print), so both my photographer and I can submit sets to magazines and build our portfolios.
6. By now you have collaborated with several photographers as well. How hard or how easy is it to find a photographer whose work you really like and get a collaboration with that particular one?
Yes, I was working with a lot of photographers and I had luck to start out with one of the amazing ones here is Serbia – his name is Marko Stamatović and we did some incredible sets I am still proud of. There were few others, I even tried doing high fashion until I started working with Martina Špoljarić – we just clicked together and made stunning gothic and fantasy sets that are pure art!
Here is very hard to find a good photographer, especially the ones who understand what kind of photography you need as an alternative model, unless they are a part of the scene themselves. On the other hand, when I work with someone new, I quickly get to know them and understand what they need. There are a lot of photographers I really appreciate, but unfortunately they are all too far away from me. Or at least for now.
7. What is the main source of your inspiration? Do you have some names who you can still look up to?
Generally my inspiration comes from nature, music, movies, books, graphic design, art in general. I always look up to other models, someone with great style, great personality, who can separate their work from their private life. I admire Lady Amaranth, she is a true goth icon! I love Ophelia Overdose and Shelly D’Inferno, those girls can rock any pose and anything they wear! My huge inspiration was also Razorcandi. She proved that unusual beauty can be accepted and praised along with classic beauty. Anyone who is professional, unique and true to themself is actually my inspiration and they don’t necessarily need to come from the gothic culture.
8. What are your favourite colleagues out there whose work you admire and why?
Oh wow, well there is a lot of people I admire! Like I said Ophelia Overdose, Shelly D’Inferno, Wednesday Mourning, Kina Shen, Castronaut… Because of the charisma, professionalism, positivity, and some great posing abilities. From local models, I appreciate Greta MaCabre’s work, her portfolio is excellent.
9. What are your future goals regarding your modelling passion?
Basically I already fulfilled all my goals – I was on the cover of Gothic Beauty Magazine which is a huge deal for me, I became the official model for Sinister and The Rogue + The Wolf, so this is also a huge honour for me, I am working with my favourite brands and designers and I am really well known model even though my career isn’t that long. Maybe more traveling and working with pro teams and for specific clients, so I will continue to deliver amazing photos until I come to a dead end and find it uninspiring. So far my modelling brought me amazing experiences and some gorgeous people, I hope for the future to be even better!
Selfportrit: Rosemary dress: Disturbia Clothing /// www.disturbia.co.uk #disturbiaclothing, Makeup: Supernatural and contour palette by Lunatick Cosmetic Labs LLC and Rapture lipstick by Feral Cosmetics
10. As I know you are a graphic designer as well, do you apply some of your skills to the photo work or the photo work is entirely the credit of your photographers?
When I am working with photographers, the photo work is entirely theirs. I trust them with their magic and respect their knowledge and experience. From time to time I do sets on my own, so I do use my skills occasionally.
Selfportrait: Coven dress and bag: Disturbia Clothing /// www.disturbia.co.uk #disturbiaclothing, Necklace: www.madebycrazymary.etsy.c
11. We can see you in different styles, varying from classical goth look to more casual one, but what does your personal style look like? What do you feel the most comfortable in?
It is just minimal casual black clothing with simple makeup. I used to wear lace over lace over lace and lots of makeup, but those days are over.
12. What do you think is the best way of succeeding and being recognized as an alternative model?
That is actually hard to say. I believe charisma is number one. We have all these gothic dolls over the internet, but without any charisma or modelling abilities. Then you need something unique about you, expressing your true self, hardworking, originality, organisation, dedication and in the end looks and good aesthetics.
13. It is a hard work that requires a lot of time and effort. Do you feel it pays off and have you ever felt discouraged or tired of it?
Modelling is hard and it is nerve wracking most of the time, but it is paying off for me. I enjoy being recognized and hired for shootings, and most of all I enjoy my own photos. I am satisfied and proud when I look at my portfolio and what I have managed to achieve until now. I also have intentions to quit it after some time, I am not interested in being a public figure for too long.
14. There seems to be even some sort of “competition” between alternative models. What do you think about that?
As in normal fashion world, the alternative fashion world is full of competition and back-stabbing. But in normal fashion, no matter how cruel it can be, there are some rules. Alternative models come in all shapes and without any rules. That is the problem. There are no standards, there are no conscience about it. Anyone can be self-proclaimed model these days, asking for collaborations and free stuff, but there are too few people to recognize if they are of any worth and if they have the required skills to become models. When someone is famous and successful it is normal for others to be jealous, and try to ruin their career and contacts, to mess their private life, talk lies behind their back, turn other people against them. I think all that is ridiculous and that no one should pay attention to any of those. Keep your head high, do your work the best you can and stay away of toxic people and drama. Let’s be honest, people need to be more self-critical, more aware that not everything is for everyone.
15. To whom can a model turn to for an advice or advertising if needed? I know a lot of magazines, web sites and pages support alternative models, so do you find that helped you in your modelling career?
For beginners pages on social medias and magazine submissions are great way to be exposed and to get your name out there very easily. But it is a double-edge sword. Even though there are great pages to help you out, there are also pages that will do more harm than good. There are too many ‘gothic’ pages being run by people knowing nothing about gothic culture or alternative models, gaining thousands of followers by posting photos they have no permission to post and without any credits, playing ‘guess the model and photographer’ or even using your photo to promote other sites and services, and you get no promotion what so ever. It is unfair to all people and the whole creative team behind such photo. When you gain certain level, and you become more or less famous, you will have hard time protecting your work. They will think you are acting all diva, overreacting and even refuse to credit you. To be honest, I helped myself alone the most. First thing is to find the right audience and the best social media for your work, and then months of researching what kind of photos work the best for you to gain followers, when is the right time for posting and how to advertise yourself properly.
Problem with magazines is the same as with models – there are too many indie magazines publishing your work for which they get money. Not too much money, because people prefer online magazines over printed ones, but they get money for your work you gave them full rights. And you get almost no promotion again. So be sure to submit to bigger magazines and ask promotion of only trusted pages.
16. How much is it important to be present on social media? How much are you active in such places?
It is very important. If you’re not on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Youtube, you do not exist. I use only first two, and I am not that much active even though I am trying to post regularly. I have my job, and all my free time is full with shootings.
17. What do you like the best about alternative modelling and are there things you still need to struggle with?
The best thing is that you can be whatever possibly you want to be! You can experiment with looks, styles, makeup, you can be creative and free to express yourself. And you will be loved because of your effort to pass your style and knowledge on others, becoming someone’s role model. So far, I had no struggles.
Just be yourself, and have fun with it. It is hard working, involving lots of stress and dedication to improve yourself, after all, our job is our bodies and faces. Find good and professional people to work with you, and never give up on your dreams!