– You once said that when I first crossed the threshold of a photo studio, you felt: I’m at home. Since then, more than thirty years have passed.
Still feeling the same?
– Absolutely. My inspiration helps me even more.
– Is the source of inspiration nature? At least, it seems so when you look at your work: there are flowers, vegetables, animals, butterflies.
– Nature – in the essence of my work. I love to photograph her.
In 2010, I published the book Beginnings (Origins), in which I examined the parallels between the wonders of nature and the cycle of human life. I like to talk about this connection, because it’s important: we take too much for granted.
The last couple of years, there has been constant talk about global warming, about how we protect the planet. And this is also reflected in my work. Newborns – the ideal representatives of mankind.
Birth means purity, absolute good, it is a symbol of renewal.
– But now we live at a time when the greatest inspiration seems to come from the Internet and social networks. What do you think about it?
Avoid or, on the contrary, find something new for yourself?
– Rather, avoid. Millions of photos that are taken and laid out every day: here is my breakfast, but this I ate for lunch. To some, this is true, it seems interesting …
– Do you use the camera on the phone?
“Sometimes I play around, but the phone hasn’t replaced my camera.” Your idea comes from the heart and turns into an image. And the camera is just an intermediary recording device.
But quality still matters.
– You took the camera for the first time in 25 years, despite the fact that you have never studied anywhere before. Often people are afraid to start something new, change their lives.
What helped you not to get scared?
– I was terrified! Even now, while shooting, I’m often nervous.
But if you are not afraid, then you do not force yourself to move forward.
– It turns out, to be afraid is good. That is what would advise novice photographers?
– Yes. Anyone who wants to start something new: take the first step, just move in the desired direction, and some nerves on this path are just a help. And also: if you want to become a professional photographer, what can you tell?
You have to say something in your work. Repeating the same thing from frame to frame, as most now does, is a test.
And this can not be called art. We need to put in a thought that will make the viewer think differently about himself and about the photo that is in front of him.
She has to touch people.
– Was there a person in your life who helped you with such advice?
“When I started 35 years ago, no one did what I did, and I laid a new path. I never studied photography, so I didn’t know the rules, I didn’t even know that they exist. And still, by the way, I don’t know if they are needed.
It is necessary to be original, to invent your own idea, which you will become to embody.
– Do you know about plagiarism: now many are filming in your style!
– I often talk about it, but I do not think that these pictures are similar to mine. The only thing common in the frames is that there and there are children.
– After 35 years of communication with children, can you say that now you know all the ways in which you can calm a child?
– Probably 98% percent of them. But the most important thing is to build everything around the child’s regime.
If you see a sleeping baby in a photo, it means that he is full, warm and feels good. If he laughs, it means that at this moment he is happy.
Children can’t pretend. I find it funny when I meet ads for experienced 6-month models in children’s model agencies.
I do not think that there are experienced people in 6 months.
– Does the agency help you choose children for filming?
– I do not use model agencies. I’ll tell you how I organized the first shooting when we first moved to New York, in 2014.
I conceived the Zodiac Signs project, and for him I needed about 34 children. And newborns, and 6-, 7-month.
My older daughter, Stephanie, my producer, offered to place an ad on Facebook. There we registered a certain age (newborns or 6–7 months), place of residence (New York) and asked to fill out a questionnaire. When a day later I asked if anyone had answered, Stephanie said: “Yes, 500 people.”
As a result, we received 3400 profiles. And the conditions did not bother anyone, there were even couples from Russia. On the one hand, it is pleasant, on the other – responsibly, when you have to refuse so many people.
As a result, we chose those children whose parents lived closer to the studio, so as not to disturb their distant journeys. But I definitely do not arrange any auditions and auditions – all babies are beautiful.
– You also have a project in which you show how the children you were shooting in infancy now look like. What surprises you these meetings 20 years later?
– With someone we have maintained relationships during this time. For example, Maneesha, whom I shot tiny in the hands of a black man.
Now she is 24, she is a photographer and came to my studio for a couple of times for an internship. As for the other children, I threw a cry on the site so that someone responded.
It was so great to receive news. Most are now 25 years old. Amazing what they have achieved in that time.
Someone participated in the Olympics, received a degree, traveled around the world. It’s nice to think that at some point I was a part of their life.
– Have you ever met people who didn’t like your work?
“Maybe they just didn’t tell me about it, ha ha ha.” In fact, as an artist, you always destroy stereotypes. And I developed such an attitude.
If two-thirds love what you do, and one-third do not, you do a great job. I’m more worried about how someone’s critical opinion can affect teenagers on the same social networks.
Recently I spoke with a girl who has a lot of subscribers. She became a mom the other day.
And he does not post images of his child anywhere. Because what gets into the network remains there forever.
And it scares, if you think seriously.
“Both your daughters have chosen the profession of a photographer …”
– Despite the fact that they grew up in the studio, I was surprised when both decided to choose this path. And a little worried. It’s hard to get you noticed.
I was lucky to start a career at the time when postcards and calendars were popular. Now everything is different.
Even I seek a balance between continuing what I am doing and at the same time remaining in the game. For example, organizing a photo session in 12 frames for a calendar is very expensive.
And at that moment, when it is released, it immediately appears on the Internet in free access. How to combine earnings and art?
That’s what I worry about.
– When a family of photographers gets together, the discussion of the work is inevitable?
– Girls do not remove children, they work in the field of fashion. Stephanie lives with us in New York, and Kelly lives in Sydney, Australia.
It’s nice that we can always discuss something about work and understand each other. But we are an ordinary family.
“Our magazine is called Happy Parents.” What does mom or dad need to consider themselves happy?
– Being a parent is not easy. Recently, the topic of postpartum depression and the like has often been discussed.
The child appears in the house and introduces a lot of chaos, subordinates his mood. It is important not to lose yourself in motherhood.
Children want to know who you are by yourself. This is the best way to influence them – by example.
After all, if you think about it, you will spend most of your life communicating with adult children. And it is important that at the time when you cared for them as babies, you should not forget about yourself.