What do you hope to unearth from a subject in your work? Are you ever surprised from what you end up discovering?
It is said that my works are “an exploration between life, darkness and death”. Sounds too bombastic, but maybe I’m searching for connections between these subjects. Or just try to express current mood but presented by other people. Maybe I was surprised once but can’t remember now.
Would you ever feature “pornography” in your work? Is there anything about it which appeals to you – as a photographer?
Porn? [Laughs] Really? I use strong words; sometimes I’m a real bad-ass but that genre has nothing common with my artistic view. It’s like asking Trent Reznor make a cover of Taylor Swift. People go nuts.
What attracts you to mysterious subjects in photography? Does mystery always conjure up different results?
All that dark stuff attracts me. I’m darkish. Positive, but not all bright. David Lynch, Salvador Dali, Massive Attack, Goth metal bands etc. – I look to these artists for inspiration. Now it’s enough to take spontaneous photos so that somebody can say: “What a dark picture, are you depressed?” It’s just ridiculous.
Where do you draw the line in exploring dark subject matters? Is there anything that you would say no to featuring in your work?
No boundaries – that’s my rule. I mean I will do almost anything for a good picture. I have done a few editorials in cemeteries. I remember a model started to pray before the photoshoot: she asked God to forgive her for shooting in the graveyard. At that point I thought I’m a bad person.
Where do you want to take fashion photography? Does anything particularly bore you about fashion photography at the moment?
In the wild. I’m bored to death with standard fashion shoots and fake poses. I’d rather show a story and a character than always think about how good the model looks in her outfit. Luckily, there are people responsible for that on the set of fashion photoshoots.
Does your heritage affect the ominous undertones to your work? Would you say there is anything characteristically Russian about your projects?
Well, I was born in 90s Russia; everything was totally controlled. There was a smell of fear on the streets. People had to be similar. No chance for creativity. But the only thing that affects is my past and present experience. It built this style.
How do you respond to negative feedback? Do you care about criticism or does it motivate you?
I care. It’s interesting to hear different opinions from professionals. But they must have artist’s respect. I once visited a portfolio review – I came like a schoolboy, in a hipster jacket hiding my tattoos, so experts probably thought I was studying in a high school. Those sharks smashed my work into pieces! I sat calmly and thought: does this dickhead even know that Rick Owens chose that “shit” to be exhibited in his corner in Printemps department store?” It was funny. Criticism must be based on arguments – otherwise you shouldn’t give a fuck. I’ve shown my work to Shirley Manson (lead singer of Garbage) and she appreciated it. Maybe she’s not the greatest expert in photography but she’s an artist I respect and I believe her.
Your project ‘Something Dark and Mystical’ epitomizes your style; does this style continuously evolve or are you intent on sticking to this trademark?
Actually it’s a collection of random images. Yes, I will keep moving in this direction. More of a vintage, cinematic mood will be added with the darkness remaining. A new editorial is almost finished, entitled “Destroy Marilyn”.
Another project, ‘Rebel Road’ features a narrative; would you ever consider experimenting in fashion film?
Wow, I like how you know about “Rebel Road”! Actually it’s not fashion at all. But yes, I do want to shoot videos in the future, definitely.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self who I assume was aspiring to a career in photography?
It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to have a serious conversation with my 16 year-old self, because I was such a rebel. I think the speech would beginn with: “Sit down, we need to talk seriously” [Laughs].