“Working with analog cameras teaches you to be patient and that there’s no point in hurrying up when you’re shooting. The more time you take to think, the less superficial and predictable are the results.”
Andrej Russkovskij is a self-taught photographer from Italy. He enjoys analog photography, shooting film. For Andrej Russkovskij photography is a means to entertain, surprise and amaze people.
Interview with Andrej Russkovskij
Andrej, what do you want to transmit with your pictures? And in other words: What is it at all that a photograph can say? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
The aim of my pictures is to create something which can be universally defined as beautiful. I’m fond with aesthetic and I’m doing my best trying to reach perfection, which of course is impossible! I really do believe that once something manages to be stunning, no matter what the preferences on styles and topics are, everybody is somehow forced to agree upon it.
What reaction do you intend to provoke in people looking at your photos?
I would like to entertain them, surprise them and amaze them. Make them stop and stare for a while and not simply glimpsing.
You are a traditionalist, an analog photographer, enjoying film. Why?
When I started shooting with my Diana mini F+, about three years ago, I was fascinated by the idea of coming back to basics and I was curious about getting to know all the potentialities of this amazing toy camera (double exposures, cross processing, different formats and so on). The more I used it and the more I fell in love with it and slowly I started to learn something more about photography. There are so many things I love about analogue photography.
“Analog photography is more exciting, challenging and smarter: you really don’t want to waste chances and you are forced to connect your brain.”
The possibility to choose different films (slides or negatives), the wait for the films to be over and developed, the surprise in finding out that the whole roll turned out fine when you thought it sucked, the time you take before shooting to choose the best settings depending on the different conditions (knowing that you will discovered whether they worked or not only when the film will be developed), the awareness that the outcome of the pics is totally related to your skills. Analog photography is, in my opinion, more exciting, challenging and smarter: you really don’t want to waste chances and you are forced to connect your brain.
Why do you consider it important to still working the old-fashioned analogue way? And what can you learn from analogue photography that helps you to become a better digital photographer?
As far as I am concerned, I consider working the old-fashioned way important for all the above mentioned reasons. I don’t care what other people prefer, I am far from being a fanatic. I simply chose what suited me better.
Working with analogue cameras teaches you to be patient and that there’s no point in hurrying up when you’re shooting. The more time you take to think and the less superficial and predictable the results are. It’s pretty much clear that I don’t follow one of lomography main rule “don’t think, just shoot”. I reckon it totally pointless.
You focus mostly on portraits and images of abandoned places? Why?
Simply because they are the two things I feel more comfortable with.
I mostly use my girlfriend and my friends as models. They are usually at ease with me giving them instructions about how to move and what to do in front of the camera. I can be very annoying, I guess.
“I’m fascinated by everything that is covered in rust, moss or mould, and I can’t help but creating in my mind images of how those places must have been before.”
As far as abandoned places are concerned, ever since I was a child and I bumped into an abandoned sanatorium in the woods close to my place, I felt a very strong connection with these kind of places. I love the spooky, quiet, charming atmosphere you can inhale while you’re exploring them and the feeling of being in a forbidden dangerous place when you’re not supposed to. I’m fascinated by everything that is covered in rust, moss or mould, and I can’t help but creating in my mind images of how those places must have been before.
Taking portraits of my friends in abandoned places is a massive mixture to me. In these places they are somehow so overwhelmed about what’s surrounding them, that they lose their inhibitions and their real essence can show up easily.
Portraiture is a genre traditionally used to explore issues of identity. What do your photographs tell about the persons being portrayed?
My aim is to catch those particular expressions and gestures that make them look at their most beautiful. Ideally I would love them to react to their shots thinking “Oh wow, I didn’t even know people can see this when they’re looking at me!”. I somehow try to boost their confidence.
On the other hand some say that a portrait says just as much about the photographer than the person being portrayed. What do your portraits tell about yourself?
Probably that I’m not that shallow to be happy with eye candy portraits, especially when digging a bit deeper you get way better results. The taste for urban aesthetics, bright colors, and unconventional locations. Possibly the fact that I can’t help but be obsessed with control.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learnt about yourself?
I’m staring at the world as if I’m constantly behind the camera lenses! Is like I’m relentlessly trying to find inspiration everywhere I go. That’s probably why I feel the urge not to stay in the same place for an extremely long period or I feel trapped when I end up somewhere where I can rely only on my job. I think photography helped me figuring out my rootless nature, how mandatory is the need to experience exciting new things and see new places and eventually that I will never be the typical vet.
Every photographer is going through different stages in his formation. Which “landmarks” do you recall that have marked you and brought you to the place where you are today as a photographer?
“The urban scenario I found helped me understanding what kind of subjects I felt more comfortable with and defining my personal style.”
Moving to Berlin and experiencing its lifestyle, leaving it after eight months and feeling like there was still a lot to experience and discover. I left a piece of my heart there. The urban scenario I found helped me understanding what kind of subjects I felt more comfortable with and defining my personal style. When I came back home I went on a nice trip with my friends in the mountains. I tried to take a photo of a lake and I immediately felt incredibly awkward. I think that was the precise moment when I realized how Berlin changed me.
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
Q: Is there any particular feedback you’re not happy to receive?
A: I am open to every kind of criticism and I really care about other people’s opinions because I’m convinced that advice and feedback are the best way to improve fast. I can’t stand skepticism, especially without any apparent reason, and snobbishness. Many people think my shots are digital and “photoshoped” because of the bright colours, sharp images and double exposures. Even if I’m explaining them the effects some slide films can produce when cross processed or the possibility to expose twice the same film, most of them prove to be quite stubborn and incredulous.