JRP: Fine Art Photographer Alexei Aven joins us on James Robinson Photography Blog. Thank you Alexei for sharing your thoughts and images with us. Where do you call home?
Alexei Aven: My home is Israel. I was born in Moscow and left Russia in 1991. I have been living in Israel since. Here is my home, my family, and my country.
JRP: What led to your interest in photography? Have you had any formal training?
Alexei Aven: In my school years I had some experience in painting, graphics, and hand crafting but didn’t follow any of these fields. I have had extensive experience in Black and White film photography since the age of fifteen. I would spend a lot of time in a darkroom. Black and White remains for me the main stream in my digital photography.
In Moscow I took a basic course with special attention to photo journalism but mostly I am a self-taught photographer. Photography isn’t my profession, though it is my great passion through which I express my thoughts and myself.
JRP: Who are some of the artists that have inspired and influenced your work?
Alexei Aven: I would say Helmut Newton and Pascal Renoux despite the fact that they are very different photographers. My understanding of portrait photography was strongly influenced by the Russian photographer Ilya Lis whose course on “Psychology in Portrait Photography” I took.
JRP: How did you develop your vision and technique?
Alexei Aven: I think, vision is more important than technique. Line and light … that’s what I am trying to see in a first place. Training myself in visualizing forms.
Still life photography is a great tool in the visual development of composition, light, form, and textures. After that comes the challenge of portrait photography moving you gradually to a deeper understanding of what do you want to show apart from a nice picture or well-arranged shot. It takes hard work with a deep understanding of the person in order to reveal his or her feelings, mood, or psychology.
Technique as such is for me an auxiliary tool to achieve my goals. Technique comes as a result of understanding of my artistic goal.
JRP: Do you have people who assist you with your projects and if so what roles do they play?
Alexei Aven: Sometimes, I work with makeup artists, stylists, jewelry designers.
JRP: What would I find in your camera bag for a typical shoot?
Alexei Aven: You would find in my bag a Canon Mark II camera, prime lenses Canon 35 f/2, 85 f/1.8, Sigma 50 f/1.4, and a Lensbaby. Though mostly I am working with 35 mm and 50 mm lenses.
JRP: What type of lighting do you prefer, artificial or available light? What are your most often used light modifiers?
Alexei Aven: I really like what you call “available light” in the interiors with big windows. When shooting in daylight I use reflectors for its modification. In artificial light I use in most cases a studio flash with a relatively big soft box and a reflector. Sometimes, I combine flash with warm halogen continuous light.
JRP: Please describe your digital work flow and the software you use.
Alexei Aven: I always shoot in RAW format, then open and make selections in Adobe Bride. I open selected files for processing in Camera Raw and make preliminary adjustments (white balance, exposure, rotation). After that I open the file in Photoshop and do further digital editing.
JRP: For you what is the most critical moment in the capture of your images?
Alexei Aven: It is definitely a contact with the person when I shoot a portrait. Nothing should disturb or interrupt this contact. It is critical for me to establish trust between my model and myself. To ensure that the model does not feel constrained.
JRP: Has there been a shoot or project that revealed to you the distance you’ve come as an artist?
Alexei Aven: There were several projects during the years that I can point to as milestones in my development as an art photographer. Two of them were “Underwear” , and “Coming Back”.
JRP: If not photography what would Alexei Aven be doing with his time?
Alexei Aven: It’s hard for me to picture my life without photography. But if that would happen, I think, I would have had some other hobby in an area of creative art.
JRP: So far what has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Alexei Aven: That was from an Israeli photographer Michail Levit, “Don’t photograph all that you see, don’t process all that you have photographed, don’t display all that you have processed.”
JRP: What advice would you share with other photographers?
Alexei Aven: Advice that once was given by Yousuf Karsh: “Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.”
JRP: Thank you Alexei for sharing this time with us. It has been a pleasure and we wish you continued success.
Alexei Aven: Thank you very much.
JRP: To view more of Alexei Aven’s photography please follow these links: