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Interview for the Argus-2023 photo contest

4 December 2023

- The work "Two times" is part of your big project "The XXI century of the steam locomotive" on which you worked from 2016 to 2021. Tell me, where did such an interest, love for steam locomotives and the desire to make a whole project about their work and the people who live by it come from?

- This is more unexpected than natural. There are no techies in my family. The only one who influenced me very much in terms of my love of technology was grandfather Yura, who worked as a designer and in a sense I followed in his footsteps, although in the middle of school I aimed at medical school in general – there were even some inclinations for that. For example, when I was in the country in the summer, I found a butterfly that could not fly normally, because its wing was torn. I determined how I would act, and with the help of a hair I sewed up the torn wing – the butterfly was able to fly away from me on its own. For the rest of my life, I was very keenly interested in everything that surrounded me, and it just found itself in photography. Specifically, steam locomotives arose by chance – I just happened to be near the filming of "Anna Karenina" and asked to see the locomotive. It quickly became clear that this was an interesting topic for me personally: besides the fact that it is very colorful here, the very romance of fire and steam seemed to determine further actions. And now, after some time after the start, I perceive it as a great gift of fate: many of those whom I filmed became my good friends. Initially, I did not assume that I would have a project at all, I just came to "ask". But after photographing one team at work, another lured me away, and then by inertia. I think it is important to note the fact that I tried to get involved in the process as much as possible, because I always believed that "until you become part of the space, you will not be able to speak its language." Therefore, among other things, there were quite interesting moments when I helped repair the locomotive in the depot or in the spirit of a trip as a stoker, when in an hour and a half of running I managed to shovel almost two tons of coal. And this despite the fact that I was filming in the process.

- What is the geography of the project (in which cities were they filmed) and what was the basis for choosing a particular location for shooting? Were these business trips planned (maybe you had a route map – conditionally the places you need to visit as part of working on the project) or are these spontaneous, random trips?

- Geographically, the project did not go further than the Leningrad region, because all the movement and operation of steam locomotives was tied to the port for some time, so I did not go very far "from home". It is very difficult to be guided by anything, because the trip itself is often unpredictable. There is no plan at all here – I just came and went according to the circumstances. The main thing is to keep your head as clear of thoughts as possible, and everything happens, one way or another, by itself.

- You are a photographer with an engineering degree, the main focus is documentary and street photography. Has it always been like this? Did you immediately decide on your work directions, was there any influence on this choice by someone?

- Partly. Initially, my interest in photography began with the roofs of St. Petersburg. Then I "came down to earth." The fact is that at the same time I was very much interested in psychology, and at some point I was able to somehow formulate the concept of a "psychological portrait" internally. Another question is that these photos can hardly be labeled like that. But that's how the first album was born, which was simply called the number "0.". And although now, 10 years later, it has become clear that it can hardly be considered an album with portraits, nevertheless it has some kind of originality that still looks attractive. As for the street and documentaries, of course, the hand of my teacher, the Soviet photographer Vladimir Anatolyevich Sokolaev, is felt here, a meeting with whom greatly predetermined my further development as a photographer.

- You have a very precise, one might say an engineering urban eye and a developed sense of the upcoming moment. Is it correct to assume that you assemble each work like a puzzle, which seems to be skillfully assembled only by your hands at this second of time? Is there a specific action scenario for your personal space reading?

- There is no scenario. As well as there is no goal: as a samurai has no goal, but only a path, so probably street photography. If you go to the forest to pick berries, then you can at least imagine what kind of berries you will be picking. At least their color, size, and in the end how many you will bring at least approximately. With the street, you have no idea what will happen at all, you just live and react to something by pressing the camera button, which cuts out time intervals from the space of a long shutter speed. Maybe nothing will happen – I have many such exits when, after walking 20 km through snowfall throughout the day, I returned without anything worthwhile. Well, something that could be shown. There were moments when there were just no photos. I tried to analyze such situations and almost every time I came to the conclusion that "nothing happened" was solely my fault. And this is primarily a question of one's own thoughts. Unloading your head is a very difficult task, but like any business, it starts with order, so I would say that the first thing to do before going outside is to "sort yourself out." Multiplying your destructive or other thoughts by generalizing them in your work is not the best idea. Because, if you look from the point of view of even the same psychology – a phenomenon of our creativity, this is nothing more than an attempt to discover oneself in oneself. Visualize the reactions. After all, every time you lay out your photos for some time, you always note that there are such things that you react to most acutely – and in this, perhaps, there is also that very meeting with ourselves that allows us to get to know ourselves better.

- Speaking of space. . . In your photos, one way or another, we see a person (or his presence) in our space, the eye sinks into the depths of this space – is this a conscious approach to shooting? Do you set a specific goal for yourself in photography and how important is the accuracy of what you are shooting?

- I admit – I always thought that I could not take portraits, and probably it is good to read in the "0." album where a person really almost always has much less space around. Perhaps this confidence played on the unconscious mindset of finding a vicious circle between the subject and his space. Speaking of the accuracy of the shot, I like the cube example. Is it possible to see all the faces of a cube at the same time? No – you always look at it from some angle, but you know at the same time that there are other sides to it (but at the same time you really don't see them). Having collected several faces in the projection, everyone understands that there is a cube in the image, i.e. it becomes somehow obvious. Now imagine a polyhedron with a large number of faces. And imagine how to find a position so that you can see the maximum number of faces at the same time. This analogy describes the method of working with the image well. That is, something capacious is highlighted that most fully characterizes the image. If we accept that everything around us is a form of our perception (real or unreal), then the question of accuracy begins to slip away – in fact, the same things can be completely different for different people. And in this regard, I still take some liberties. Anyway, working with the image, in general, it is very interesting, except for the fact that in the vast majority of cases there is simply no time to think. On the set, I rarely even have time to say what's going on inside. Everything happens very quickly. But one way or another, general theories still affect. It can be said that "they affect the quality of my photographic life."

- In 2021, you won the Hasselblad Masters in the Street and Urban Photography category. This competition is practically an Oscar among photographers all over the world. Tell us how the application was prepared? What, in principle, guides you when submitting works for a particular competition – the choice of material?

- Until some time ago, I didn't take my photos very seriously, and for quite a long time. I just liked taking pictures, even rather looking at photos at home in the evening after filming. The situation changed after the "Two Times", when photography became so widespread that trying to participate was only a matter of internal adventurism. In the same year, I took a competition in England with the second place, then from time to time I sent it somewhere else and won somewhere or became a participant in exhibitions. I was always very much outweighed by the question of the shooting itself, and not that I would then send it somewhere and show it. Therefore, the sudden victory at the Hasselblad Masters was really sudden, but it is important to note that "Two times" there was one of three photos (and they vote for them separately), which probably relieves me of the burden of being a "photographer of one photo", which I also often thought about. One way or another, inner adventurism is still built on the natural desire of any artist to "be heard." And the selection of photos, by and large, usually comes from the most successful ones at that time. "Two Times" has become a famous photo both by itself and through contests. But one way or another, she pulls the rest of the series about steam locomotives, although not everywhere it is announced that she is "one of". But that's another question. For now, we need to shoot further.

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