Who is Svetlana Chovnik?
Creator,human being and an innocent sorcerer.
What styles of photography do you specialize in?
I specialize generally in black and white portraits, people and psychological aspects are my main focus. Nevertheless lately I caught a great deal of interest in fashion photography lately.
Do you shoot both digital and film?
There was a time when shooting in film was the only way for me, but it was when I was in VGIK Russian State University of Cinematography.
Now it’s all about digital but I am still loving it.
Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Irving Penn , Peter Lindbergh, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon and Aleksander Rodchenko.
I was always bewitched by Irving Penn’s photographs, they are full of inner life as if those depicted personages were alive and could move; you are lucky to catch them at those moments, even talk with them silently just by exchanging a glance.
I am fascinated by the way the masters managed to create their prominent inner soul which exists in their models and you can notice it in the photographs with the help of necessary light and composition.
I adore Lindbergh’s philosophy connecting women’s beauty. The true beauty of a woman is in everything she is, including all imperfections and perfections. A woman’s beauty is herself as she is.
Exactly what is it you want to say with your photographs, and how do you get your photographs to do that?
Oh I like it, it’s a tricky question actually and a very important one too.
Through my point of view I don’t want to talk with my photos. My message is not in a category which I can describe as something about which one can talk. For me it is important to find the innocence of the occurring moment and gently guide it into the world of photography.
It’s all about the process for me. If I am embraced by the process my model gets embraced by it too, only then is there a chance for us to find this moment of innocence.
This moment speaks for itself not me.
Is photography something you do full-time?
Mostly… yes. I may say I do it full-time. But from time to time I shoot video, create illustrations, I am into friends’ every interior design project… and the spiritual work over myself takes time everyday too.
Can you describe that “moment” (experience, emotion) when you knew that photography was something you just had to do?
I think it happened when I was 12-years-old and as always I was wandering around with my best friend. I had my parents’ snapshot camera with me and I shot a picture of a puddle with my friend in front of clouds that were reflected in it. I remember downloading it later into a computer program to play with color and cropping and that moment was a revelation for me that I wanted to dive into the world of photography and do it as often as I could.
What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
I retouch pictures in Photoshop. There is always room for the quest of which technique of editing is best suited for taking photographs. Same strategy with cameras. I remember when my parents gave me my first professional camera as a present on the day I turned 15. It was a Nikon D80. I couldn’t part with it and praised it. Two years later in one of my adventures cross country my dear Nikon was stolen from me. I left it in a camping tent and the most priceless thing about the camera at that moment was the photos I took.
After that it was a Nikon D90 and guess what? Few years later it was stolen too. Again! This frustrating experience taught me a lot. And above all it taught me not to grow a bond with the tech… Taught me that my connection with it should be fluid. Because it is not the camera which makes you a photographer, mastery and talent are not tangible. Nobody can steal your love for what you do.
Now I rent all different kinds of cameras. So it depends on the mood and on the task. Canon6D, mark III, IV. I have my own lenses – zeiss planar 1.4/85 ZE and Canon EF 70-200 mm F/2.8 L
Sony RX 100 is great for documentary photography. For It is compact and results may surprise me with their resemblance to a film effect it is an important trait sometimes.
What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
Creation is a sacred process for me. I take photos because I cannot bear the feeling that I won’t be able to do it. I create because I can’t stop taking pictures once there is a call on my inner beauty sensor. It’s a lifestyle, a way of thinking.
Find beauty in everything.
Find the innocence of the moment in everything.
Allow it to happen and guide it through the world of photography.
Share it with the community the way it is.
Sharing is caring as some people say in my surroundings and in this case I agree with them.
Among your works, which one is your absolute favorite? Why?
There was one which I did in my high school years. It is my favorite because it was acknowledged by a magazine of photography which was one of my top-3 at that time. So it was a moment of faith because there was a story behind it and they felt it. I knew they did.
That shot was taken on a gloomy freezing day when I recklessly was driven by a sudden urge to go for a walk with my camera. Crazy cold was giving me a good motivation to walk faster and eventually I stumbled upon a traveling circus and these children standing in a line. Their faces full of life and emotional experience captured me completely; I knew that I should return the favor.
What are some favorite things about being a photographer?
I think it is an ability to see something more, an ability to look in the depth, in the very essence of things. It is also a unique atmosphere of connection with people or nature during the creative process. It seems that everything starts performing the dance of art and beauty. Moreover, it is a possibility to show people their essence, hidden from their own eyes.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered?
It is always about fear. Main obstacle. As one of the great people I care for said “This is one of the greatest problems. That is a self made obstacle, because if you are not creating obstacles to yourself and by yourself then there are almost limitless opportunities!” Fear and questions of “What-to-do-next?” are my main challenges.
When I was studying at the University we had this course of photo composition where professors were criticizing our works. They showed us great dissatisfaction and taught us that shown material has no value at all. Mostly because of that I harvested a great deal of fears and couldn’t return to photography for a while. I needed to recover my mental state. My belief.
Nevertheless afterwards there were times when clients were not accepting the work I did. I needed to find courage to go through rejection. After all it didn’t work on me as well as it did before I managed to see through these critics. To see that they don’t like the results not only because there is always a space for improvement but because sometimes these clients don’t accept themselves. Sometimes they may not accept the way they look in this moment even though I find it magical. Sometimes they may not like one of their own features, they are not ready to see themselves in a photo. But this is the struggle to learn from experience and not diminish yourself but improve, not to judge them harshly but to see the support which this given client needs. A dance of balance with fear so it won’t turn to a self-made obstacle but instead teach you and become your ally.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
Support and develop your unique vision, feel the innocence of the world in its edges. Please forget about opinions which make you behave accordingly and follow someone else’s standards. And that thing about the greatest of masters! They are in the past, find yours and open yourself to the best works. Learn from them that they would be pleased to live in your art. Reinvent, enjoy, create.
Any current project?
Now I am developing a photo project dedicated to Greek mythology and archetypes.