We finally managed to finish our chat – Alexsander, as everyone has been, was brilliant at humouring me with my quirkiness (and genuine curiosity), and I’d like to thank him once again for his time.
KB: You were apparently “accused” of overusing Photoshop or collage (like it’s a crime!) on facebook, does that mean you dislike photography that is overly edited? Many people forget, I believe, that editing and ‘touching up’ a photo has been with photography since its inception – is it really such a bad thing, Alexander? In what situations do you think it is appropriate and when is it not?
AP: This or that photo editing has always been. It does not matter whether you print photos on paper under the magnifier, or make a file on the computer, you somehow change the original frame. The main thing is to stay within the limits of the acceptable one in the genre in which you work.
KB: Yep, totally agree – genre/context is paramount.
I read that when walking around SPB it’s better to leave the map at home and just ‘”follow your eyes” (which I like to do here in southern Italy). What about you? Almost all of your shots seem spontaneous and candid. Do you ever pre-plan or stage any scenes? Have you done any tableaux photography?
AP: I think that the production can be good only as the initial stage of the shooting, in the hope that the unpredictability factor will continue to fit in, and everything will go more interesting than you intended.
KB: Regarding your (amazing) POLICE series, there seems to be a lightheartedness, a funny side (and ironic) to these shots. Was that intentional?
AP: Many aspects in life, including the police, are such that if you take them too seriously, you can go crazy. Therefore, it is some adaptation of reality in my perception.
KB: Yeah, wouldn’t want to take things too seriously! I read that you prefer the ‘beautiful’ or the ‘grotesque’ (the grotesquely beautiful/beautifully grotesque?); bearing in mind how subjective those two terms can be, what exactly do you mean when you say grotesque/beautiful?
AP: In our world, many concepts have long turned into their antipodes: you can admire the ugly and turn away from the beautiful. This is all subjective, but mixed in us depending on the environment and the context. The meaningful connotations and meaning of many things have long ago become such cubes, playing by which you can get completely opposite readings of any situations.
KB: Once again with the COMEDY series (some truly wonderful captures!), there seems to be a lot of humour, was that all intentional or just a lucky find? Do we have to be in the right place at the right time? Surely there must be a lot of skill to even “see” a possible future shot and predict that moment and THEN be in the right place to capture it? Probably a long way from lucky…
AP: I’m not a theoretician and do not know the exact recipes of successful personnel. Everything is very unpredictable. The only thing that is valuable to me is a humanistic super task, which should be present in every photo. A humor is all in just a way to look at life without anger and with sympathy. There are no secrets or recipes for a good frame, except how to keep your heart sincere, early and often go out into the open world.
KB: Wow, that’s quite beautiful, and I agree, it’s important to get out there and start shooting!
It seems to me that you use wide-angle lenses a lot for your street photography (24mm? 28mm?), why is that? Is it – as Kertész did – to add context and situation to the subject? Do you find them more dynamic as opposed to standard primes or zooms?
AP: Yes, and that too, but also the classic “effect of presence”: as Kappa said? – (.. “If your pictures are not good enough, then you were not close enough” ..) I agree with this opinion, and the wide-angle in this case is an excellent Assistant. My favorite focus is 24-70.
KB: Yep, I know what you mean – it adds so much, right?. I also adore the 24mm (to 80mm)!
What type of messages or stories (or thoughts) do you want the observer to have when they look at your work? Should a photo be accompanied by TEXT or a TITLE (or a DISPLAY effect) to contextualise the image? How much do you think that the viewer should be allowed to interpret the image on their own (as if that could be stopped!)?
AP: I really do not like to do textual accompaniment to photos (except for filming for editorial offices and agencies).
KB: Ok, I find it brilliant though how it can inform us, as well as confuse us at the same time – I’m a fan of ambiguity with text – I don’t, however, want to stop the viewer from participating or even overload them with too much info.
AP: Yes, I think that the explanation is extra crutches, which limit the perception and imagination of the viewer. It is easier to add descriptions of what is not in the photograph, and this is already “literature”. A good photo should be perceived as music – directly and directly.
KB: Saint Petersburg seems like a city full of charming superstitions (Tonya the Hippo; Chizhik-Pyzhik; The Atlantes of the Hermitage; the Lions on the stone walls of the Strelka etc.). Can a photographer capture that superstitious feeling or mystique of a city? How?
AP: All these artifacts are not accidental: St. Petersburg itself is one big myth city. Therefore, it is not surprising that supernatural sensations begin to permeate you, as soon as you live in this city for a bit.
KB So, it really is everywhere, is that why it always crops up in your work there?
AP: Of course, you can resist it or not believe it, but in some mysterious way it shows up in your photos.
KB That’s amazing, thanks a lot for your time Alexsander
AP: Many thanks!
Alexsander Petrosyan (http://aleksandrpetrosyan.com/en/)
After taking up photography in the year 2000, Alexander Petrosyan realized that, in order to truly understand the world around him, he must first try to capture it through the camera lens, something at which he has continuously succeeded. Petrosyan finds true joy in exploring and portraying his subjects in innovative ways, photographing not only the beautiful but also the grotesque aspects of life.
Working for My District magazine from 2003 to 2008, Petrosyan became a true professional, able to accurately present the three-dimensional with only two dimensions, and to illuminate the infinite levels of his environment in a single photograph.
At present, Petrosyan is a staff photographer for “Kommersant” (http://www.kommersant.ru/), where he continues to push the limits of his surroundings, proving that there is something extraordinary about even the most, seemingly, ordinary aspects of life.
Petrosyan’s work has been featured in a multitude of acclaimed publications, including, but not limited to: «Newsweek», «National Geographic», «GEO», «Russian Reporter”, “Spark”, “Money”, “Power“, “Kommersant”, “News”, “Arguments and Facts”, “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, and “Business Petersburg”.