Mikhail Potapov is an accomplished art photographer who is constantly searching to discover something new. His work is brilliant and diversified: street photography, documentary, nature photography or mood. He quotes: “I'm collecting moments in life. A photographer is like a treasure hunter, he searches and digs. And if he digs into himself, he will find treasures in all different styles.”
Today, he allowed us to dig a little into his life, his strong personality and has given us the opportunity to fully understand the meaning and stories behind his work.
I'm Mikhail Potapov, 34 years old, and I live in Russia, Rostov-on-Don. By education I am a teacher, I am sportsman and I teach children judo. I like travelling, as it is hard for me to stay at one place for a long time, I'm always waiting for the opportunity to quit everything and go somewhere else, to discover new places, I love travelling by car. I also like to listen to intelligent people.
How did your story and life experience affect your photography?
It is a good question! I started taking pictures not so long ago, being a youth I was not fond of photography as I had other hobbies. I bought my first camera in 2010, though we had a camera in my family before that.
My life experience, for sure, is the basis of my vision of photography and it helps me a lot. It happened that I have developed a good understanding of people, I know what one can expect of someone, I can see falsehood, deceit, I feel it quite well. Unfortunately there are very few honest and open people in the world. I have the same view on photography. For me the main thing is "either I believe it or I don’t"! In my opinion a picture must be honest and natural. The viewer should not see or feel the presence of the photographer.
Which are your most important experiences that have influenced your art?
Probably it will not be a standard answer. It's hard to impress and surprise me. And I cannot say immediately whether I am influenced by something or not. When I started to think about what I would shoot, the main thing for me was, to become different from others, not to shoot what other photographers shoot, to see things in my own way, in a different way. I'm partly influenced by films, although I'm not a movie fan, I do not like special effects, I generally do not like modern cinema, where at every step we see light and shadows on the face. For me one thing is important: I must feel, experience sadness or happiness the moment I'm shooting. My state of mind has a strong influence on my photos. It's important to me that the viewer feels these emotions. In reality, I can call myself a loner, a bit romantic, although I don't like this word, that's why I often show loneliness in my pictures, only one person and the world around him.
What first attracted you to photography?
When I started to take pictures, I realized that I was resting doing that, I was distracted from everything, I was moving into another dimension, this is a great hobby, my camera is my friend!
Please, describe your overall photographic vision, Mikhail.
My photographic vision! As I wrote above, honesty is important for me, I create conditions for shooting and get the right moment, an unusual moment. Sometimes this moment is given to me by people, or by nature. For example my photo with a dog that ran into the frame. The dog persistently ran around, played, licked the lens and he also gave me this picture. Sometimes it seems to me that some of the shots are given to me, like some carte blanche, bypassing the years of experience, I was not ready for them, but for some reason I was lucky.
And perhaps the most important thing is that I do not see the world as beautiful neather as ugly, I see the reality of the world!
Your work is very diversified. Why are you drawn by so many styles in Photography?
I like progress in photography, the constant discovery of something new, I really like streets, nature, mood, documentary photography, I collect moments, moments of someone's life and it will be easier for me to look for them in different styles. I believe that if I shoot in the same style, I will start to be repetitive, the frames will look alike. Each of my photos should be better than the previous one, although this is not easy. The photographer is like a treasure hunter, he searches, he digs, if you dig in one place with others, you would share with them. And if you dig yourself, then you will have everything of what you would find!
What is more important to you, the mood or story behind your images or the technical perfection?
May I answer with a question? And what is more important for you: a technically perfect picture, but without history and mood, or a technically not perfect picture, but the one, which has a special meaning, has its history? I guess I'll choose the golden middle, but with more emphasis on history and mood. Probably because, I did not grow up exposed to films with a good picture, like the modern generation, I remember the moment in 1989 when my family got a Japanese video player Sanyo. My parents forbade me to talk about it at school, at that time people could easily commit a crime for getting such equipment, it did cost an insane amount of money in our country. The image that we had on our TVs was far from perfect, there was no colour, no light, no quality sound. But the big unknown attracted us to the screen and it was much stronger than the quality of the picture. I really love movies about the war, and have respect for the military documentary photographers. The technical perfection is not important because their works tell a real story and give the best perception of the moment it happened.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
I am guided by the principle, "I came, I saw, I conquered! "And, of course, a lot depends on the conditions, first of all, light is very important for me, I like to shoot at dawn and for me a gift of nature is foggy weather. The choice of location is often an experiment, I visit the place for the first time, the right choice and luck, of course gives a successful shot. If I watch someone, then I'm waiting for an interesting moment, but usually I do not wait long, I either foresee that something will happen soon or I am just lucky.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I have Sony equipment, my cameras: a900, a550, nex5, a6000; optics Sony 70-400 G2, and my favourite Minolta 400mm 4.5 G HS. I have two backpacks which I use periodically.
What software do you use to process your images?
The latest licenses are Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom.
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
Honestly speaking, my work starts before I press the shutter button. It's not so easy to create a correct composition in the frame and it does not always work out. I like very much the good colour, here the most important thing is that colour work begins at this moment. Next, the choice of the frame, the picture on a small screen of the camera is very different from viewing it on the monitor. When I scroll through the pictures I must have some emotions, whether it's sadness, some mysterious feelings, some special mood and it is very bad when I do not feel anything, so I understand that there is nothing interesting in that series. Then I work with Lightroom, a little work with colour, export, move to Photoshop, I do not like to sit for a long time on one frame, the picture should be taken correctly initially, that's why I prefer light post processing, mainly of colour.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Photography and how do you get started?
Nowadays there are lots of photographers everywhere, there are a lot of them in Russia too, and everyone who has a camera considers himself a photographer.
But let's think, is everyone able to play the violin?
And do it at a high level?
Or does everyone have a voice like Luciano Pavarotti?
But if you still come to photography, you must have courage, nothing happens quickly, only patience and work, experiments, and most importantly the development of the vision of the image frame. As in life, in photography, you can have a person who will correctly direct you, or adjust your direction. Remember the game of billiard? You hit the ball, you see its unsuccessful trajectory, but by some coincidence of circumstances, another ball bouncing from the board directs your ball into the pocket, what is it? I was lucky to have a person directing me. When many people criticized my works at the time, he said that I was on the right track and always advised and directed me. I'm very grateful to him!
The simplest thing that I can advise is to observe the works of other photographers, especially in the 1х gallery. This is the best place to be. Here you can find examples of works of different styles, different moods, different processing of photographs. Looking at these works, it will be easier for you to create fine compositions. A good start for beginners often is about the composition of a frame!
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly? How do you appreciate your work?
I do not know many photographers, but everyone knows these names, Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado, Henri Cartier Bresson. Probably a very trivial answer.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has influenced you a great deal and why?Yes! Photo by Luís Godinho, which is posted on the cover of the 1x Visions book, I regret that I'm not the author of this work, my respect for the photographer!
There are a lot of amazing works in the 1xgallery . And recently Gilbert Claes shared the link of photographer Nick Brandt on Facebook. If someone did not see his works, one should look for it. This photographer has his special vision of the frame! My regards to Nick!
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take in your life?
I still have a lot of things to learn, looking at the work on 1x I understand that I am still not quite as good as I want to be. For sure I will continue to work, taking pictures during my trips, look for new moments, participate in different competitions, hold my own exhibitions, and in the future I want to publish my own book with my photos. I hope that I still didn't take the most important photo of my life.
Describe your favourite photo taken by you and why it is special to you?
Yes, there is such a picture called “Summer”
It remains my favourite, probably because it gives me peace, hope, romance, a charge of energy.
I suppose it will be good to create a new similar series.
I have another picture which I love a lot too. This photo was included in the 10th anniversary photo book "X" and titled “Face off”. It's a great honour for me, thank you!
Is there anything else you want to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I am very glad that there is such a photo site. When I subscribed to 1x, I immediately felt new inspiration and growth. My gratitude to the whole team of 1x and all the photographers who share their vision here!
In this community there is mutual respect, understanding, there is a special relationship between photographers, people of different nationalities, different faiths and views. The photos unite us, we observe the whole world, and show people the world through our eyes.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Respectfully, Mikhail Potapov!
With special thanks to our proofreader Hans ML Spiegel