Alexander Yakovlev is a Russian photographer who captures and immortalises the intangible magic of movement. Calibrating technique and experience he represents the dynamism and fascination of the human body with extreme precision.
Alexander manages to simultaneously express the energy of movement and fix the moment of a gesture, but that’s not all he does. We had the chance to talk with him a bit about photography, art and life and found out about his future projects.
Here is the interview, enjoy reading it.
Hi Alexander, tell us something about yourself. How did you discover photography?
I’ve always loved to draw things, so I’ve never dreamt of becoming a photographer one day to be fair. I used to spend plenty of time studying fine arts back in the day – but I didn’t get into an art school, which is probably just as well. So I ended up studying law in University and making a little extra money working at a photographic supplies store – this is how I bought my first camera. And I did receive my law degree, too.
As you probably know, there were no experts who could teach you at least some technical knowledge in photography in the 2000s, let alone classes in art photography. So the only way – and perhaps the proper way – was to get a position of an assistant to a photographer who had already been in the business for quite a while. I got very lucky to work alongside a man who used to be top of the league at that time in Russia, so we say. I’ve been in this position for five years, gaining priceless experience and knowledge which I rely upon now.
What is a good picture to you?
A good picture is a very ambiguous notion. For most of the people, a “good picture” is but an opinion. I believe that a good shot must display sincere emotion, the essence of a person’s image – as well as the artist’s message.
Ballet features in your pictures most commonly. What is so special about it that attracts you so much?
I used to think that shooting ballet was the simplest path when I started doing it. I mean, ballet and photography are both mute and loud at the same time. Each dancer has their own unique body language, so I thought: “There’s nothing easier than this!”.
It turned out to be more complicated though. You need to get an insight into this body language in order to express it through photography. There is a lot to focus on: posture sense, direction of movement, dance positions etc. Despite all the challenges, I became aware that shooting ballet and expressing its nature is a very unique thing to do. And yes, now I know what terms like battements tendus mean.
Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Unity hasn’t shape.
Which artists and photographers influenced your works most?
There are a lot of them, I will probably name the classics with whom I started. Among artists I admire Jan van Eyck, Jan Vermeer and Archip Ivanovič Kuindži, among photographers I love the work of Paolo Roversi, Peter Lindbergh, Tim Walker, Albert Watson, Herb Ritts and Nick Knight.
How do your pictures come into being? What inspires you?
I do not like the notions of “inspiration” and “creative work”, I think they are unreliable. I love real people and real stories, they generate all sorts of ideas. My task is to translate the knowledge and the emotions I get in real life into the language of aesthetics and photography.
Is photography fashionable nowadays?
Photography is about art, not fashion. Just like any other art form, the “nowadays photography” must develop and keep up with the times, thus being in decline occasionally. This decline then helps implement brand new ideas.
What does an aspiring photographer need to make the grade?
I won’t dare to give advice to rookies, but either way, any job requires courage.
Complete the sentence: to me photography is…
Research. To be precise, it’s self-research in the first place.
What have you been working on recently?
I am working on a new project right now, the one that is very atypical for me since it has no relation to the ballet or dance industry – the domains I am usually associated with. This one is about women’s fears and the way the society perceives and manifests them. I’ll show you (here below) a work which is a part of this project and you will get my idea in no time.
I believe that the reason I capture women on camera for this project is that I have always thought they are somehow “different” and I have always been eager to unravel, to reveal this difference. And to discover things I do not – and perhaps never will – have within me.
I believe that it is okay to fear something. Fears should not be perceived as frailties or weaknesses since there is always a huge step forward behind every fear. It is just that the person either makes this step or not.
Interview by Federica Cimorelli