Shotland literally is a “country of images” — it is an ideal world that is created from a documentary depiction of the most magical moments of life, when unpredictable randomness is added to the author’s plan. In order to get just a good professional photo, it’s enough to do everything very accurately “from the head”, but in order to catch the magic, this is not enough. George creates all the necessary conditions for work, then gives vent to “chance” — those unpredictable moments that cannot be foreseen — how the wind moved the branch, how suddenly the model turned, how suddenly a flare appeared. All filming is thoughtless, documentary, live. Due to this approach, a combination of the quality of studio, staged shooting and liveliness of reporting is achieved.
Almost all the work was shot with lenses of the famous German companies Carl Zeiss and Leica — these are heavy, glass + metal, lenses without autofocus and zoom. The author selects a collection of special lenses, each with its own character. Some are the latest models, some — produced in 1978, when they used to make optical glass differently and use different optical schemes. Due to this, excellent sharpness and contrast are created throughout the frame (for ordinary, even professional lenses, everything is fine in the center, and in the corners it is porridge, unsharp; a special, picturesque transparent corporate bokeh (blurring of what is out of focus); special drawing of chiaroscuro. Image processing is performed using Capture One from the Danish company Phase One, a manufacturer of high-end studio photographic equipment, each frame is selected from hundreds and sometimes thousands of options, for example, shooting a concert — it’s 1200-1500 frames (all manually), landscape or still life — one ideal option from a multitude of combinations of shooting parameters, lighting, shooting points.
— George, please tell us about yourself, where were you born and raised?
— In Moscow, I have lived all my life in one square kilometer. Mom is the chief architect of Aeroproject: he builds airports around the country and the world, and in Soviet times only Aeroproject did this, his father was a military engineer, he made rockets. When I was little, I realized: if dad is not at home, then the rocket will take off on TV. My dad is a colonel, his father is a military pilot, lieutenant general of the Air Force, my uncle is also a general of the military space forces, I have an architectural and space family. Dad, among other things, worked as the editor of the design department of the magazine "Aviation and Cosmonautics", a writer and cartoonist, at home there was a huge bundle of cartoons that were published in all the leading Soviet newspapers. That is, quite a creative family.
— In childhood, who did you want to become? How did you come to the photo?
— I clearly remember: about 6 years old, in August, I am standing on the windowsill and looking in the open window, beautiful greenery, trying to figure out who I would like to become. I really liked to look at this foliage and enjoy it, and then there is some kind of school. There was no keen desire to become a photographer, an astronaut or an architect, I just wanted to live.
— Basic knowledge of the photo you get from your father?
— Yes of course. And to be able to do all this with your hands is a completely different process, there is much less room for error, there are few personnel, you can’t take a mountain and you need to think before you press the shutter. Dad gave me a film absolutely gorgeous for those times: iso 1000, for photo machine guns, incredible sensitivity. The usual film is 100, 200, 400, and it was 1000 or even 1000 with something. Very grainy, contrasting, supplied in reels. In the bathroom, I unwound a piece onto a reel, cut the tail with scissors, sealed a collapsible reel with tape and removed it. It gave me incredible pleasure and I still love contrast and grain.
— Did your father take a photo for the magazine?
— There were special photographers, but something he himself also shot. As far as I can remember, he always shot for the house, for the magazine, for the places where he worked. Filmed on Zenith, on Leica. He occasionally let me shoot on the 78th year Leica R3. It is heavy, iron and cost as much as a car in those days. This is an unforgettable practice, it is impossible not to fall in love with this camera. Do you remember your first camera? Agat-18, which made 72 very small frames. I began to systematically shoot from the 7th grade, it was printed in all wall newspapers, there was a whole mountain of photos, because of course I liked sticking wall newspapers more than sitting in class. Do you remember your first photo that others appreciated? On the one hand, they evaluated it, but on the other, they didn’t give it to the face. My friend at the desk was called to answer at a history lesson, and I pinched him at that time and at that moment took a picture. The result was a very emotional picture, but then my friend vigorously expressed his displeasure.
— That is, you allow yourself to use such techniques that provoke a person to a more vivid emotional expression?
— Yes, of course.
— What are these techniques now?
— A couple of years ago I found myself in the practice of the humanitarian movement The Liberators International, where strangers gathered and looked into each other's eyes for a while, recorded their conditions, exchanged feelings. I noticed that after this practice, the person’s face changes very much, something lets out a lot, it somehow brightens, some kind of magic happens if two people, however, somehow connect, and do not try to push each other. It impressed me a lot. I then wrote a post on Facebook and held the same event with several people — an unforgettable impression, with some it even worked for many hours. On the one hand, it is very difficult, a lot of all kinds of garbage comes out, memories, sometimes we were silent, sometimes they said something. This practice gives a very large internal effect.
— Are you drawing now?
— Rarely. Recently I was at the Perotti School of Art and I will be returning there whenever I can.
— A question from life — both parents are not engaged in creative professions and have achieved success in their careers, and their child chooses something creative: acting, painting, etc. Parents do not take it seriously and believe that they need to acquire a “normal” profession. Was there a dictate in your life in choosing a profession? Why did you choose Architecture and not go to photography or painting?
— Everyone told me that first you need to be able to do something yourself — before you shoot and write about how others do it, that without this ability you will look at everything superficially and will not understand anything. Father, of course, was influenced here; he has an engineering profession and a creative one in just such a ratio. The real profession makes it much easier to communicate with all people. From my own experience in launching branding projects, I know that among journalists there are rare cases when someone writes something and this has something to do with reality, even if we are talking about serious publications — as a rule, this is either laughter or tears what they write. MARCHI provides a very thorough education and the basis for the development of various abilities and the acquisition of horizons, which is useful in any creative profession, and therefore chose. At the faculty there was painting, and drawing, and descriptive geometry — all that was needed to develop in this direction. In general, I had a choice: either Stroganovka, or MARCHI. But Stroganovka is more highly specialized, and in the Moscow Architectural Institute there are 80 pieces of various subjects, from the organization of construction work to the history of art.
— Do you consider it obligatory for a photographer to have a specialized education?
— Good thing. Ideal if it overlaps a wider one. Let's say architectural education is absolutely magical in terms of breadth of application. It gives the skill of combining among themselves many incompatible systems that need to be somehow connected with each other. At the same time, if I still got a special photographic one, then I would come to some things faster. Of course, there were some holes that I have, but I have them and I always darn them, try to learn new ways, approaches and learn. Now it’s easier in this — there is the Internet, trainings, courses online and offline, master classes.
— How many years did you study at MARCHI?
— Nine, and if you take into account the preparatory courses, then 12. Firstly, I didn’t enter the first time, because at the entrance exam I got hooked, I got up and left. My life turned from this in a completely different way.
— When did you start working?
— I didn’t enter the institute and spent several days at home, and then went to Mayakovsky Square, remembering that there are a lot of architectural bureaus there. I went into the first door that came across — I was brought to the Institute of the General Plan. Passed the test work and I was hired as a draftsman. I painted the general plans of Moscow in the company of wonderful people for a year.
— What was the thesis at MARCHI?
— Park of architectural entertainment in Sukhanovo. After 3 courses, I went to the academy and studied for another year in an architectural studio with Kirpichov. Then he returned to MARCHI, after 5th year he left, did not write a diploma. When I had already worked for some time at an advertising agency, my friend Max Baryshnikov, who is also a photographer, decided to pass the diploma. We had 3 months instead of 9 set, and we needed to optimize to the extreme the process of preparing the thesis. Of the three months, we went for another month, pondering what to do and in 2 months we mowed the diploma that people do in the academic year. They locked themselves in my house and sat until they did. At the same time, they spent most of the time thinking about how to do less. Sometimes they sat optimized for half a day, and then they started to do something.
— Did not want to continue your career as an architect?
— At that time, architectural projects were ordered either by gangsters, or so. Communication with such customers left an unpleasant aftertaste. I took advantage of the offer to work in an advertising agency. At first he was a designer, after a couple of years he was the chief designer, later he began to engage in copywriting, worked as a creative director in an interactive agency that made websites and games. Then he returned from there as the director of strategic planning of advertising campaigns, from there he went to a branding agency, where we made well-known brands: Moscow Exchange, RTS Exchange, Otkritie Bank, Bork, Gazprombank — there are many large, mainly financial projects that feel great before so far. I continue to work in branding as the director of Time4brand. Among financiers there are many interesting smart people with a broad outlook, so it is interesting to communicate with them. It was thanks to such people from Freedom Finance that this exhibition took place. Art lives only because someone helps artists create. For example, Russian culture has come down to us mainly through the efforts of entrepreneurs who created, as they now say, "art clusters" Abramtsevo, Tineshevo and financed the work of researching and reviving traditional Russian culture.
— Is photography a hobby for you?
— In terms of basic earnings, this is certainly not a photograph. In the sense of the basic vocation of life, it is difficult to say. For many years I did not shoot at all, because it distracted me from contemplation. I could either admire the world, or photograph it. Only after a few years ago one stopped interfering with the other, I was able to take up the camera again. This is also due to the fact that I began to go on an expedition, and I wanted to shoot all this. These were ethnographic, not photographic expeditions to beautiful pristine places — the Smolensk region, the National Museum "Smolensk Lakeland." We conducted research, excavations with a group from Moscow and local. I often went there, my family is very connected with this place. About 20 years ago my father and uncle came there for the first time, and then they began to come there every year. In honor of my father and uncle, the parking on the lake is called Bezborodovskaya. There are many more interesting connections with this place, the grandfather from the Smolensk region and part of the homeland are clearly felt. Of the geographical areas, Salekhard is very interesting — he went there to tell the local administration about branding the territory. There was a seminar for the whole day, they drove me around, I took everything off. It is, of course, very cold. Minus 33, 100% humidity and a light invigorating breeze — more than 10 minutes is difficult to withstand. But because of the humidity, everything is covered with a good layer of hoarfrost, very beautiful, in November, the dawn goes into sunset. I shot on Canon 6d, which normally survived everything, but I could not stand it for more than 10 minutes. It was interesting to shoot in Psebay — this is in the Sochi region, on the other side of the ridge. Cyprus, Turkey, Astrakhan — my name is somewhere for work, and I'm glad to shoot at the same time. I don’t go specifically to photo tours.
— In Moscow, friends call to shoot performances and concerts?
— Differently. It happens that completely strangers write because they saw my work somewhere and they liked it. But I always warn that I shoot only in my own way. There was a shooting in Israel — the man wrote that he was sorry that I was in Moscow and he was there. And I told him: "I will be in Israel in a week." I’ve been going there for Easter for 4 years, taking pictures. It is incredibly beautiful, interesting and inspiring. As a business, photography, I never did and did not want to. I shoot as I like, and if someone likes it too, then I can order a shoot. So I found the magazine Seasons, Aeroflot, S7, Theater of Nations.
— What did you do for these companies?
— Filming of exhibitions and events that they organize is mainly a reportage. But I always try to bring some kind of artistic effect into the reporting.
— What can you name the style in which you work?
— As soon as I start repeating myself, I will stop. It's hard for me to do the same thing twice, it's easier and more interesting to do something new. It is unlikely that in 20 years I will shoot the same way as now, honing details in the same style. Style is always a set of constraints. I create everything necessary for the shooting to work, and then let everything flow as it flows. I shoot in a meditative state and when something happens, I manage to press the button earlier than I think. I couldn’t do that before. The element of chance is very important. Most of the works from the Shotland collection, which is presented at the Whisky Rooms club, have been done — this is a reportage brought to the level of art, where magic worked out like I could not imagine before. I really like b / w photography, where the construction of life is visible, or something. Color is distracting. I see a picture in black and white, I can forget about the color. If I ask about who was wearing what during the shooting, I won’t remember: I remember my mood and condition, but not the color. Sometimes I leave it in the photo, but in most cases the color is distracting. In general, with regard to style, I did not particularly think about it. Svetlana Perotti wrote about me that I am shooting photo impressionism. Probably it is: Impression is an impression. And I do not always bother with having golden sections in the frame. If there is a mood there — this is the most important thing. By the way, where there is an impression, there is usually a golden section, accidentally captured without alignment with a ruler.
— Do you shoot without autofocus and zoom? What is the point of it?
— Staying alive and not staying in one place. To make the picture bigger, you need to take two steps forward. Or two steps back if you want to become smaller. In addition, lenses that do not have autofocus and zoom have a different design and better handle color and light. Of course, I tried to shoot on different optics, but when I got the first Zeiss, I realized the difference. Color, shadows — such a lens sees much more information than usual. Over time, I completely switched to such lenses and now I have nothing except Zeiss and Leica. How many total? Two Leica lenses — 135 and 180 and three Zeiss — 25, 50, 85 mm. In total, this is all very heavy).
— What did you do for National Geographic?
— I submitted a job to the competition, after which the best works were presented in the exhibition. I sent to the competition "Cranberries under the snow in the forest", which I photographed in Salekhard.
— Which of the photographers is authoritative for you?
— Alexander Rodchenko, Gemmy Woud-Binnendijk, Albert Watson, James Wigger, Lidewij Edelkoort, Alfred Eisenstaedt.
— Have a dream as a photographer?
— I enjoy working in the material. On the monitor, the photo usually looks great and something needs to be done with it to make it better than on the monitor. I recently succeeded after an incredible amount of experimentation. I really like the result. I found the right paper. It is used to reproduce engravings and behaves in a completely different way, gives a very strong contrast, many details. We printed in a professional photo lab, of which there are only two in Moscow: Prolab and Photolab. The second is in the MARCH, which determined my choice. We can say that this dream has recently been realized in a collection that can be viewed in Whisky Rooms.
Specially for Whisky Rooms JСмолян
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