Behind the Lens: Exploring Creativity and Craft with Photographer Ilija Ristich

From overcoming early challenges in Serbia to being inspired by New York’s vibrant scene, Ristic reveals the creative processes and unique style that define his work. Discover how his journey, marked by passion and innovation, continues to shape his striking photographic artistry.


ilija ristic photographer

Can you tell us about your journey into photography? What inspired you to pick up a camera and start capturing moments?

– My first contact with a camera happened totally spontaneously. I was bored at home, took Dad’s old camera, and started making a little scenography with chest figures, white paper, and flashlight. I’ve always been inspired by people, so even those chest figures, I imagined they were humans.
I was so happy with the results, so the second thing I remember was planning another photoshoot the next day.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you first started out as a photographer in Serbia?

– The biggest challenges I faced when starting out as a photographer in Serbia were meeting deadlines while maintaining high-quality work, handling client emotions and criticism while preserving positive relationships, and working within limited budgets. These factors required a delicate balance between professionalism and creativity, ensuring that each project was delivered on time and met the client’s expectations despite financial pressure.

How would you describe your photographic style? What themes or subjects do you find most compelling?

My photography style is diverse and adaptable, depending on different situations, models, styles, and the needs of my clients. As a creative artist, I embrace the freedom to explore various approaches based on my inspiration at any given moment. Recently, I’ve discovered that I’m in a “red color” phase, as all my latest photos prominently feature red elements. Red is a powerful color that conveys different meanings to different people; for me, it symbolizes power and always delivers a strong message in photography.

Since I specialize in fashion and beauty photography, the most important subjects are beautiful people and great style, combined with emotion. I believe this combination is the key to my photographic style.

You had a significant exhibition a few years ago. Can you share more about that experience? What was the theme, and how did it feel to showcase your work?

– Yes, that was my first exhibition experience, and it took place in my hometown. I was the youngest photographer at the event, and our gallery was celebrating its 35th anniversary, showcasing the work of all local photographers. My exhibit focused on the theme of contrast, using shadows and light, sharp and soft objects, and even some black and white photos, which are rare in my portfolio. It was a pleasant experience, and having this opportunity early in my career provided the perfect motivation to continue pursuing photography

You’ve had your photographs featured on the covers of several fashion magazines in New York. How did these opportunities come about, and what was the creative process like for these shoots?

Every photoshoot is different, and it depends on various circumstances. Some covers were initiated by designers, some by models, and some by me. It is such a privilege to be published in all those fashion magazines, and that feeling when I have my work on paper in my hands is inexplicable.

The creative process for these shoots varies but always involves collaboration, innovation, and a keen eye for detail. Working with top designers and models in New York has allowed me to push my creative boundaries and produce high-quality, impactful images that resonate with the fashion industry.

How has working in New York influenced your photography? Are there particular aspects of the city that inspire your work?

– First of all, the aesthetics in New York are entirely different from those in my home country. Physical appearance and style are the first things to notice when you are in NYC, and speaking of photography, I was shocked when I found out that here, a lot of photographers are using film cameras. So that definitely pushes me towards a more vintage vibe of photography, and I’m tenacious to master it.

You are the official photographer for the UniUkiyo Brand. Can you tell us more about this collaboration and what it means to you?

UniUkiyo Brand was the first brand that gave me an opportunity here, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Those unique bags are by themself a great storyteller, and we both have the same vision, so I believe we are a perfect match. I am so proud to be part of that brand.


ilija ristich photo

You’ve had exhibitions at Soho House. What can you tell us about these exhibitions and the audience’s reception of your work there?

– Yes, I was invited twice to Soho House as the official photographer for the UniUkiyo exhibition. These exhibitions were incredibly exciting and a significant milestone in my career. They brought together many interesting and influential people, and I had the privilege of meeting and engaging with them. The audience reception was strongly positive, with many attendees appreciating the unique themes and creative expression in my work. The experience of showcasing my photography at such a prestigious venue was both inspiring and humbling, increasing my passion for the art and inspiring me to continue pushing my creative boundaries.

Can you walk us through your creative process when planning and executing a photo shoot? How do you decide on the concept, location, and subjects?

– When planning and executing a photo shoot, my creative process is highly specific and tailored to each client. Before any photography begins, I prioritize connecting with the client to ensure the best results. This connection allows us to fully understand each other’s visions and goals for the shoot.

If time permits, and especially for more specific projects, we discuss the client’s vision and the desired outcome in detail. Establishing trust is crucial, and for the best results, we need to dedicate time to discuss every detail. I’m always open to suggestions and thrive when clients trust my expertise.

Collaboration is key in my process. I work closely with a stylist, makeup artist, and hair stylist to bring the project to life. Together, we form a cohesive team that ensures the highest quality of work.

Choosing the location follows naturally once we understand the subject and the concept. With a clear vision and a trusted team, I have the creative freedom to make magic happen.

What projects are you currently working on or plan to work on? Do you have any particular goals or aspirations as a photographer?

– Currently, I’m focusing on actor headshots, expanding my portfolio with fresh and contemporary looks. Additionally, I’m working on a significant project that will be exposed soon.

My ultimate goal is to create stunning and influential art projects that resonate deeply within the industry. I aim to secure high-profile covers, campaigns, and collaborations that push creative boundaries and set new standards in photography.


ilija ristich photo

What does your unique lifestyle ( UniUkiyo) mean to you, and how does it influence your life and work as a photographer?

– Photography can smoothly  combine personal life and work into a united lifestyle, which is one of the most significant benefits of choosing photography as a career path. For me, UniUkiyo, my unique lifestyle, means being truthful to yourself and others, living life by your own rules, creating your own micro-world, and surrounding yourself with supportive people. This lifestyle profoundly influences my life and work as a photographer, allowing me to stay authentic, inspired, and passionate about capturing moments that reflect my individuality and vision.