Naked Vice: Piotr Sokul

This elusive documentarian captures Vienna’s vices and makes a run for it.

Text Tin Dabbay

Photographer Piotr Sokul studied the law and has managed to tiptoe across the borders between criminal and criminally attractive. Nothing is ever legit illegal in his work. It just feels dangerous to a point that you’ll feel a sense of radicalism just by looking at it. He’s seen it all—buttholes, pubes, bongs, blood, shorelines and bralines. Everything is permitted and the menace is contagious. If the police are on the watch, so are we. Searches online were scarce, but that didn’t stop us from pinning him down for a quick interrogation.

Our research tells us you’re from Vienna and a well-educated deviant-documentarian. That aside, you’re still quite an enigma. Reveal some details. Tell us about yourself.
I would like to stay an enigma. What can I tell you? I have a normal fulltime job. Photography is just my hobby. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time for it.

How did you end up doing photography?
I’m a big movie fan. I always wanted to make movies, but it’s very hard to get money for the kind of stuff I would like to film. Because I couldn’t realize that, I just somehow started to take pictures a couple of years ago.

I love the danger lurking in your photographs. Are you one of those people who need danger to function? What motivates you as a photographer?
I guess sometimes I need danger, but I’m trying not to do as much stupid stuff as I used to. When it comes to photography, I just try to take pictures that are, in my opinion, perfect and somehow stunning or special, which is impossible, but I keep on trying. I want to collect pictures for a couple of years more and then maybe bring them out somehow. I don’t know. That’s my motivation: just to have a collection of about 100 really cool photos someday.

“I’m really not into politics.
Fuck censorship.”

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Educated in law, to what extent do you believe in political correctness? What can you say about all these acts of censorship on the Internet?
I’m really not into politics. Fuck censorship.

Your snaps of life show people in their most unguarded moments. What’s the most difficult shoot you’ve done?
Actually, I don’t make real “shoots.” Most of my photos are just snapshots, some are done with premeditation but it’s rather like, “Hey man, let’s do this again, that looked cool.“ Besides that, I photographed some people for magazine interviews, that’s all. But as I said, most of the time, I just flash people in their face without asking and run.

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We heard that you lose 30 to 40 cameras a year. Aren’t you attached to your “weapons”?
That was some time ago. I haven’t lost a camera for over a year which is good because I started to use more expensive ones. I have a Ricoh GR1v for four years now that I’m really attached to.

If cameras are your weapons, what is your poison?
The price of film rolls. And parties.

Tell us about your current projects.
I really never make big plans considering photography. I guess I will try to travel more in the future and photograph more outside of Vienna.

Your work speaks for itself, but have you ever thought of promoting it more? Or is it a personal choice to be a bit off the grid?
First of all, I’m just not the kind of a person who is like, “Look, here is my stuff, it’s so fucking great, buy it.” I really would be a very bad salesman. And I’m, as already said, waiting until I have a big collection of good stuff then I will try to publish all the stuff I have on my PC. A very big problem is the approval of the people on the photos, but that is a different story. I guess it’s also because I do this only for myself in the first place. Ah, lack of time could also be a point here.

With all the world’s current wars, how do you envision the future? As a documentarian—how would you want to grow your role?
Yeah, I mean, all this shit is really crazy and sad, but I really think that things are always getting better compared to the past. Unfortunately, this process is not going as fast enough as I would like to. Too many people still behave like they’re in the 19th century. Anyhow, the future will be very cool. I really have big respect for journalists and photographers who document wars. Always have been a fan of such photos even if this may sound weird. I love Apocalypse Now and Salvador. I love explosions—those types of images. But personally, I do not want to get near a war. My mission? To leave some kind of a positive impact, that would be nice.

Any plans of visiting Manila soon?
I was actually thinking about this with a friend who now lives in Seoul some months ago. So, maybe. I already heard some crazy stories about Manila.

If you were to choose a place to create a photo book on, what would it be?
It would be the Sahara. I just love deserts. The stupid thing is, I would probably die in the heat.

“I just flash people in their face without asking and run.”

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