Photographer Ivan Mankevich: Probably I’m a visual aesthetic maniac
Ivan, can you tell us about yourself and how did your interest in photography develop? When did you decide that it was what you were going to do? It happened on my brother’s wedding in Grodno city, Belarus. I saw a photographer in a white t-shirt, wearing jeans, with a long camera lens (70-200 2.8) in hands and a long bushy beard. He swung arms, said something and as a result got a picture on the monitor that made me smile. Smile… Yes. One little emotion and I realized that this is what I want to do next. At the same time I was preparing to enter the University. On my first day in the university I realized that waking up at 8 am, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, wearing a suit and going to the office every day, was not what I wanted to do all my life. Now, I’m 20 years of age and I take photographs. I have almost finished my university’s degree and plan to work not on a specialty. No regrets.
What is going through your mind when you are behind the camera? Saw light – beautiful. Background? Good. Setting up my camera. Turn back, turn your head a little bit to the left, rotten back – oh hell, how beautiful! Smile or indifference, arrogance or playfulness. Motor. Done! Can take a breath. The feeling of total freedom as if born-again, and even favorite music playing in my head. Probably I’m a visual aesthetic maniac.
How has photography influenced or changed you as a person? I started telling all my friends where and how to set the lights in the movies – it really irritated them for the first time. Also, I became more attentive to the details. Girls, don’t worry, I always note that you have a new hairstyle (laughing). Actually, it is unlikely that photos itself changed me, rather the opposite; I’m trying to change the photo with every shutter release. That’s a hard question … hmm … definitely.
What do you like best of being a photographer? How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh? I like to watch. Watch and see the beauty everywhere and in everything, and then take pictures of it. I am very sensitive and romantic person and at the same time, persistent, purposeful. When I was younger, I admired works of other photographers, and told to myself that I will be taking much better photos than they are, and then poked a finger at the screen and made a face of a tough guy. That is funny, but this is the truth. Now, I am a more serious person, though… No no no!! Now, I am a more serious person (laughing). Inspiration? At one time, I was very inspired by Captain Jack Sparrow, with the series of Final Fantasy games and rock music, whose work I can still review and replay. I have never pushed myself to do something that is advised and recommend on training for the development of creativity. I just live and think while shooting. I never prepare. I feel comfortable with an improvisation. Thoughts are getting into my head. Perhaps that is why I do not have any work pieces or templates, because every time I adapt myself under the new templates and conditions.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos? I tried to identify my images to the particular style in photography, but I could not. Probably just because I can’t take a picture of beautiful classic portrait, even if we shoot glamor or commerce. I cannot take the picture if I see an interesting environment and light. I cannot limit myself to the specific scope of the same style, although I realise an existence of the technical problem. I’m just saying – let’s do it. It will be much more easier to list the areas in which I work. Fashion, Portrait, Glamour, Beauty, Classical, Art, Advertising photography, love story and wedding photography.
You have an amazing portfolio. In your opinion, what makes the good picture stand out from the average? How do you choose which images you ultimately provide to your clients? My main rule in choosing the final photos – no doubt about it and listen to the heart. If there was at least an element of doubt in the angle, pose or something else to shoot – I will not take this picture. If I see, that they do not represent the final production, I will not retouch it. Will stand apart from the crowd? This is the same that will stand out from the crowd and is the most difficult. You should be who you are. You should have your chip, everyone have it. It’s like strawberry ice cream with whipped cream. With cream is better, doesn’t it? Here you cannot lose your cream and have to listen to your heart. If a heart skipped a beat at the pictures – so it is certainly the one.
From your experience, have your most successful shots come from perfect planning or are you more spontaneous with your creations? Ivan is my first name. Improvisation and spontaneity – the second. It is impossible to plan everything 100%, so I think while shooting. Of course, I have some interesting ideas for shots, but even they come to my mind spontaneously.
What is your favorite light source, and how do you decide which one to use? I’m so love the window light, the sun and the permanent, portable light sources. It’s comfortable.
Describe a day at a shoot with Ivan Mankevich. What happens and what is the trick to capturing a great shot? If it’s not a wedding photography, where it is necessary to behave yourself more cautiously – then I’m just going to the dressing room, telling to the makeup artist to put on a little bit more of highlighter, and start to energize all of them with my cheerfulness, laughter, and slight insanity. Sometimes models tell me that I was so active, that just kill their energy and it may not work, either from laughing or from embarrassment when I show them the pose and models are cannot do it. Smiles rule the world, but in the end we all need to know when to stop.
What from your point of view makes the shoot successful? If it was a commercial order –then of course the right light, angle, pose, emotions, processing, etc. This shows the competence of the photographer, his professionalism, ability to achieve goal. And the last one is, of course, successful picture. If you worked for yourself – it is the sense of self-gratification. Your eyes burn from a picture like small children’s eyes burn seeing a toy – that means even more than well. What are you looking for in a fashion model? Do you have any physical aesthetic preferences in the models you shoot in general? Slim, even thinner than the slim. Beautiful. Blue eyes or brown. Blond hair, high. Cheekbones, yes. Cheekbones are beautiful. This is a difficult question, honestly. I don’t have Ideals or standards.
How would you define “beauty”? My sister is a beautiful girl. My mother is an elegant and graceful woman. Dad is a stately man. If mom and dad are so cool that mean I’m a pretty boy (laughing). Well, you understand what I mean right? Joke.
What posing tips would you have for models to get fabulous portraits? Face to the light, the body from the light, go to bed early and eat at least 3 hours before sleep. Sleep and nutrition are very important. Well, if you want to impress your boyfriends, simply press the arms to the body and lean towards to the photographer (laughing).
You bring a very high production value to your work. What is your retouching/production philosophy? How important is Photoshop in your final images? I think that many people overestimate the power, influence and possibilities of the Photoshop and retouching in general. Highly processed photo is not a photo. This is a photo art, digital art. Due to tons of processing we lose the most important thing – the photo itself. We just can’t see photo. I’m propagandizing, that initially you have to take a nice and good photograph, and only after that remove a few skin defects, add contrast, brightness and that’s all. The so-called invisible retouching. I love to make diamonds from crystals, and not a just a ‘good’ frame. That’s a whole separate topic. Would you agree that Photoshop has created a skewed perception of the ideal body image? Yes. Yes. And Yes. Photoshop idealizes all around too much. I’m not saying it is bad. In advertising photography, for example, it is necessary. Otherwise it is very difficult for companies to sell their products. Because everyone wants to see a big juicy Burger, or a saturated bright red handbag or perfectly beautiful body in advertising of underwear. It is in our minds. It is always playing with us a bad joke, and this is what the marketers and advertising photographers are using. We always enjoy looking at beauty. But when there are too much of such ideals in real life, we become more depressive from the fact that the world is not so full of colors, not all girls are 180 cm tall, not all girls have long and slender legs. And we don’t notice the main. We do not know the contents of the book by looking at its cover. We don’t know the person’s character by his clothes. We don’t take pictures. Today more and more people idealize minuses of the photo in Photoshop.
What is typically in your camera bag? What is your one “can’t live without it” piece of gear? Camera Nikon D600. 70-200 2.8, 50 1.4, flash, though rarely use it. Video Light Handheld, umbrella, reflector – this thing is very important, laser and kitten. To tell the truth, I don’t have kitten there, but I think I would like to have it.
In your honest opinion, what are the biggest challenges for an independent photographer? The most important thing for an independent photographer is to be independent, neutral and treat everyone the same way if you are expecting to develop and grow. It is also very important always be a part of a team, and keep in touch with friends and family. Freedom and independence often takes the piss out of us in the form of loneliness, employment, fatigue, inability to work in a team and can cut the threads connecting us with our friends and family. Don’t do that. Success, recognition and independence are good, if it does not deprive the sense of your life. I am probably too philosophical here, huh? I beg your pardon, but thoughts just come in my mind.
What photographers from the past or present have influenced you the most? Influence is not affected, but like the works of the following authors: Jerry Ghionis, Stefan Beutler, David Bellemere, Max Rive, Alasdair McLellan, Kristian Schuller, Ivan Mankevich…
Is there anything you’d like to do in the future? Someone you’d like to work with or something you’d like to accomplish? Be ready, it’s going be a long story. I have plans to travel, to write dirty novels, and continue my own show “3 to 10”, to teach only two students. The others will be just who attended to my courses. My students will surpass me when I will be an about 45. All world mass media will broadcast that Mankevich had been finally surpassed. Then I’ll call to my wife, tell her immediately to start building a huge monument and museum in my honor. The building will look like the lens 70-200, and the height is like 10-floor building. With writing on the wall “It’s Mankevich’s legacy”. It’s a joke. Though (laughing hard).
What are your favorite things to do in your free time? Movies, series, picnics with friends. Finding a photo of any photographer with the new style of processing and trying to repeat the processing. Writing a book about photography. I am in love with psychology. Not a fan of any sports. To sit in front of the TV and cheer for a favorite team – not a familiar feeling for me. I like marketing in organizations and creating something new, whether a new product or improving the existing one. Watching with my sister television series “Game of Thrones” – a Holy cause (smiling). Gym. I like to meet with a stranger on a street and just talk to him about everything. It’s difficult to describe everything. I do not like too much of planning, I do whatever I want.
Tell us one thing about yourself people might find surprising. I hate olives and raisins. I fall asleep only at arm’s length under the pillow. I have a grade in throwing knives. I have beaten my father in chess at the age of 6. And I fitted in 1,500 words (in Russian) in this interview.