The Melancholy Of Aleksei Svehdov
We talk to photographer Aleksei Svehdov about his latest project.
By Christopher Osborne.
The fantasy of living in a foreign country is the promise of new beginnings. The reality is often different. Aleksei Svehdov’s series of images captures the anxiety of making a life in another land with a brutal honesty.
Aleksei Svehdov is a Russian designer and photographer who moved to the desert city of Dubai one and a half years ago.
I asked Aleksei how photography started. “Cameras have always been around. I do not see photography as a thing that started in my life. I remember a kodak plastic film camera was always around in my parent’s house”. The first photographs that Aleksei recalls making were at high school with his friends. “Just silly stuff. We were taking a lot of pictures of ourselves”.
Aleksei shoots on any camera that he can get his hands on. In Russia, a friend gave him a plastic point-and-shoot camera. “I started taking it everywhere. It is a fun thing that people do not use as much as the camera on their phones. I have used a lot of different film cameras ranging from disposable cameras and point and shoots through Polaroids, 35mm SLRs to medium format cameras. Three of my friends were shooting on film at the time. It has its own look. I do still use my phone for videos though”. Aleksei says that he always travels light and so when he left Russia he paid the camera forward to another friend.
“I just shoot stuff that catches my eye. I try not to categorise. I will shoot anything if it makes an interesting picture. But, I do try not to shoot the popular stuff” Alexei pauses for thought. “I photograph a moment. A moment where there is an experience. Imagine a street. If I am there with someone, then that is one experience. If I go with someone else, then I will have a completely different experience. And I will see different things”.
Unusually, Aleksei shows his work as prints. If he wants to show another photograph, then rather than pull out a phone and find the image, he arranges another meeting and turns up with a print. He has made six zines to date. I was interested to know how he became so interested in showing his work as prints. “Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids” was the first photobook that I saw. It was so cool to see the images printed. It’s crazy”.
I asked Aleksei if the desire to see photographs on paper is the result of his design background. He shrugs. “I don’t know, maybe”. He picks up an image and stares at it. “It is so easy to make stuff like this these days. It’s not like the old days when you had to go into a darkroom and dodge and burn”.
I ask Aleksei where this journey is taking him. His response is short, almost staccato. “No idea”. I keep quiet and give Aleksei more time to think. “It would be cool if more people saw my photography. I want fame. How arrogant of me haha”, he replies. He pauses and then continues. “I want to share more experiences. I want to have more communication and collaboration. More unique experiences. That is much more important than fame”.
Just as I am about to thank Aleksei, and pack up, he starts speaking again. I think that the photography part of my life is an excuse. It covers up my lack of social skills. When I have a camera in my hand I can approach almost everyone”, he says. “When I pick one up, then I behave in a certain way. That sounds like a drug intoxication. It is like putting on a uniform. For example, when I am with a girl, I find that they often put on weird poses when the camera comes out. I just say we don’t do that here. Relax”.
“Some people use alcohol or drugs to help them socialise. I use a camera”.
Images © Aleksei Svehdov 2023.
You might also be interested in this previous SilvergrainClassics article on Poras Dhakan & “The Digital Passport Photo” see https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/2021/03/poras-dhakan-the-digital-passport-photo-friday-focus/
You can find an index to the entire collection of SilvergrainClassics magazines here https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/magazine/index-of-articles/