Yellow cabs flying in the sky above New York, the Statue of Liberty holding an ice cream cone or a man hanging from a skyscraper, about to be blown away by the wind: these are just some of the “illustrated photos” of New York created by Eliška Podzimková, a young artist from the Czech Republic. To date, her Instagram account, AnimateNY, where she publishes her pictures, has attracted some 25,000 followers.
A graduate of the film school in Písek in south Bohemia, Eliška Podzimková, who is now 21, first came to New York in 2012 to attend a summer workshop at the New York Film Academy. She fell in love with the Big Apple and, upon her return to the Czech Republic, she started editing pictures of the city in Photoshop, literally bringing them alive by adding playful illustrations.
I spoke to Eliška Podzimková on the phone to New York and started by asking her what was her impression of the city when she arrived there for the first time:
“I have fallen in love with the city because I basically didn’t have much time to do the usual tourist stuff. So I basically just jumped into the New York life and it was probably the best experience of the city itself.”
“I like the different cultures here. I love to observe people in the subway. I like to experience the different cuisines and food. It was like a movie, I guess. Now it’s a bit different, because I live and work here. So I don’t have enough time to enjoy the city.”
How did you get the idea to illustrate the photos of NY? Was it during your stay?
“There are so many people there, who take pictures of the city, and many of them are talented photographers. So I asked them if I could illustrate their photos and they were usually really excited about it.”
“For me, it’s like adding something from myself to the place where the picture was taken, my own touch.”
Do you also get approached by people who would like to have their pictures illustrated?
Where do you get the inspiration for your pictures?
“I usually get it from the place itself because I have been to most of the places where the pictures are from. And also, most of the time it’s a trending topic, something that’s happening at the time.
“For example a couple of weeks ago I drew King Kong hugging the Empire State Building in a snow storm because there was an actual snow storm.”
What picture is your personal favourite?
“My most favourite is the one picturing a guy with an ear on a thread. It’s called Listen to your City. It’s black and white and it’s really minimalistic. It’s really one of my favourite s– I have it everywhere: on my iPhone case, on my wallet, on my business cards. It’s like my trademark.”
Why did you decide to publish the pictures on an Instagram account?
“It actually wasn’t my idea. One of the first pictures that I tried was from my home town, and I just randomly tried to draw on it and post it on my Instagram account. A guy who saw it on the Instagram asked me to edit one of his photos and he basically started the whole thing.
It spread enormously and nowadays you have a huge number of followers. Were you surprised by the reaction? Why do you think it has become so popular?
“Of course I am surprised. It basically changed my life. Because I got a job thanks to Instagram and I am getting involved in so many cool projects now so it is really surprising to me.
“But why is that? I don’t know if I am the right person to answer this question but I think it’s because this technique is unusual and rare, in a way. It is sort of new and fresh to put the real world with the illustration and animation together.”
“Yes, basically this interview started the whole thing and that’s also the article my current boss saw and decided to offer me a job.”
What kind of work is it? What do you do there?
“I am not working there yet because of the visa situation so I am in the middle of the visa process, but I will be working at the New York Film Academy, where I went for the summer workshop.
“I will do social media content and other animations and illustrations, working in the marketing department.”
“I do feel more at home. Unfortunately I don’t have much time to work on new pictures, but I am trying to come up with new projects and try something new.
“It was definitely a way for me to get into the city because I feel like I will always feel like a stranger in the city even if there are so many different people living in the city.”
Do you still enjoy it as much as in the beginning or are you starting to feel the urge to move on and try something new?
Have you tried to apply the same method to pictures of Prague or other cities?
“That's an interesting question and yes, because I finally realised that I miss Prague now that I am not there. So I am trying to use pictures from my friends from Prague a try different cities as well.”
Do you feel you have to know the city in order to be able to illustrate it?
“Exactly. And probably not only as a tourist, because it's not enough for me to experience it just on the surface.”
“My goal is trying to put the images from the computer file to an actual thing. So I am producing T-shirts with the designs or other products or actual canvasses and prints.
“One of the really exciting projects is Můj nový život, which is based in Motol hospital in Prague and it focuses on kids who suffer from cancer. I’ll be working on it with Lucie Cingrošová, a doctor who has launched the project.
“I will use the strong images of the kids, but I will try to make them more happy, try to explain that the kids are sick, but they are still alive and trying to get better.
You have been doing animation since very early age. What do you find so fascinating about it?
“I guess the fact that I am able to imagine, to create a fantasy and put it in the real world and share it with people.
“It's like a magic process when I am thinking of something crazy in my head and then put the vision into an actual animation or a short film.”
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