Researched by Roberta Pastore
When did you start a passion for the photography?
I was born in 1972 in the Ukraine, then of the Soviet Union. I was acquainted with photography at a very early age, as my father used to develop and print his pictures at home. In 1978 I emigrated together with my parents from the Soviet Union to Israel. The rest of our family stayed on in the Soviet Union. A new,and quite different life began for us.
Absorption in the new country was rather hard .Warm and sheltered childhood in the fold of loving grand -parents , uncles and aunts gave way to a race for survival. Conditions in the new country obliged my parents to work at two jobs in order to safeguard their future in their new country. I thus found myself alone at home from morning to evening, and being a curious and inquisitive child of six, I preferred to wander around in the streets, learn the new language, get to know people of all sorts, and, generally, learning to make my own way in life. Soon I got to know the street, its laws, and the people who inhabited it. The schooling I got during those early years rendered me a great service later in life. At the age of 24 with quite a mileage in photography I decided to register in a photography school. I wanted to sort myself out, to see where I was going with my life, and with photography. By then it was already clear to me that photography was for me neither a hobby , nor a profession , but rather a way of life. In a short course of several months I excelled in composition studies, laboratory work, black and white etc. On graduating I was straight away recruited as an instructor in the same school. After a year in that job I decided to go out to explore the world in the company of my camera For five years I visited and worked in a number of countries.
With the help of my camera(Nikon F3-HP) I managed to gain access into the lives of many people wherever I went. I gained experience in a number of fields of photography, but soon enough I realized that I must focus on the field in which I was best, namely documenting people, their lives and their environment. For several years I worked for various magazines in Israel, as well as in other countries. Nowadays I devote all my free time to “street photography” ,and to its advancement in Israel.
What was your first camera?
When, as a child, I started photographing, it was with a rangefinder camera. Later on I experienced with all kinds, makes, and formats that came about and were available. But out of this prolonged and varied experimentation I came to realize that, for me the rangefinder camera was (and still is) the best system to work with: you work with the least of technological intervention in the creative process, and with the least conspicuous camera. It is true that there is no such thing as the “perfect camera”, and that you have to learn to live with limitations and to make the best out of your machine. But with all this in mind I am convinced that, for me, the best option is a small, quiet, precise and dependable camera with a great choice of first class glass, which would serve me faithfully for many years. My preference to stick with film has probably to do with the time I started getting interested in photography and with my early experience with analogical photography and dark room work. The present so called “digital age” is impatient with those who prefer to work slowly and deliberately, and is calibrated to cater to immediate satisfactions. To my mind, this is rather unfortunate. It overpowers our commonsense and blurs our senses which are so important for photography in the intoxicating environment of the street.
What is photography to you? And what should not be instead?
Photography for me is much more than the means to record impressions from my personal life ,or the life of the society in which I live.For me photography serves as a central, mental, balancing point in the midst of all other things that demand my attention in daily life. It is a haven, an island of sanity in which I am always glad to take refuge from an insane world.
The very moment I take up my camera I feel commitment, and a sense of responsibility. Holding my camera I feel that I am required to be more attentive, more sensitive, more determined. It is as if the camera in my hands obliges me to think, imagine, improvise, be more creative, as if, for a brief magical moment, it brings out in me all those good qualities which make up the best character of man. Photography has always had, ever since my childhood, a kind of mystical power over me. For me the camera was that sparkling, eye-catching device, which imbues those who hold it with supernatural powers, the power to catch a magical moment with a little push of a button, show everybody that one can stop the flow of time, look again and again at a chosen situation, recreating and re-experiencing the emotions of a unique moment.
Even today, many years and experiences later, this feeling of magic has not faded. I still feel the excitement of photography and thank my luck for being able to experience the marvel of holding a camera, and sharing with others these feelings of wonder and excitement.
Which masters of photography inspires you?
There is no photographer whose work has influenced me. I have always taken my inspiration from the street and the people in it, and not from books or other photographers. For this reason I do not have at home even one book of photographs.
What is your favorite technique?
The way a street photographer thinks and acts is quite like a hunter’s; the more experienced and accomplished he/she is, his distance from his object will tend to get shorter. His chief tool for capturing interesting situations in the street is his ability to surprise and his persistence in the face of failures. For my part, I use to go out in the street with just one camera and one lens, preferably ultra-wide. This obliges me to get as close as possible to the scene. I think this is an excellent method to improve one’s self confidence and courage when one strolls in the “urban jungle”. There is no doubt that having to cope with closeness to strange people may have good effects also in one’s private life. It is inevitable that you will experience some friction with people, but even this is a useful experience; you are obliged to find some creative solutions to this, and, in the course of time, you develop a positive attitude which will make people accept you, and even like your presence among them, which, eventually, translates into good, intimate pictures.
I use two approaches to the process of creation. As they complement each other they result in a state of permanent readiness for any eventuality. One is the way of “defense” the other the way of “initiative”.
“Defense”: when I move in the street sometimes I find myself being “attacked” by surprising , unexpected, situations. Being alert to this kind of situation I am always ready to meet the challenge, when such opportunities come my way.
In such cases the nature of reaction is defensive. One is wide open to the environment. There is no time for thought. You act instinctively, and all you want is to “absorb” the situation and disappear.
“Initiative”: ” initiated” approach to street photography is like going on a hunting trip. It involves all known methods of the hunter.
Going to the “hunting field” requires mental preparation. One has to clear one’s mind of all irrelevant concerns and bothers. The street tells its stories using its own wavelength. All one needs to do is receive and synchronize with it. All senses are sharpened up, the body is tuned up and alert, the mind is creative, and adrenalin level is high. In this state every action will be thought out, planned, and precisely timed, every situation is examined in depth, and a method of action is initiated- diversion, camouflage, sneaking, shooting and disappearing, all methods known to every street photographer,” hunters of the streets”.
What is common to both approaches is the habit of holding the camera in hand, switched on, and ready to shoot. As long as you are in the street, the camera should not be in its protective bag, or hanging on your neck nor on your shoulder. It should be in your hand ready for every eventuality. This is basic, hard incontestable experience. Tested and proven.
Why do street photography?
I actually began to do street photography before I even knew there was such a genre. Like most photographers, in my time I used to photograph landscape, portraits, macro and even flowers in vases. It was, however, when I started taking photos of people in the street that I knew that this was exactly what I loved and wanted to do. Challenge and satisfaction in photographing people are very great. This kind of photography usually brings out your best, it teaches you a lot about others, but even more about yourself.
What is your relationship with the street and the people who are in your shots?
As what concerns me most is investigating and recording the life of society, it is essential to reveal and expose the state of things as they are.
This search for truth may be done by an investigation in depth, looking into the smallest details, scratching the upper layers, which does indeed lead to penetrating into the citizen’s life and viewing the depths of his/her soul, so to speak.
The truth may be reached in either of two ways: the longer or the shorter.
The longer way involves the elements I have just mentioned, and requires a great deal of time in order to reach full intimacy with the “subject”, or the person to be photographed.
The shorter way includes all the “hunting techniques” I mentioned earlier- decoy, sneaking, camouflage, shooting and evading, all in order to get as close to the “subject” as possible in his/her moment of truth.
In my work I combine the two methods, in order to reach a truth only I and the person photographed share.
Whatever the method we choose, there is no place for shame or fear in this kind of photography work.