Andrey Zharov is a photographer from St Petersburg, Russia.
He has plenty of peculiarities, first of all his vision of his country, which he describes in so many ways, even if concluding that there are no words for such feelings. He is quite sensitive and introspective, and he talks about visual arts through his inner experience, which makes his perspectives flowing, exploring his creations phrase by phrase.
Andrey Zharov defines his figure in the creative process as a link between what he sees and what the viewer perceives, so his concern is the truth that he pulls out of the people he shoots, letting the emotions passing through his own personal belief.
Where do you live, Andrey? What is, in your opinion, really inspiring about your country? And your city in particular?
I live in St Petersburg. What inspires me about my country and my city? Only people that I meet on my way. Otherwise I would change the details of my pictures with pleasure.
I am also inspired by the color of the grass after the snow in the early Spring, that transparent atmosphere which goes with such cold air; I know for sure that I’m inspired by the countryside, large fields, forests, moss on the rocks; I can feel how much Siberia charms me, I’m going to go there.
I love water, the reflection on the water. The change of the seasons; in St Petersburg I like to shoot in Autumn, when the trees have no leaves, the sky is leaden, but there is still light that filters through the clouds like it’s saying “goodbye”, and in that moment it’s so much bright that all the colors and tones of the falling asleep Nature become alive for a trice which you mustn’t lose. There is something mystic in all this. I like Petersburg’s aura. I’m talking right about the soul, the aura, the invisible part, a particularly poetic mood. There are no words to describe it.
Do you ever go abroad? Do your travels influence your art somehow?
I like the on-the-road state of mind. I like to leave and to get back. New places always give a new push, a new impulse to creativity. I took a lot of my portraits in Italy and Sri Lanka. These portraits show unknown people from the streets. Just passengers, just people. The gray mass does not exist, anyone could be going through the crowd, but it’s quite enough to get him out of that crowd, to look into his eyes – the secret of the human soul opens up, a beautiful, inimitable world. I sometimes don’t understand the local saying “only eyes speak”, but they are really the mirror of the soul.
Sometimes the places I visited were not less interesting than people. I’d wish to transmit the beauty of the nature, but, you know, in a good landscape there should be a human being. So I was a little bit sorry I didn’t have a model next to me. I’m planning to keep traveling, to improve, to meet new people, to discover things and to show it to viewers. I’m only on the beginning of this journey.
So if you take a picture of a place you visit, why do you do that? Is that a memory you need to imprint, or it’s just your vision of the things you want to transmit?
I’m not interested in just cities and things without the presence of people. I sometimes can shoot something, but it’s just to get back there later, with someone who will be posing for me, someone whose story I want to tell. Even if I know that I won’t get back. But otherwise are just decorations. Only people can make them alive. On the other hand I can shoot whatever I want. For a memory.
And tell us something about that really expressive and emotive series of closeups! Who are those people? Where are they from? What are you trying to tell through these photos?
I will start from telling that all the emotion in these portraits comes our from the inside of people themselves. Just from the inside. I don’t ask anybody to specifically pose for me, unlike, let’s say, Lee Jeffries, where you can see people reaching out their hands, showing emotions on their faces to transmit something that the author wants. People on my pictures are photographed like for a passport and they do what they want being themselves. Their portraits talk for themselves and they live their own life. My manner as an artist is to underline the most important, to take off the superfluous and to show it on a platter.
I’m just a conductor, a link. It is for me a really important moment in photography in general. It has to be documentary, even though there is an evident artistic intention. The photo itself is important because it is able to bring through the time an information field invisible to the eye. You can see that field only with an inner sight, with feelings, heart, soul… I don’t know. But this is something more that just visual arts. This transmits real facts which is difficult to touch with your hands, or even to see with your eyes. It is magic, isn’t it? It is something with “no” form and the content can be conformable to the viewer.
Who are your models? You shoot really sensual and sensitive women portraits!
I try not to shoot professional models. It is really difficult to reach what they have inside of them. Photography for them is commonness, routine. They know how to pose and it is really difficult to me to break that knowledge, to find the real person behind it, not a game of feelings, but the feelings themselves. But this is not a principle and not a rule. Everything is possible, it’s just me who didn’t meet any.
It is really important. I need real and simple people, ready to tell their stories through the lens. And, thanks to God, there are such people. If to talk about women’s portraits, so they show some random acquaintances which has somehow captured my attention. How to show a woman is for me a big mystery. A woman herself is a big mystery. There are lots of people (were, are and will be) in this world that were trying, in one way or another, to unveil that mystery through the visual art. So whatever you see of mine about women’s beauty is just attempts, sketches, flashes, it is research. And for me is interesting to research and work in this direction, even though it is more difficult than shooting a portrait of a stranger down the street. Here you need a bit longer contact. But women are not simple creatures. I have to provide myself with patience. It happens often that they are not ready to see themselves as I see them. It’s a very delicate moment. But lately I have enough fortune to have mutual understanding, to be on the same wave.
I know only one thing, to see something in someone, you need first of all to have it inside of you. If you like my sensitive and sensual portraits of women, it means that you are sensitive and sensual. I just let to flow through myself the sensitivity, like any other human emotion, it is really hard, because the components can be both positive and negative. The most important thing is to find the strength: I had to submerge into anyone you see and not to invent, but to pull out the uppermost, the truth about this person and about myself as well, surely.
And what is your vision of nudes?
There is body’s sincerity and there is soul’s sincerity. A lot of photographers are nowadays interested about the first one, the body can explain the soul really well, but for this you have to forget about triviality. You have to shoot the soul, hidden inside the body, you have to see the harmony between two opposite materials. To me is an interesting deal. I do not invent a complicated plot, it all has to be simple as it is and as I see it. It is just important that the viewer believes in it, otherwise it’s all empty. In some kind of way it’s a test.
What are your next projects?
Shooting, shooting and, again, shooting. What the life suggests me to. To seek life, truth. Because life is not a manner of time nor space. There are ideas of stories about generations, about relationships between ages. Not all of my thoughts become reality, just when there is “His Majesty The Chance”! – it is the most important thing about photography!
Check Andrey’s full GALLERY on our FanPage!
Text and translation by Nina Sever // Questions in Russian edited by Natasha Fava