A freelance Russian photographer, Aleksey Myakishev is part of the trend of humanist photography.  His long photographic projects in the Russian countries are only realised in argentic. In 2015 he has become ambassador of Bergger in Russia and works now with our films and barita-based papers.


Aleksey Myakishev, could you sum up in a few words your conception of photography ?

... no I couldn’t because photography doesn’t exist as a conception for me. Generally, I don’t like concepts.For me photography, if we compare to music is jazz, improvisation. I think photography is a way of life, a way of thinking and the concept in photography kills this element. Photography can be thought conceptually but for me it is exactly the opposite. I can think of it conceptually.

 

It’s also a conception !

An anti conception. It’s an attitude in front of the world. I take photos of people according to my attitude to them and I photograph what is around me and next to me. Maybe we can say it’s a conception or rather an understanding.

 

How do you get to this approach of photography?

This understanding of photography hasn’t occurred immediatly, there was a long period of construction, gestation and then this understanding has come. There was the first stage, when I was still at school, I began with the basic knowledge, I developed films, printed photos. I discovered the world through the lenses of my camera. And photography opened the world. During the Sovietic Union and the Perestroika era, we had little photographic resources, it was difficult to have them, so I simply went to the library taking a lot of albums about art and flipped them through. I was interested in topics of painters and how they had built the scene in relation with the composition. In a way I built myself on the paintings of the painters of the Renaissance and the Impressionists...

Does the perfect film exist ? For you are there differences between HP5, Tri-X, Bergger ?

I am completely satisfied with the films now. I like the grain of the film. Yes sure, there are different films, different emulsions, they are different materials, and they give different representations. Generally, with the film, if it has enough silver, you can do everything from the softest to the most contrasting picture. During the Soviet era, I photographed with films which had a very medium quality but we thought up ourselves developers to improve the features of the films. Obviously, we found usual developers but we used ours thinking they were better. And then western products arrived and you had just to dilute and you had a wonderful result !

Through your pictures, a great empathy for others is shown, the characters who seem to fill your pictures are here just for themselves and not only to make a picture. Do you feel this ?

In a way, yes because I was born and lived in the country. I have always respect for people. I try to understand their sensations. And usually, you only need the affection of people. When you develop this affection, they give it back to you. And this sensation is passed on the photo. Photography is like a tracing paper, everything is shown and it’s difficult to cheat. When you speak with interested people, you become as a relative. I try to understand people. When you begin to speak, to establish a contact, then it gives birth to any other subject and also to another photo. That’s why I don’t want to show any production. For me it’s important for people to be an authentic state.

Could you speak of this still working project on this village in Carelia, Kolodozero?

I began it in 2011. For me it’s an immersion in an environment completely different from the one I live in. I live in the town, over there it’s another life. I was interested in the life of the local priest Arkadi, with his wooden church in a village with 300 inhabitants and who has a completely different vision of the world. From here, I understood that you could take and he gave you back again with a lot of generosity. I went again and again. Each year, each season, in all its dimensions. For me, it’s an immersion in a certain life which is both inwardly nice and also unknown, I want to know it and photography gives me this knowledge.

 

Is it very a important project ? A new stage ?

The book on Vyatka was a dive in childhood, a return on the place where I was born, where I  grew up, Vyatka is my small homeland, it’s always in me. But I have always wanted to see another life, to know other interesting places. I though of this, that I must photograph something new and my friend Sacha invited me in Kolodozero for Christmas. When I arrived there, I understood that it would be a new story I worked on and that this place would continue Vyatka. That’s not the question for me : what’s the meaning of such or such story. I only take photos. At first there is an irrepressible wish then the meaning appears. I make everything intuitively.

 

Do you share this idea :  to belong to this school of humanist photography which is universal, crossing and joining periods ?

I completely agree with this idea. This photography is in its principle without any era.

A word to conclude ?

Photographers must love people and people must love photographers !

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