When I was six, mom signed me up to an art school. I spent all of my childhood drawing. I would draw when other kids would go to judo or karate lessons. I would draw when my friends would go swim in the lake or just spend their time doing kid things. It’s not that anyone forced me to spend my time drawing, I did it because I enjoyed it.
When I turned 14, I stopped drawing. That’s when I became occupied with new hobbies, like girls… Since then I haven’t picked up drawing or painting again. All I have left from those days are a few serious art awards and warm memories of my art teacher, who has taught me the art basics. I use those principles to date in my photography practice.
Photography was not an easy path for me to follow. At first, I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Law and started exploring the legal field. Once I confirmed that career in law is not for me I decided to try out something new. I picked up an old analog camera ‘Zenith’, and as I was loading the film I had an epiphany. I realized that I’d like to spend my whole life pursuing this craft. When this thought has struck me I was 26.
In order to reach great heights in anything that you do, you need to be fascinated by what you do; only then you can achieve immense success. When I plan any photo shoot I am always torn with excitement. I want to pick up that camera as soon as possible and run to the next assignment. That’s why I have no problem waking up at 4AM and being full of energy for the shoot, ignoring any distracting factors. Loving what you do really helps you overcome any obstacles.
When I just started photography I photographed girls and only girls, but today I am a food photographer. Many of my friends are surprised that I no longer photograph women – to them it seemed such an awesome and romantic occupation. Honestly, I am more interested in photographing food. Don’t get me wrong I love women (a lot!), but I am more fascinated with food.
Photographers should specialize. If a beginner photographer thinks that one day being a ‘food photographer’ is the ultimate goal, I don’t stop just there. For me, food photography is sub-categorized into such specialties as photographing packaging, drinks, commercial versus fine art, etc. Now I strive to photograph exclusively for restaurants, books, and chefs. I’ve decided to do so because I like it. The food products that I photograph have to be exceptionally beautiful. And when I photograph such food I capture its delicious taste without compromising on the real and natural look of the product. All my models are edible, and the photos look edible too.
Every photographer, who wants to be the very best, should have a personal project. It is an opportunity to give back and thank the universe for the unique chance that you were given – to be happy and spend your life doing what you love. Such a project is a great venue for experimenting with new ideas, meeting new people, and growing both as an individual and as a photographer.
Loving what you do really helps you overcome any obstacles.
My project ‘Food&Chef’ is dedicated to the chefs and their food. The project started on a local scale featuring photographers from my town only. I thought that it will be just a local project, but shortly after I received an offer that changed everything. After a month of work into the project I got an invite to photograph a top chef in my country’s capital. From there on, I got offers from Moscow, Hong Kong, Istanbul and other influential world cuisine cities. This year I am planning to visit a few more countries where I’ll continue the ‘Food&Chef’ project; and I won’t stop until I have photographed all of the world’s best chefs and their foods.
Six months into the project ‘Food&Chef’ became an international affair. It got people interested – it interested viewers and chefs themselves. Today among the participants there are two Michelin chefs and an artisan pastry world champion.
Often any chef is the ‘gray eminence’. We can know the owner of the restaurant or the administration, but not the chef. Everyday we see and interact with the waiters and the busboys, but we never get to talk to the people who make our food. Enjoying our steak or lasagna we don’t bother with the thought of who created this masterpiece. So the person, on whose shoulders rests the sole responsibility of an amazing meal is left in the shadows.
Food&Chef’ project gives me an opportunity to travel the world, and whilst enjoying the usual touristy sights I also get a unique privilege of talking to the local people. I love this. I think this gives me a great insight into the world that I live in.
I love travel and I often fly out to shoot on location in different countries. ‘Food&Chef’ helped me to organize my photographic process in such a way that I am ready to take off for any last minute assignment – my camera, flashes, tripods and soft boxes packed and ready to go. To travel light (or as light as possible) I had to buy special equipment and assemble a photo kit which would be allowed to carry on a plane. Be in Cambodia, Moscow or Berlin, I can be ready for take off within an hour or two after I get a new assignment.
In order to be successful you have to work a lot! Of course I also find time to spend with my family. It happens on a rare occasion when I have a day off. In my opinion, if you want to achieve something, you have to spend much time working at it. Now imagine this ‘much time’ and multiply it by 3. That is how much time you need to spend. So get ready fro a life of not sleeping in, waking up before the sunrise, shoots that start at 6AM and end at 12AM, and personal time that you will have to sacrifice. This is the normal life of any dedicated photographer. It sure is my life. It may seem like a lot of work and sacrifice (and it is), but is all worth it if you know what you are working towards. having a goal in mind makes everything so much easier.
Mind you, I am not always a treat to work with. Some photographers openly hated me during the shoot and some wanted me to stay forever with them. What matters is that after the shoot everyone was happy and impressed with the end result.
Camera is a convenience. The better the camera the better the quality of the photograph. But camera is secondary not primary. What’s more important is: what lens you are shooting with, what is the light like and all the other little details. What’s primary then? It is your knowledge. Knowledge that you accumulate with experience. Some things I have picked up from other photographers, some I have discovered or innovated myself, and some I peaked and appropriated. It is a constant learning experience.
To be a good photographer you need to constantly spend time self-educating. Not just learn what the F stop is and what is depth of field, but also to socialize. Talk to other photographers, peers, gather critique from those who know how to give proper constructive criticism and grow from that feedback. Also spend a lot of time looking at photos and art work, develop a visual aesthetic and try to understand what makes that image great and how you can learn from it. Is a unique angle, a unifying colour palette, specific light, etc.? What is it that makes this work?
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