1. Mehdi: Can you tell us about yourself?
Igor: I’m a 49 year-old maritime lawyer from Kiev, Ukraine. I have a University degree in applied mathematics and after the turbulent post-Soviet 90th, I received my masters degree in international law. As a result I became a member of the Bar and also became an amateur photographer.
2. When did you get your start in photography, and why street photography?
A buddy told me “Brother, you look real sad. Listen, you need a hobby.” I started thinking it over and remembered that back in school I took pictures with the most common soviet Smena-8M camera. That’s how I got hooked.
I started photography again on 31th of December 2010. I remember the date because I have bought New Year present for myself – Canon 50D with kit lens.
As anyone else I started taking pictures of anything around. Sunsets, sunrises, pets, moonshine strips on the night river, you name it. Any web page was full of that stuff.
Once I asked my photography friend why nobody took photos of people on the street. He then told me about street photography. I then started browsing the internet for street photography.
It so happened that at that time I learned about hesychasm. I realized that put together it was both the self that I had been looking for and a means to express it. I mean that street photography became a way of meditation, reflection and a means of expression at the same time.
3. We know that since November 2013, there has been many demonstrations in your hometown of Kiev, Ukraine. How did that affect your street photography? What have you learned and gained from these experiences?
It’s a complex issue. It is not easy not to be led by emotions in dramatic circumstances like these.
Many times it occurred to me that I start doing a reporter’s job rather than street photography.
There were a lot of famous photo-reporters word big news agencies around. Well, there is nothing wrong with taking news pictures. But, you are not are not taking pictures for glossy covers. Besides, a real good news photography has a different purpose. In fact it is much harder to take street pictures with so many people around but you can learn to shoot there because no one cares. At daytime the place was teeming with picture-takers.
Then I started coming at night, with streetlights on and people sitting close around fires. I took pictures of everynight routine of protestors who lived in the tents there in the center of the city. They took a rest, they ate, spoke to one another. Despite that very tense situation, the lightning was fantastic. Big city lights and fire flames. Using flash would be stupid. One could not get the feeling of it with a flash. I was able to capture it all for what it’s worth with my Leica Monochrom.
4. How do you express your feelings and emotions while photographing these historic events in your country?
It is difficult to say. It all was feelings and emotions of an ordinary citizen. As I said, one’s personal emotions doesn’t help when taking pictures. Indignation of your mind prevents you from seeing things properly. Though it is true not only for street photography. One can hardly stay indifferent in a situation like this. I just tried to stay calm, that’s all.
5. After looking at your images there is a sense of story telling in most of them, also the emotions and feelings you capture in your subjects is very powerful. What do you want the viewer to see, feel or learn from looking at your images? I never think when I am taking pictures. I tried to make it otherwise but thinking does not help you make pictures. One should contemplate on this mortal life before one comes out to take pictures. Silent aloofness is the best state for the photographer.
Street photography is expressing yourself. It is showing who you are, deep in your own heart. Your heart is filled with what you see. You just keep walking and push the shutter in the proper moment. At the moment, it dawns upon you.
In fact, you tell a story like any other writer but do it in pictures rather than words.
When I publish a picture, I want to show a silent moment. It is up to the onlooker what he or she feels or learns by looking at the picture. Of course, like any other work of art the photo picture should be accepted.
What does this photo mean? It is up to critics to say. One finds what one looks for when catching in the rye.
6. What kind of gear do you use and why?
Mostly I use a Leica Monochrom because of it’s high ISO and reliability. Besides, it does not look as if I am a press photographer which lets people stay relaxed. They just think that it is a shabby old film camera.
Along with Leica Summilux 35 ASPH 1.4 lens, the Monochrom lets you take pictures with poor light as in the tube, bars, etc. The Zeiss 25 2.8 Biogon lens also proved to be good when working in crammed tube cars.
I use a Leica М7 as a second camera and for color pictures. I also use my М7 when I need a lower shutter sound (it is less noise than Monochrom). If I need it very quite that I use М3.
The answer to that is very simple. If one masters the cameras technically, one forgets about them when taking pictures. You just push the shutter and see what you have got if you are lucky.
7. Being a lawyer must be time consuming, how do you manage to still make time to do street photography?
Any profession needs time. It all depends on the person.
Both my professions have let me be rather free in terms of time. Both professions let me work alone. I work alone both when working both on a programming issue as well as on a legal one. Both lawyers and programmers work alone unless they are on a corporation staff. It all comes down to a very simple thing, you just wear a camera every day and that’s it.
Besides my profession let me finance my hobby.
8. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everywhere: literature, paintings, music, old school photographs. Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Marquez and Salinger, William Terner and impressionists, Peter Bruegel (the Younger) and Giotto, books of Christian mystics of past ages and Fritjof Capra, The Doors and Miles Devis.
Once somebody asked Henri Cartier-Bresson how to learn to become better in photography. HCB responded by saying: “Go to the museums and look at the paintings of Matisse“. I should also add the importance of reading.
I wish to mention several people who, with their devotion to photography, inspired me at the very beginning of my hobby. These are photographers like Eric Kim, Thomas Leuthard, and Charlie Kirk. Don’t let them take this as a compliment ;) I’m not speaking about their pics; to say more, they are very different people. But their dedication was an encouragement for me, sort of “you’re not the only idiot like that” ;) Special thanks goes to Knut Skjærven who acquainted me with Zen in the Art of Archery book written by Eugen Herrigel.
9. Anything else you would like to add, or share with us?
Just want to remind words of great Robert Doisneau – I move quietly along with the flock, invisibly.
Huge thanks to Mehdi Bouqua for this superb interview.