Paul Apal'kin / Member Interview

Paul Apal'kin

About Paul was born in 1987 and started his photography career in 2010. After quickly finding his personal style, he started concentrating on the genres of classical and conceptual portraiture. In 2012, he opened his first personal exhibition and joined the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers in 2013. He has been working as a freelance photographer since 2014.

His work has won the following awards:
Trierenberg Super Circuit 2014 - Gold Medal of Excellence
Trierenberg Super Circuit 2015 - Gold Medal of Excellence
Grand Photo Salon 2016 - Salon Silver medal
Grand Photo Salon 2016 - FIAP Bronze
Grand Photo Salon 2016 - FIAP Best Author
Grand Photo Salon 2016 - UPI HM Ribbon
Best Foto Art 2016 - IAAP Gold Medal
Best Foto Art 2016 - Salon Silver Medal
AdMe Photo Awards 2016 - 1st place in BW category
Spring Fotosalon Bardaf 2016 - Bardaf Silver Medal

Ukraine, Zaporozhye City

What inspired you to become a photographer?

I really cannot give a definitive answer to this question.
There were no creative people around who would inspire me, my father did not give me a camera as a gift in my childhood, I was not interested in Arts…
And suddenly when I was 20 I had this hard to describe feeling and a strong thought that I have to become a photographer.
It was like if the future had opened up to me for a moment and I saw myself as an established author and artist and since then I could not imagine another destiny for myself.
At that time I had no camera or elementary skills in photography art. Only my inspiration.

Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.

In the first months of my photographic journey, just like many other beginner photographers, I was shooting everything around myself: nature, street scenes, people, etc.
But very soon I decided to master the genre of portraiture.
And after two years I created my first conceptual work: “Confession of a Puppet” series.
That was the first time when I incorporated not only a feeling into my photograph but also a thought and a story.
And it was the first time when I was fully satisfied as an author and artist.

Back when you were just starting out, what was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome that?

All beginnings are hard. It was not easy to learn the camera skills, to master the studio lighting, to create my own post-processing technique, etc.
All these difficulties and challenges only pushed me further in developing my skills and they have enriched my personal experiences.
But I did not have any real problems at the beginning of my journey as a photographer.

What do you enjoy photographing the most?

I hope you will not be surprised if I answer that I love photographing people.
But I am not a “face collector”.
Actually I am revealing different sides of myself through all those faces I photograph.
I love creating classical portraits, conceptual, surreal, and mystical…
All of them are portraits, where the human element is always present and it takes the central part of the photographs.

What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?

If we are talking about a common vanity, then it was probably the first time when I was awarded a gold medal.
Or perhaps my first interview or the first time I sold my photograph.
In short, it was probably all that a beginner photographer is dreaming about.
But I am truly proud of myself only when I create something special.
Something that touches my own self inside and reflects on my soul, as if it was even created by someone else, as if I actually see it for the first time, and when I do not really care what judges would say.
This is such a quiet joy and deep satisfaction that could only be fully understood and felt on my own.

Tell us about time in your photographic journey where you failed at something and how did you pivot to overcome this?

I cannot really say I have ever failed as a photographer at one time or another. Every little obstacle or challenge is an opportunity for all photographers to improve their skills, creativity, and art. And personally I have always enjoyed and continue to enjoy my photographic journey.

We all have weaknesses, what is yours relating to photography?

Perhaps I am too perfectionist sometimes with my post-processing.
I can work on one photograph for a really long time, often returning to it to make some more final touches.
In other words, I am paying too much attention to the details.
This can take too much time and can negatively affect the output performance.
At the same time while this perhaps being a weakness this quality is also may be considered as my strong side.

Finding time to get out and shoot is another challenge for many. How do you find the time in your busy schedule to get out there behind your camera?

Luckily for me photography is my full time occupation.
And so if my schedule becomes very busy it would be only because of the photo sessions or other creative projects.

Nailing a composite right can be a challenge. What do you think the trick is to mastering composition?

There are well known “rules” of composition in photography and visual arts and there is always that proverbial “artistic license” to break those rules when a particular subject warrants that. It is important to use your composition to keep viewers interest on your photograph and to guide their eyes where you want them to go on your image.

There are many photographers starting out, who don't have the money to buy the camera gear they want. What advice can you give to them?

I think many people overestimate the importance of the equipment they may need.
A good image is actually born in the mind of a photographer, not in a camera.
Most of the photographers know it, but not everybody understands it.
My advice for the beginners is simple and obvious: instead of longing for an expensive camera body or a lens, buy the best what you can afford at the moment and start taking pictures and working on your skills.

By the way, I still use a relatively simple and affordable camera Cannon 60D.
Not because I cannot afford a better or newer camera, but because it does what I expect it to do: capture images. Everything else depends on me.

How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?

The photography has changed my world view in a dramatic way.
While looking back into the past, when I was not involved in photography, I see a totally different person.
He is concerned with worthless little things. He is looking at the world with closed eyes.
He is not impressed and he is not inspired.

What do you see photographers doing today, that if done differently tomorrow would improve their success?

If the photographers would stop emulate others and trying to copy someone else’s style today then they will create their own style tomorrow.
Only an author with an individual style I personally consider a successful one.
And this is not the subject of honor and nobility.
I see some photographers starting out and directly following the authors they admire, trying to directly replicate their work, and immediately losing interest in their new hobby after they fail.
It is important to understand that while people are similar to each other in many ways they all are also very different from each other. Everybody has his own or her own views, approaches, abilities, and preferences.
A successful author is creating art within himself or herself, not focusing on others.

To get your creative eye focused, where do you draw your inspiration from?

An inspiration is everywhere. It is in every little thing around us.
Inspiration is not something hidden. You do not need to search for it.
You just need to feel it.
Making myself more sensitive in my perception of the world I discover more and more forms of inspiration everywhere around me.

What is your best photography related tip?

It is very simple and nothing new: love what you do and enjoy the process.
And then the end result will be as exciting as well.
This is true not only in photography but also in our life in general.

What would you like for people take away from your work?

I love when my work makes the viewer stop and think and dream about what they see.
It is the highest reward and incentive for me.

What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?

Let me just list the very few items I carry in my camera bag that actually are the “must have” items for me.
Camera body Cannon 60D, prime lens 85mm f/1.8, zoom lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, one Sigma EF-610 DG ST flash, a couple of radio triggers, and two flashlights.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?

If I were on such an unwelcoming island and I were not defeated by hunger, panic and desperation at the time then I would love to spend my time there going through a vast collection of the best conceptual works from the most interesting masters of all times.
I hope such book exists.

Final question, and it’s a fun one: Life has been found on another planet and none-other than Sir Richard Branson is piloting Virgin Galatica and has put together a team of engineers, scientist, doctors and has asked you to come along to document the journey. The challenge is you can only bring two lenses and one camera body and two other items. What would you bring?

How did you figure out one of my inmost dreams?
Fortunately I would not have to choose what equipment to take with me as you already know my camera bag has exactly what is needed for such space trip. Although it looks like I would have to leave the flashlights out.
Or if not limiting myself with the equipment I actually have, I would take with me any full frame camera body with a 35mm prime lens for the documentary photography and an additional 85mm lens for portrait photography just in case we would encounter some interesting models on that planet.

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