Interview by Fran Domínguez
Dear Klaudia, welcome back to PSM. It has been a while since you shot that stunning series with Charles Couvin for us. How have you been?
It was a pleasure shooting this series for you, I am happy you liked it! It was also very nice working with Charles, it didn't feel like working! I haven't posted much on my Instagram though, I am still looking for the appropriate medium to share my work without risk of being banned because of nudity. Unfortunately I am used to be the bad naughty girl on the corner.
Let's start from the beginning. French woman, 100% Albanian blood... What's the story behind that?
I was born in France, but my parents are Albanian from Tirana. They came to France in early 90's after the fall of communism, so they escaped the civil war. It is funny because I grew up in France but I was actually educated the Albanian way. My parents didn't speak a word of French when I was born so we learned French together almost at the same time when I went to school.
It was tough, immigrant life! It is only when I grew up that I had a French lifestyle. I left my family two years ago to live in Paris.
I remember once we were chatting briefly right before we first feature you on PSM and you told me you were (and I quote from memory) "kind of an exhibitionist". So, having that 'communist society' background you just told us about... Where did that come from?
I think I was just kidding, but it's a very good question. To be honest I don't really think I'm an exhibitionist in the sense that I'm not sexually stimulated by the fact of making nude pictures. But I'm not shy at all and I feel good naked. I think this is the reason why I do so many nudes.
Actually it is not common in the Albanian community. In fact I took this path without really having an example to follow. I come from the very first generation of women who have the choice, regarding our profession, marriage and our sexuality. It may sound medieval to you. Albania is a wonderful country but it needs to change in depth on many points concerning women. Teenage angst wasn't an option for me, so I think doing nudes was my way to express myself.
Would you consider yourself a rebel?
I was an undomesticated animal but I don't know if that makes me a rebel. The goal is not to be against everything. I just defend freedom of mind and the right to live the life that you want. People I met thanks to photography truly helped me also on a personal level. Everything was related. Many of them have become friends and I feel so grateful for that.
My mother is the person whose opinion interested me the most, she taught me so much about freedom. She is a feminist and she doesn't even know it! She could be strict on some points but I never felt any judgment about my nude pictures. It was my choice and she always believed in me.
That makes total sense to me. Now, and for those models who don't have the experience you do, I would like to ask you something. That very moment when you are posing nude in front of a camera and some might say you are so vulnerable but so powerful at the same time, how does it make you feel?
It depends on the project and the feeling with the photographer. In general, I don't feel vulnerable at all! It was maybe the case the first time I did it but now I really consider nude pictures like portraits. I really want to try and propose something different with each photographer, not just playing sexy. But it doesn't depend on me only, I want the photographer to bring me to his own world so we can make something unique together.
How would the perfect shooting be for Klaudia Brahja?
To me, the experience is always better if I have a first contact with the photographer before the shoot. Just meet him, talk about his project and our expectations and just let magic happen. Every meeting is unique. This way I made the most successful pictures, those that make sense for me and I am most proud of. Otherwise if I don't feel any connection with the photographer I will end up giving the same pose again and again.
How old were you when you started shooting?
I started photography by chance. I don't even remember how old I was exactly, but it was in high school. A friend of a classmate just wanted to do some portraits. To be honest it wasn't love at the first sight between photography and me. I never considered myself photogenic . I was the kind that avoids pictures with family and friends. So you can imagine I wasn't comfortable at all! It was after several shootings that I started appreciating it. At the beginning I made only portraits but I started with nude pictures at 18. It wasn't planned but the photographer was very nice and respectful, we preceded step by step, so it happened without even noticing it.
I never had a bad image of nudes even if I did not imagine at all i would make it one day. I remember one of the first nude pictures I saw on a magazine, shot by Mario Sorrenti. It was black and white, I think the model was Natasha Poly. I was really fascinated, I saw nothing vulgar on it.
One of my motivations was also doing something forbidden. I was bothered by what women were supposed to be in my culture. I grew up in a very conservative community, I couldn't hang out with friends after 5 p.m. so I let you imagine for a boyfriend. I was supposed to be a shy good girl at school so my family would be proud of me. It was simply oppressive so everything started for me with lies.
Now that you are 22 and already have some experience inside your backpack, still so young but so talented in front of a camera... What is next for you?
I would like to work on more personal projects, with only a few photographers. Those I have had the best feeling with. I want images in connection with my personal experiences. I would make less commercial. My biggest fear is to make pictures that are beautiful but meaningless. I really need to explore my dark side. I know this is just the beginning of a very long road for me and that is really exciting. I have already found some photographers who are willing to help me with this perspective.
I would love to learn photography also, I want to see another aspect. Maybe my experience as a model will help me. For now I just want to experiment and assist some friends during their shoot and we will see where it takes me. I am always very curious about discovering the work of photographers with a less commercial imagery. I was really recently amazed by the work of Desiree Dolron, all her series leave me speechless.
What would you say are the three intangible things you got from modeling and it would have been hard for you to get or learn anywhere else?
When I started modeling I was very reserved. I wasn't shy but it was very difficult for me to trust others, I was always under control. People I met thanks to photography taught me to let it go, to be more confident and more open minded. Looking back I realize I was missing a little tolerance, I was very tough with myself. Now though I feel much more communicative. Today I really feel like a different person.
Huge pleasure sharing some thoughts with you Klaudia.
Very happy to share these thoughts with you. I am also glad to see the great evolution of PSM from the beginning! I honestly wish you the best.
Find out more about Klaudia Brahja on her Instagram @klaudiabrahja