Jurij Treskow: "The main thing is to analyze what you are doing" Gothic romanticism of Jurij Treskow.
A modern photographer is a skilled master whose works reflect the achievements of the past years and the unique life experience of the author. He is smart, thoughtful, and open to everything new. Jurij Treskow is a young and promising European photographer with Belarusian roots. He draws inspiration from everything: personal experiences, books read, music heard, soul-touching paintings, life situations. In his work, all the little things in life are important.
On the day of the interview, there was terrible heat, and it seemed that there was no mood for heart-to-heart conversations. When I entered the cafe, Jurij was sitting in the company of friends from Minsk, chatting with them casually and easily. But when I arrived, it became apparent that the talented and successful European photographer became noticeably nervous. We sat for about fifteen minutes without the recorder on, talking about the weather and other things. Only after that did the conversation begin:
In the field of art, there is always debate: do you need academic education or not? Do you have a professional photography education or are you self-taught?
I am self-taught. Any education can be both useful and harmful. So it all depends on the person. Technical skills are indeed better confirmed during education, but the vision of the frame depends on a person's personal experience, how they see the world. This can only be learned independently by delving deep into yourself. I would advise beginners in photography to first try themselves: pick up a camera and take some pictures. Try to analyze your work independently, and then you can try to learn from others. However, if the learning process is not easy, don't give up on what you've started. Believe in yourself and strictly evaluate your results. The main thing is to analyze what you are doing, self-analysis.
You shoot a lot in fashion style, is fashion photography an art form?
To be honest, I have not yet decided for myself whether photography as a whole is an art form. Nowadays, it is challenging to understand what contemporary art is and in what context to perceive it. There is too much information. For example, you can take the classic canon of art perception: if an artist's works were published, exhibited in galleries, no one doubted that it was art. Photography, unlike painting, is a relatively new form of creativity. And, as in anything new, people have doubts, and there are many opinions. It turns out that perception is entirely individual. If you consider photography an art form, great. If not, then it's not. Personally, it doesn't matter to me whether everyone recognizes photography as art. In each specific case, this dilemma is solved by both the viewer and the author. After all, the author can call his works art, and no one dares to forbid him to think so. There is also a situation when the viewer considers the author's works art, but he thinks that he just does something well and does not even aspire to art. Although, if you combine all these options, perhaps that is the true art itself.
You lived in Berlin and recently moved to Paris. I think you can analyze the state of photography in Belarus and in Europe.
I am not very familiar with Belarusian photography. But, of course, the Belarusian level cannot be compared with the French or German one. After all, in Europe, it is already a serious industry. An industry indeed. And here, it seems to me, something is just beginning to emerge... then it degenerates, not yet having time to develop, then it emerges again. However, there is a certain charm to this too, because the Belarusian market is only just forming. And that means that people who are now engaged in photography can influence it, taking and using what has been achieved in Europe for decades, and adapting it to the Belarusian market, bringing in their own flavor. This is a huge responsibility! And a lot depends on these people. It is important where they direct their efforts... Although, wherever they direct it, it may well happen that other guys will come and fundamentally redirect it. At present, there is nothing permanent.
You say that in Europe, photography is part of the industry. Does this commercial focus hinder the development of the artistic potential of photography?
It depends on the direction of photography. For example, fashion photography benefits from it because there are many print publications where large brands buy entire spreads. It is these brands that develop the fashion industry. At the same time, there is mutual development between brands and publications; they stimulate each other, as well as the professionals involved in this process: journalists, photographers, models, designers, stylists, etc. Therefore, no one stops at what has been achieved. Thus, they support each other.
As for art photography, this line of photography develops independently. Its fundamental difference is that many people engaged in art in the West are initially wealthy people who do not "worry" about making money. They rarely sell their works. And this is a significant difference from Belarusian guys. It's hard to answer whether this is good or not; I recently tried to answer this question for myself. When a person has limitations, they start trying to wriggle out, looking for some non-standard solution to problems. But at the same time, I believe that an artist should be well-fed. They should not constantly think 70% about how to eat, how to earn extra money to pay for housing, and 30% about art. For example, Richard Avedon said that sometimes he shoots what he doesn't like at all, but he gets big money for it. But over time, we only know his best works.
How do you think, is professional equipment important in photography?
There are two opinions on this matter. And, in my opinion, both are correct. The first one: "a real artist can shoot even with a matchbox, while another person, even with the most expensive camera, still won't be able to make a worthwhile shot." But on the other hand, it is desirable for someone who is professionally engaged in photography to have the opportunity to use the cameras they need for the convenience of creating a shot. Because different cameras produce different images. In the context of an exhibition, for example, it is important for the photographs to be printed. And this requires a certain quality. So even this affects the choice of the camera. Good and expensive photo equipment is a great support in work. The main thing is that it does not get in the way but only helps to achieve the result. Do not refuse convenience. Harmony in work with both people and technology is important.
In Minsk, you can very often see young people who walk around with cameras, take mediocre shots, and call themselves photographers. Is there such a massive wave of photography obsession in Europe?
In Europe, there are even more people carrying cameras. This is due to the fact that financial opportunities there are much higher. However, Europeans, when introducing themselves to each other, do not talk about their profession. And if they do touch on this topic, they only choose one direction of their activity. Not like in Belarus: "I am a photographer, and also a bit of a DJ and also studying somewhere." But there is nothing wrong with people taking photos and calling themselves photographers. Because everything in life is very vague and confusing. The main thing is to take good photos. After all, who are the judges? Moreover, many started this way: they carried a camera with them, intuitively clicked the shutter. Something worked out, more often it did not, but this is not "robbing banks."
It seems to me that to some extent, an excessive number of photos "clutters" the vision and taste of an ordinary person.
Nothing can be done, this is the situation now. I can only say one thing: everyone pursues their goal. If a person just wants to "hang out" and "show off," then they will "hang out" a little. But then, not having achieved serious results, they will move on to something else. And maybe they will achieve results just because the viewer suddenly unanimously decides: "this is cool." After all, this is also possible.
With which publications and brands do you collaborate?
I have collaborated with magazines such as "Sleek," "I Want," "Вся Европа," "Сhew magazine," "Сlam," "Doberman," "Achtung," "Deutsch." Moreover, there is a trend of print publications transitioning to the Internet. In this regard, I managed to collaborate with the online publication vogue.com. At the moment, a new magazine is launching in Moscow. My photos will be there too, but it's still a small secret. As for brands, they include Patrick Hellmann, Kilian Kerner, Ansoho, Tiger of Sweden, Kavier Gauche, Sisi Wasabi, Lala Berlin, and Rob Ert.
Tell us about the circumstances under which you received your first serious shoot order for a magazine.
My first serious job was offered by the magazine "Вся Европа" (All Europe). It's a glossy publication aimed at Russian emigrants and distributed in Western Europe. I met the editorial staff, became friends with them, and had the opportunity to become an assistant on one of their photoshoots. However, during the shooting process, the clients realized that things were not going as they would have liked. A lucky break occurred: mainly my photos ended up being printed. After this shoot, I received an order from Patrick Hellmann, a friend of the "All Europe" publishers. He is to Germany what Ralph Lauren is to America. That was the first important step that contributed to my professional growth and trust among clients. After that, I took a risk and dropped out of university, where I was studying economics, to fully devote myself to photography. However, I still believe that any higher education stimulates the brain, which also affects creative activity.
Some photographers lean more towards black and white photography, while others prefer color. What are your preferences?
About ninety percent of the time, I shoot in black and white. At this stage of my creative journey, this aesthetic is closer to me. I always tell clients that after the shoot, they can see both black and white and color versions of each shot. In the end, the client chooses the option that suits them best. As a rule, the choice still falls on black and white photography.
When clients come to you, do they already have ready-made plots for the shoot?
Everything is individual, and preliminary discussions of the shoot differ significantly from the actual shoot. You can discuss anything, but when the day of the shoot comes, much of the planned material will ultimately not be used. And that's not a bad thing. For me, personally, the shooting process is always completely spontaneous. But sometimes, a client comes with specific ideas, and you act as a screw that needs to be tightened for the mechanism to work. However, this doesn't mean you work automatically. Sometimes the clients' ideas are interesting, but more often, they are not.
When you do creative projects not related to commerce, do you create an image, construct frames, and plan the entire shoot in advance?
It varies. For example, I am currently working on the "Demons" project. Of course, it's better to see them. It is difficult for me to formulate and describe everything in words. Even for myself, let alone for others. Photography is not a story that needs to be told. It needs to be seen. When I mentally prepare these stories, I have some visions. They are rather vague and related to how these stories can be realized through the language of photography. To make the images in my head more vivid, I try to direct the course of my thoughts using music and various media resources. And then all this together creates a cohesive product during the shoot itself. However, the shooting process is still largely spontaneous.
Tell us about the feelings you experience during a shoot.
Let me think... The feelings are always completely contradictory. From the feeling when you feel like you are on cloud nine with happiness: you catch the moment and feel that this is the very photo, for which, perhaps, the shoot was done or even why you are involved in photography in general. But this happiness lasts only a fraction of a second. It is a frame that can fuel you for a long time. On the other hand, very often, something doesn't work out, something doesn't come together, and you doubt whether you are doing the right thing. At such moments, you want to quit, and doubts arise. But doubting is good.
Do those frames that bring you to a state of euphoria during the shoot and processing evoke the same emotions in you afterward?
The most vivid and deep feelings are during the shoot. You don't yet know how everything will look in the end, but you have this intuitive feeling that everything is coming together: the right contact with the model occurs, creating a spark. When processing photos, you are also incredibly happy. But this is a secondary feeling. It also nourishes you, gives energy, but the brightest is during the shooting process.
Is it easy to achieve this spark from the model, which you are talking about?
There is an opinion that any girl can be photographed beautifully and achieve that spark from her. But not everything depends only on me because I am working with a person, not an object. Human relationships are taking place. So I try to meet with the model in advance. I talk to her for about fifteen minutes on unrelated topics to somehow feel whether I can achieve the desired result during the shoot or not. But this is also not an indicator, although it is a good tactic. The shooting process is not just about flashes and shutter clicks; it's about communication between the photographer and the model, and some relationships are formed. Usually, those very coveted frames are obtained just towards the end of the shoot. They appear precisely when you start trusting each other more.
Do you feel comfortable shooting when you are on the set one-on-one with the model, or does the presence of other people not matter to you?
It depends on the project. In commercial photography, the client is always present during the shoot. The same goes for fashion shoots in general. It's not about photographing the model but presenting the clothes. People need to understand and realize this. Thanks to fashion photography, people should want to buy the clothes. In this case, professionals such as stylists and makeup artists need to be on set. So, it's essential to find assistants who understand their duties well: making sure the clothes fit the model perfectly, the hairstyle remains impeccable throughout the shoot, and the makeup doesn't smudge. These professionals notice things I may not when I'm busy with the lighting, the model's image, composition, etc. But for my creative projects, I prefer to work alone with the model. Of course, it's better to work in such conditions, as strangers can be distracting.
Is it easier for you to work with a professional model, or does their level of preparation not matter?
Let me put it this way: professional models are experts in their field, and they can help you take excellent photos very quickly. However, they may lack the spark that amateur models have, and they may rely on overused poses, facial expressions, and so on. When a girl comes to the shoot for the first time, there's a chance to capture something unique. However, that's often not the case because they're usually shy and reserved. Professional models can quickly immerse themselves in the shooting process and get into the right emotional state, so there's usually more work with beginner models. But sometimes a girl is naturally talented, and it shows right away: her gaze and poses are exciting and original. That's the charm of it: you never know what the final result will be.
Has there been a situation where a client was not satisfied with your work?
Yes, you need to be prepared for that. In such situations, I initially get very upset because I take my work seriously and ideally want all parties to be satisfied. The best way to address the problem is to discuss it with the client, not to close off and say, "you didn't understand me." If that doesn't work, draw conclusions and try to avoid this next time. It's a lesson. Not a mistake, but experience! And it's a creative process. No one is immune. Reasonable clients are usually prepared for anything.
Are you as nervous before shoots as you were before today's interview?
Every time. No matter how well-prepared everything is, I still get nervous. And that's good because I feel that if I start shooting without being nervous, something is already wrong. When you're nervous, you doubt whether you'll take good photos. It pushes you forward. Though it does consume a lot of energy.
Do you think a photographer needs intellect and knowledge in other forms of art, or does it get in the way?
For a photographer, life experience is essential. But they should also be a well-rounded individual. By being interested in other forms of art, you bring in your unique qualities as a master. It enriches and harmonizes your work. Moreover, you interact with other people, and to win them over, you also need to possess intellect.
Who do you photograph more often, girls or boys?
Mostly girls. Boys – very rarely. That's just how it turned out. Since my portfolio has more photos of girls, people mostly ask me to photograph girls. And female models are more suitable for this business. A male model is still a strange phenomenon for me, with very few exceptions.
Who is your ideal photographer?
Rather than ideals, there are people who inspire admiration and respect in me. These include Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon, mainly from the old school. I'm more interested not in what they did but how they got there – more interested in their biographies and individual interviews. For me, as a photographer, this is a kind of school. I try to understand why they got into this business, how they got there, and what they did for it. Often, this is very helpful during work. They are, in some sense, philosophers. Very interesting people.
Tell us about the woman you photograph, the one you try to capture and express in your works?
I think this woman is, deep down, a single entity. She might exist somewhere. And somehow, I try to capture her using photography. Perhaps some features of one woman are caught, but I don't know who this woman is yet. At this stage of my development, this woman is both strong and weak, delicate and coarse – she is all-encompassing. I have photographed many girls, and now it's hard for me to specifically express the features of this one girl. But I try to photograph any model in a way that makes them appear beautiful to me. Lately, I have been shooting more "Demons." In this project, the girls are not classically beautiful and look quite gloomy. Before that, I mostly photographed classically beautiful girls. Some changes are happening within me, but I don't know how to express them in words yet. I answered somewhat vaguely…
Interview by Olga Mzhelskaya