Julia Samoilova

Julia Samoilova


by Julia Samoilova (Russia)

I’m a beginner photographer. After my graduation from Samara Architecture University I moved to Moscow and decided to focus on graphic design and visual communication. But photography has always been my passion. At the moment I’m taking a course in Documentary Photography and working on my first project.

Portfolio from the Documentary workshop with Patrick Zachmann, October 2013.

Written review by ERIK VROONS,
Editor-at-large for GUP Magazine

Dear Julia,

I had a look at the pictures you produced during (and for) the documentary workshop with Patrick Zachmann and also read your statement. Let me highlight some elements and then comment on it:

Attracted to unusual aspects and unexpected sides hidden behind ordinary things.

This is a very necessary starting point for the kind of photography that you ambition to practice. In a way, it reflects what the Surrealist of the 1920s and 1930s attempted to establish and ever since people have explored the medium of photography as an apt medium to do so. This is just to say: you are in good company! But what exactly are the unusual aspects that deviate from the ordinary? What is mundane and when do things get unexpected? Isn’t urban life in metropolitan areas always about expecting the unexpected and with that, making the extraordinary becoming the ordinary state of being?

At the same time Street photography fascinates me.

I think that, when looking at your images, what you are looking for are the ordinary things – the behavior and gestures that we all see everyday when going through our cities – that, by photographing them, are becoming to look strange or extraordinary. And I think that this is a good starting point for your approach, but it still is a large ground to cover.

So now look at your statement again:

Artificial lights, reflections in glass-cases, faceless silhouettes and the play of light and shadows, forms, shapes and emotions - all these things appeal to me.

You have now specified a second layer of your interests, so that it can be stated that you can identify your photography as ‘Julia Samoilova makes street photography in the dark, within an atmosphere arriving from artificial light and reflections in glass.’

That is, in short, how I could describe you as a photographer, your work, if I had to explain it to others when they wouldn’t be able to see your images. I guess that the imagination would then indeed be stirred in a direction that somehow leads to your pictures. But would they be able to immediately say ‘ ah, these are those picures by Julia Samoilova!’ Maybe not, because the above description is still to general and might apply to others as well.

What I mean to stress here is the, not to be underestimated, significance of creating a personal signature in photography; a matrix of visual characteristics that, in its entirety, immediately and uniquely leads to you, the artist.

The word ‘ atmosphere’ is essential here, as it defines the feeling of a place; the emotional temperature. If I would number your pictures in the order (= 11 in total) then I would say that the images that best define a common atmosphere, that highlight recognizable (everyday) situations leads away from the mundane in a similar way, then I would say that picture #2, #4, #7, and #9, #10 and #11 are somehow belonging to each other; they define a certain urban atmosphere at night that everybody recognizes when seeing the pictures and also feel that – although all situations are different – somehow belong to each other.

Also, they significantly, they can be seen in that way because they share the fact that atmosphere in every of these individual pictures overrules the elements of time and place, in the way that the ‘real’ time of registration becomes less significant and also the actuality of the situation is not the main thing that matters.

This is an important characteristic, I think, that devides ‘reportage’ photography from the more artistic approach of the documentary maker, and even more of the street photographer – who doesn’t care so much about the subject and is more concerned about the atmospherical qualities of his/her work.

I think that the latter is also what should be your main focus, so that when you walk through the streets – always accompanied with your camera, that you never leave at home in order to be ready at any moment to capture the ‘unexpected’ or to ‘freeze’ the mundane and in that way making it strange –you are no longer thinking about what to photograph.

To summarize, my advise would be to continue exploring the places you know best at the times that you feel have the best potential to make it become unfamiliar when it is photographed, at the time (night) that you think has the best potential to create the atmosphere that would define your style as an artist. But to do so with forgetting about ‘subject’ - so less thinking, less brain activity – and more about recognizing how things that at first seem unrelated can share a certain emotional temperature.

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