To Die but to Survive
interview with Eugeny Kozhevnikov by Alina Savin
When/Where were you born?
born in 1969 in a of Ulan-Ude, capital of Buryatiya, near lake Baikal,
Where did you spend your childhood?
was 2 years old my family moved to Sakhalin, then after 2 years - to
Moscow where I still live. So, most of my childhood was spend in
Where did you study?
in a high school, then in an institute of technology in the garment
industry, now it is Academy of Design and Technology, my first
speciality is designer of clothes. Then I became graphic designer,
Did any experience in your childhood make
you decide to take photographs?
pictures first during high school then in the institute - mostly
friends and beautiful girls. Then, for long 15 years this hobby has
brother also took sports photos. Our photo lab was at home, in a small
dark room in my parents apartment.
Does any vision from childhood persist in
my childhood were slices from another parallel world. And that world
seems more interesting and more dense than ours. I still have this
Since when do you take photographs? How did
to work seriously as a photograph in the summer of 2001. At that time
I was working as the designer in an advertising-polygraphic
production. Sometimes, personally it was necessary to take photos for
the execution an order. It was easier to do them myself, than to
explain to other photographers what I needed.
Do you have any studies of photography?
No, I am
a self-educated person.
When did you start to participate in
half a year of taking pictures for fun I received an invitation to
participate in an exhibition. It was the autumn of 2001. In 2004 I
made the project “STUDIUM: IMAGE” where I was both the organizer and
What means to you to be an artist in
Moskow? What means this town to you?
difficult to answer this question. Moscow is the city where I live, I
breathe. It is always with me, in me. Sometimes it exhausts me, but
more often gives me gifts.
How do you describe your artistic
evolution? Was it simple, linear?
think of my career I think of a river. You know, the river is a
stream, a stream of creativity. I begins with the source, then with
many streamlets feeding it, and further it runs into the sea of art,
or disappears in the sand of daily life. The source - figurative
thinking, fantasy perception of the world, is born with every
individual. Since my childhood I looked at clouds or saw in wall
cracks freakish persons. My streams are illustration books, my skill
to draw, my training as a designer of clothes, my sexual desires and
embodiments, my search of an ideal partner. Many streams flow in this
Did you discover your own style
immediately? What is style? How would you define your style?
already have above mentioned, when I started taking photos for the
second time I was already prepared. Prepared by my abilities (drawing,
creative thinking), prepared by my formation (designer of clothes),
prepared by my present job (illustrator, designer of advertising
production). Therefore, I can tell, that I had a style from the
beginning. All my photos have something in common. What is style? I
think, that style is the consciousness and the conscience of the
artist. Conscience and technical skills. The artist needs to embody
his imagination. The one who feels himself to be the creator, who
masters techniques and who can carry out his own projects - has style.
If one of these components is not present he is not an artist, he is a
"craftsman" or "pupil".A mental or a technological plagiarist. Many
people are like this some of them are good advertising photographers.
My style … From the technical point of view is photo digital
manipulation: alteration of the images by the computer. This style is
synthetic. It is classical
fantastic and a decadent. We shall name it: a new erotical decadence.
Do you have a personal vision in
photography? Describe it. What is the origin of your photographs?
(inner visions, travel into your mind and spirit, thoughts etc)
always interested in photos that tell histories. Then, in a certain
harmony. And last –in sexuality, sensuality. However, these things can
alternate. Beautiful history of sexuality and gloomy pressure of
restrictions. These are my works.
beauty of people and situations are fleeting. It can be created and
fixed in a photo. To write oneself the history.
Is creativity more important to you than
education? During the Middle Ages, scholars believed that creativity
was “divine inspiration”. In the 19th century, they
believed it was a cognitive process. What do you think? What means to
you to be creative?
that 21-th century will tell us about the synthesis of “divine
inspiration” and “cognitive processes”. I can see both components in
the creative process. They intertwine so closely, that it is
impossible to divide them.
technical skills I cannot make a good photo, without inspiration - the
photo is faceless, only sulfur and is uninteresting. Very often the
emotional component of the process is much more interesting than the
result - a photo which will be judged by other people. «To die, but to
survive.» wrote John FOWLES about theatre. And during shooting - I
experience together with my models that experience, that illusion of a
life or death which we photograph. And the inspiration here has the
Your photographs look like paintings. Why?
What means painting to you?
What painters do you admire? Did you ever
try to paint? Are your photographs a sort of painting?
I saw too
many pictures. I have visited the huge art museums of Russia. No, I
was not engaged in painting.
Tell me about the esoteric components of
your photography. Why do you try to transform reality? What is reality
that, as well as many present artists do, to be doomed to be situated
very close to “god”- the creator. Even if this god is just in people`s
minds. We create, compensating for the people the feeling of fear in
front of life, the feeling of discomfort, the feeling of constant
stresss. The erotic photographer takes you away, you receive positive
emotions and colorful sensations. For 5-6 hours when shoot I feel the
creator. And my spectators are Galateas.
different example. When I have finished shooting the beginning of the
series Prisoners of Desire I had the idea of an experience-game. I
invited to my house a young man and a girl who did not know each other
in advance. From the start, I told them the rules of the game. They
were in different rooms, did could not see each other. Then I brought
them together, with paper bags on their heads. There was a chair in a
room. And they should be having sex. Not knowing each other, not
seeing anything, not talking, nothing. Only bodies, sensations. To
catch this new sensuality on a photo - this was my problem. This
invention, this game created a new type of reality.
The dream-like images are very important to
you. Do you get inspiration from your dreams, visions?
Imagination and desires these are the engines of my creativity.
painfully frequent for me to pass white nights laying on my back with
thousands of images flying in front of the eyes of my mind, without
pauses, impudently superseding each other and dying away. What you see
on the photos are only pale echoes of my night images. Spasms.
What do you prefer, black-and-white photos,
or colored photos? What means color to you?
good, interesting photos. It doesn`t matter if they are
black-and-white or color.
What are your favorite themes?
Sensuality and sexuality. A portrait causing desire to possess.
Conversation of two partners.
Why do you prefer to make nude-photographs
and portraits? What does the human body mean to you? What do you
discover in it? Why do you modify its color? Do you try to get beyond
the human? Beyond the real?
exposure forces the majority of people to be courageous. Showing your
body is a small protest of the soul against its form. It is always
interesting to work with a naked person.
the same time, at work, I perceive the body as a form. I am
reproached sometimes by my colleagues, that for me the person
photographed does not matter,that I work with forms and images not
with individuals. To a certain extent they are right. In the same time
when I shoot, me and my subject are in a certain type of mental
contact. Nobody exists around, except for us two (sometimes three).
Part of my soul to that person. There is a certain duality involved.
For me the photo has two components: emotions of the process and the
actual final photo. They are together and divided. Still there are
post photographic processes, the manipulations on the computer when
photos or images start to live a third life which very distinct from
the emotions of shooting, or the initial photo. The photos are
transferred in a parallel, aesthetic world, much more beautiful and
more interesting than ours. These images are very fragile and
defenseless. They quickly die at the contact with the reality. The
person and its image in a photo.
Tell me more about your series “PRISONERS
OF DESIRE”. How did it start? Where do you have the idea from? Why are
the faces of the characters hidden? Is that a de-personalization, or a
discovery of the self?
shooting from this series was casual. The girl hesitated to show her
body. She did not hesitate because of me the photographer or her
she hesitated because she thought of the consequences of publishing
the photos. We have put together our fears, and the photos appeared
strong, emotional, they had an own sense and history. Approximately in
a year after the first shooting, I looked at the photos archive. At
that time I was strongly in love with a woman, who, by virtue of
circumstances, could not be with me. And watching the photos, I was
amazed by the blindness that the bags suggest, that is also the
blindness of desire. And then the ideological meaning of a series was
born. The name speaks for itself. We are captives of our unrealizable
desires. We do not know what to do, we make mistakes, and we live,
with our small pleasures. Satiation and jealousy are arguing inside
us. Lust and cynicism mixed up with passion. The series “Prisoners of
Desire” is all about this.
How do you choose your models? What do you
see in human’ faces? Or in their bodies?
all, sexuality. A personal appeal. If I do not desire myself the
model, if I am not personally excited by them – it is difficult to
take pictures. Sometimes I work on assignements - I get very tired, I
The second, strangely enough after the story about “ Prisoners of
Desire ”, are the eyes of the person. When we talk, when we engage in
a conversation we always look at the other`s eyes. Reaction to an
image often forms our sensations from the person. When you meet
someone new try not to look at his or her face for a while, try to
talk some minutes without looking, try to escape. A very silent
strange game. A certain form of pleasure. When shot, a body can
express its moods, its feelings. The photo does not speak, but shows.
Describe the process that gives birth to
What does it mean to you to use digital
techniques? What does the modern techniques mean to you?
there is one, base photo and the there is a set of others which will
be imposed atop. If the basic photo is bad, no shifts will help.
Digital processing of the photos is 50 % of my work. This is how it
goes: idea - «divine inspiration»-photographing of models -
photographing of structures - digital processing - a press. Very
What camera do you use? What lens? What
with Canon lenses.
I use Adobe Photoshop 7.0
Is there a Russian component in your
creativity? What means to you being Russian?
there is a tremendous quantity of beautiful women. It pleases the
heart of the erotic artist. One evening I can walk across Moscow and
I can meet 6-7 beauties of a super-models level,
who will involve me as a photographer. Such a harmony.
Many Russian photographers have an
apocalyptic vision. Do you think this is a sort of anti-reaction to
the communist period?
No, I do
not think, this is a consequences of the ex-USSR. Leonardo Da Vinci
wrote, that ”If you are alone - you are free. If you are in love - you
are half free. If you have a family – your hands and legs are tied.”
This is the apocalypse. :)). This understanding is closer to my
creativity. Search for the ideal partner. Impossibility to satisfy
desire. I speak only for myself, can not be responsible for other
In Romania, it is quite difficult to be a
photographer (and an artist, in general). What is the situation in
Everywhere is difficult to be an artist, especially if you live in a
country without a middle class - the buyers of your works.
it is easier than in Romania. Despite of many changes, Russia has
still a huge influence in the world. And in the field of arts – there
is a huge cultural inertia. And technologies by means of which us two,
Alina and me, Eugeny Kozhevnikov, got acquainted, allows us to engage
in a global dialogue. A general cultural field of consciousness fed by
thousands of people from many different countries. The centers of
these fields are where the technology is developed and there is a rich
cultural tradition. In USA, Europe, Japan, Russia, China, India and,
starting now, in the Arabian world.
What artists do you admire?
photographers I do not have special favorites. I like the artists of
the Italian Renaissance. I like
Andrey Polushkin living in St.-Petersburg.
What future plans do you have?
I do not
have plans. There are dreams, desires and a destiny. And I like it.
there Maybe a personal exhibition in a unusual place, with
performance, with some music, with video installations.
THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!