Budapest-based fashion photographer Illya Ovchar began his career capturing the street style he found while walking around cities, drawn to the self-expression many young people illustrate through their clothes. As his career progressed, his work took on a more polished and editorial approach, yet he maintained an appreciation for working in an urban environment.
To this day, Illya remains inspired by the authentic expression of youth culture. In a recent shoot, he collaborated with model Réka Ablonczay to create a series for Hungarian Glamour that spoke to this urban style in imagery, location, and logistics.
I worked with the model to figure out some kind of story, we wanted to have an idea of why we were doing this shoot beyond the images just looking interesting.
Illya and Réka crafted their concept around Tokyo’s famed Shinjuku district, which is colored with neon signs across the skyline. They knew that the lights incorporated into the imagery would play an essential role in mirroring Japanese nightlife, and sought a location in downtown Budapest that could provide a similar tone.
The location is popular among tourists and features a lot of bars. It’s one of the brightest streets in the city and was the best spot for our shoot.
The district of Gozsdu Court features a pedestrian walkway where light from bars, restaurants, and nightclubs spills out onto the cobblestone path. While this meant that Illya and his crew had to dodge tourists and their questions, it provided cover from harsh streetlights and created a dark background that contrasted with the array of light trails.
Illya had to edit out some of the onlookers, but he felt their presence created a paparazzi-like feel. He used this atmosphere to play into the candid style of capturing a lively young woman out on the town.
Navigating a Friday evening in a touristy area meant I had to work with minimal equipment, frequent interruptions, and overall a lot of friction.
Due to the choice of location, the crew had to limit the amount of equipment they brought and how much space they could claim for the shoot. The stylist and model found themselves doing hair and make-up under the staircase of a cafe, which to Illya made the production “all the more indie.”
The clothing chosen for the model was inspired by Asian youth culture. However, Illya and the stylist didn’t want to simply replicate the fashion trends they’d seen abroad. They sought to style Réka with a blend of patterns that showcased traditional Asian symbols — like the Chinese dragon — with bright colors, textures, and styles from nightlife culture.
We mixed in different styles of clothing, and all of them had ornaments and textures that varied from one piece to the next. Vibrancy and color were our guiding principles throughout the shoot.
Adding to the raw and urban nature of the shoot, an unexpected rainstorm forced Illya and the crew inside the adjoining nightclubs and bars. The lighting at the location provided the images with a blue hue that the stylist utilized to their advantage when contrasting with Réka’s wardrobe. For Illya, the crew’s shared vision added to the adaptability of the shoot, as they bounced ideas off each other when trying to work around the uncontrollable variables.
I love working with crews who live and breathe the vision. For me, the ideal shoot is full of positive energy.
In fashion photography, the looks that are featured in editorial magazines influence the style of their readers. Illya felt that the series offered a new aesthetic to Glamour, and in creating a series that speaks to a younger audience he returned to his urban photographer roots.
I would be happy to do another shoot of this nature again. It differed from what I usually do, but it added something new to my portfolio that another individual may not have.
Photographer: Illya Ovchar
Styling: Hadisha Sovetova
Hair: Karina Jemelyjanova
Make-up: Gabi Knoll
Talent: Réka Ablonczay
Agency: Face Model Management Hungary
Assistant: Seloua Benkaid Kasbah
Retouching: Retouch Concept