Very often when I look at my work I think I have not done it good enough. It could have been better! Eventually, thinking this way just becomes automatic. Luckily not this time. I am very happy to share with you my recent work. It is a portrait of Sylwia. Miraculously everything is just right in this picture. The light, the pose, the hands, the legs, the colour, facial expression, the dress and Sylwia’s hair are exactly as I wanted them to be. And now I want to wish you all good luck with what you are doing now! There is always a big chance that it is going to be a great day, which will bring you an inspiration and fantastic outcome! Take care! x
“Afisha” continues a series of articles about the most important contemporary Russian photographers – how they work, what they daily see around them and what they think about it, as well as publish their latest work. In the third issue of magazine you can find an interview with Alexander Gronsky, a brilliant landscape photographer, who shoots the Moscow suburbs as they would be seen by Pieter Bruegel(a Flemish Renaissance painter) and shows us Siberian solitude as it is without any emotions or social connotations. (Image: © Alexander Gronsky / © Grinberg Gallery)
Interview with Alexander Gronsky by Alexander Gorbachev
Born in Tallinn (Estland, 1980) and Riga (Latvia) current resident, Alexander Gronsky started as a photojournalist and all of a sudden became the landscape photographer.
A.G.: You have been quite successful commercial photographer working for the magazines and then turned to landscape photography.
Alexander Gronsky: I always separated my commercial work with what I do just for myself. I have never associated my creative ambitions with the magazines. I enjoyed spending time alone, long and boring, to wander along with a camera and do not approach people. I’ve never been interested in telling stories, rather like to grab all in general. At some point I decided to make a story about a Golden Ring. There was no customer, I just went by myself. During this trip I realized that I did not want to tell anything specific about the Golden Ring. I just wanted to fill some emotions connected to this place. Frankly, the feeling of profanation persuaded me during all the time I was traveling. I was anxious; because I could not quite explain to myself why I was spending my money, staying in these hotels, walking to the outskirts and periphery … Then I came back. I looked at my work. I have got nothing special there – but suddenly I realized that this was the way I like to work. The anxiety, the possibility of doing something that you are not sure in and absolutely unjustified, this filling grabbed me. It was something very new and exciting in the way I felt. It was not clear for me if this is possible. That you can make a photograph with no character, no distinct center, no story about a person or a place. In fact, all of a sudden I tried to do something which has the reasons just for me. It seems like I’m shooting something, which in reality is an interpreted self-portrait or my inner fillings in a certain place. Then I decided that I want to continue working only this way.
A.G.: Did you immediately realize that your genre is the landscape?
Alexander Gronsky: In fact, when I started seriously photographing what, in essence, is the landscape. I started looking through oeuvre of other photographers – and it became clear that I was for many years reinventing the wheel.
A.G.: Who you consider to be influential photographers?
Alexander Gronsky: Certainly, there are many of them. Conventionally, they are usually divided into the German and U.S. school. German school includes all the Düsseldorf’s guys: Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff and the others. The American school has a bit longer tradition starting from Edward Weston and beyond: Joel Sternfeld and so on. In fact, there are much more of them. Well, Sugimoto, of course. He does frame himself in one genre, but I perceive him as a landscape photographer – in my understanding of the landscape.
A.G.: What is your understanding of landscape? What is a landscape?
Alexander Gronsky: My definition of a landscape is very vague. Landscape photography is a photography which does not have any central object, but has some compound interaction between different things. In my understanding, even a portrait can be a landscape, if it does not have any obvious center. Thomas Ruff has the very well-known project, for which he made the portraits as the passport photos. In my opinion, they do not have the attempt to focus on personality and reveal something about the person, conventionally believed to be mandatory for portraiture. As for me it was more a study of a person’s face as a landscape. This non-obviousness is very exciting.
A.G.: In your photographs are almost always depicted the border regions, desolated and weird. This does not coincide with a classic, narrow-minded view of the landscape.
Alexander Gronsky: Well, I like them, these areas. In fact, there is one technical aspect you cannot avoid. A classic beautiful landscape – some sunset by the river – is overloaded with characters and symbols that already joined together and formed the ready clichés. Too much energy needs to be spent to oppose these established ideas. Therefore, you want to go to a clean (blank) territory with the minimum of pre-cooked symbolic clichés, so you can play with them in your own way. City for me is too much supersaturated environment, richly filled with too many characters (symbols and signs). Nature is too simple, unambiguous, monosemantic. That is why; just border territories can capture and give needed excitement.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Alexander Gronsky, from the Pastoral Series.
My task was to make 9 portrait shoots of 9 people in a style similar to some famous portrait photographer. It must become a series of portraits in one style. I’ve chosen a glamour photo of Samuel L. Jackson made by James Cheadle. It is a glamour portrait, not that much a real portrait as made by Irvin Penn or other famous photographers. But anyway… I did what I have chosen. Frankly, next time I will prepare better with poses, lightning and everything. This time it was very hectic in the beginning, but it went fine after all. Angela helped me a lot in building a set-up for the series of portrait shoots. We used tree lamps: one soft-box for face lightning, one snoot for hair lightning and one lamp with a reflector and grid for background.
Camera settings: ISO 200, f/4.5 with 24-70 mm lens
I have measured the light coming from the snoot. To do this you put a light-meter in the direction of snoot. The measure I’ve got was f/4.5. The light overall was measured pointing the light-meter in the camera direction and measurements were f/4.5 with a minor difference. Background measurements showed 1 or 2 stops difference with others (f/2 or f/2.8).
What the most important here is that with all that set-up build, we still needed to cover the reflections and the light on model’s body and right side of the background (from camera view). There were used two black reflectors (which do not let the light through them) to avoid too much light coming to body and letting it fall just on the model’s hands and face.