I had the opportunity to spend some time with Inna Zaytseva, one of the most promising photographers of Moscow. Describing her story, she let me in on how she got into photography, what role film is playing for her and how delightful weddings can be.
Thanks to Giacomo, you can read the interview which was taken in English language. I guess it was the first one. Moreover, I am grateful for the pictures :)
How and when did you get into photography? – Everything started when I was 12 years old. My grandfather brought back an Olympus Mju II from the US as a present for my parents (but they rarely used it) - it was a simple point-and-shoot film camera that I stole and always carried with me.
Did you receive a formal education in photography? – No, I graduated from the National Research University Higher School of Economics of Moscow with a degree in Public Administration. After graduating, I contemplated working in the public administration of Moscow at first, but then decided against it as my passion for photography was stronger.
Did your family immediately realize your potential? – Everyone in my family is an aero-engineer, and, at the beginning, they did not consider photography to be more than a hobby. As a child, I was shooting all the time, and I first started to make money out of it when I was 17. I started shooting portraits, then weddings and commercial shootings. One day, when I showed one of my pictures to my grandfather he couldn't believe that it was shot by me. He was very impressed. This is when my family realized that photography was my calling. I had my first exhibition in Moscow just after having graduated from university.
Film or digital? – I'd say both. I started with film, which taught me a lot about photography. However, I then moved to digital, mostly because of work reasons. I was shooting so many weddings and commercial shootings that I neither had the time nor the energy to shoot for myself. To be honest, I am not a fan of editing! I wanted to follow my passion and keep shooting outside of work, which is when I rediscovered film photography. Shooting mainly medium format allowed me to appreciate and enjoy photography again, as well as to learn a great deal about it. Sometimes I'm lucky and clients ask me to use film cameras instead of digital ones, simply because people love the look it creates.
Your favorite film stock? – Since I mainly shoot people, I mostly use Kodak Portra, Fujifilm 160NC, HP5 and IlFord Delta.
Do you have a photographer whose work inspires you? – I generally get inspiration from paintings and movies, but I also like the contributions of Annie Leibovitz and Peter Lindbergh to the world of photography. However, I also very much respect other photographers who might not be as popular as these two; it's easy to become popular shooting celebrities, but greatness lies in those who can see the beauty of ordinary things.
What is the thing that you like the most about your job? – I love to see how I make people happy with my work. You see, there are many clients who initially, before hiring me for a shooting, are self-conscious and regard themselves as being less attractive and not photogenic. When they see the first pictures after the shooting, their impression of themselves can change completely. Seeing how my work makes them happy and helps them gain confidence is what brings me the most joy.
And what do you like the least? – Sometimes you've to deal with clients who regard you as being their servant, which is never a pleasant feeling. Also, it can happen that you're hired to shoot in a certain style, but then the client forces you to change it or to lower your standards of shooting, which can be very frustrating at times. I'm a professional, and I want to be able to get the best out of my camera and use my vision, creating high quality pictures.
What keeps you going when things get hard? – I consider myself to be very lucky, because I have amazing people around me - my family and my friends. They are always by my side and support me with everything I do- they are the ones who make me push forward in hard times.
What is the photo that you took or the project that you created that you're the most proud of? – A long time ago, when I wasn't a professional photographer yet, I was really proud of a picture of an elderly lady that I took in Saint-Petersburg. She was sitting on a chair in a courtyard between apartment buildings. My eyes were immediately drawn to her by her style and beauty. I remember that she was wearing a very unique blue hat and coat! Next time I went to Saint-Petersburg, I found her and gave a print. Today, my professional work which is closest to my heart and gives me the largest satisfaction is my project WHEELING HEART. Everyone who saw it exhibited at the Multimedia Art Museum of Moscow (MAMM) told me how those photos impressed them very much. I am greatly looking forward to the next exhibitions that are planned around Europe and USA!
How do you try to differentiate your work from the work of other photographers? – My pictures are generally simple. I tend to shoot a lot of portraits, and I always do my best to catch the real essence of my subjects, illustrating the beauty that I see in them through my lens.
Is there someone in your life that you're really grateful for? – My family. In particular, my grandfather, who passed away a few years ago. He lived his life in a way that taught me to be caring, trustworthy, and gentle with both my family and the people surrounding me. We shouldn't forget that after all, he's the one who brought my very first camera! I really owe a lot to him.
What is the funniest story that you remember related to your job? – All the stories that come to my mind are related to shootings that I had with couples. I can't really go into details, since some of the people might not want me to share their stories. Let's just say that working with couples or at weddings in general can be one of the funniest and most delightful experiences for a photographer!
All of a sudden, you can magically reach all the people in the world that would like to become professional photographers: what would you tell them? – Go with film! In our daily lives, we take far too many pictures with our phones, not enough with our digital cameras, even less with film cameras. It's the opposite that we should be doing. With film, where every picture costs you money, you think twice about aspects such as your composition and exposure, learning more and more about how to create and take the perfect picture.