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Pavel Tereshkovets, photographer: Belarus is Europe’s last dictatorship

pics: Pavel Tereshkovets

Pavel hails from Belarus. He is a photographer who likes to depict emotions such as fear and lonelines. He considers himself a sunny, talkative person though. Let him speak.
A reader sent us a link to your photo that was entered into the famous National Geographic competition. How did it happen?
Well, as far as I know they hold such contests every year, but I didn’t attend them before. I don’t really know why, maybe I was a bit shy or something. But this year I discovered the contest again and thought: „Why not?“ By that time I’d been working as a professional photographer for about 2-3 years, and it was the best time to assert myself.
After 3 months I got an e-mail from the NG office. They were saying I had been chosen as a runner-up in their contest. Well it was really a great pleasure. Belarus is a little country, so when such things happen they begin to write about you everywhere, to invite you to every radio station and so on. Frankly speaking it was a bit funny.
Could you introduce your works to our readers?
Hm, it’s not that easy to speak about myself objectively. But there’s one thing I can say for sure: My works are mostly about loneliness, fear, emptiness and every theme and feeling that is connected with them. It’s hard for me to say why it is this way, because I’m a very sociable and talkative person who has a lot of friends. But at the same time loneliness in a big society is a very interesting theme for me. It is exactly what you can see in my works.
What are your favourite subject to photograph?
Originally I photographed nature a lot. Nice scenes, landscapes etc. I just hated making photos of people and dealing with them. I could walk in empty places for hours looking for interesting things to be captured.
But then I realized that not dealing with people doesn’t bring you money and nobody knows anything about you. Furthermore I’d just graduated from the university so I had to live for something. So I began to photograph people unwillingly. After a while I noticed that I liked making my works with others. That was the point when my two opposite approaches to shooting and to my work in common mixed. I think what had happened was a necessary thing for me to get further and deeper into the art of photography.
What makes a good photograph?
There are questions I think I’ll never be able to answer. Sometimes I look at a photo and get a feeling it’s swallowing my whole being. It’s so weird, you know. I admire it every time I look at it. But I just can’t understand fully what is that makes this certain photo so good.
Well sure: There’s a decisive moment, a talent, an idea, luck, familiarity with the technique – aspects which help you to make good photos. But until now no one can tell you the whole recipe of a great photo.
Do you use digital camera(s), or also analog?
We had this famous soviet camera in our family – Zenit. So my first acquaintance with the world of photography started with the analogue camera. Now it’s fifty-fifty: I like the ease and speed of digital cameras, but I still can’t get rid of my film cameras and the special feeling that gives you the analogue world.
What made you become a photographer?
After graduating the university I was left to myself. I didn’t know what to do with my spare time. I didn’t know what I was going to become. I didn’t know what to do with my future.
I worked in an office for about a year and then said to myself: „Enough“. I got fired although I didn’t have a slightest notion what I would do and how I would make my living. Kind of a free-floatation.
One day I took a look at my photo camera and realized that I was fond of it and that I could turn my hobby into my profession. I began making photos and taking money for it. In just a year I could do whatever I wanted and make money with a thing I really loved – photography.
In what aspects are your photos unique?
Each well-known photographer has his own style. I think it’s the main thing. You have to differ from others. You have to be different and innovative. In my case I’m only working on it. I’m searching for the style that would make me different.
I’m always trying to show not just a nice picture to people, but a whole entire project that can communicate with the viewers, that can tell them stories or force them to thinking, to developing their own ideas and giving birth to their own perceptions of the reality.
Do you have any books out, or work for magazines?
I’m about to make my own book. I think it’s gonna be thrilling and interesting when I’ll be holding my own images in my hands and thinking: „Gosh, they’ve become heavy since the last time I saw them!“
Nowadays I mostly work for magazines. It doesn’t take much time, it is interesting and leaves me a lot of spare time for developing my own projects.
You shot the band Tiger Lillies, how did that happen?
It’s an interesting story. I got a task from one of the biggest magazines in our country. They told me: „In three days a band called The Tiger Lillies is coming to us. They’re holding their concert here. So we’re expecting a nice photo for the cover of the magazine from you“. „No problem“, I said. When they arrived in Minsk I came up to them and said: „Well, guys, I’m gonna make some photos of you for the cover of a magazine, so be yourself and take it easy, alright?“
They were funny guys, always grimacing, making dirty jokes and loudly laughing. The whole day I was trying to make an interesting shot with them but had a feeling something was not the way it should be. I suppose they were not in high spirits. After all I caught them on the backstage five minutes before the concert and told them: „Now if you won’t give me an interesting shot the whole Belarus will know you as three boring fellows from the UK“. And I got it finally.
How important is the Internet for you?
Almost 80% of the work activity takes place in the Internet. It’s quick, easy and convenient. I’d maybe use the pigeon post but hardly anyone would understand me.
Your favorite painters, illustrators, writers, musicians... are?
Let me think... The first names that come to my mind right away would perhaps be Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Carlos Castaneda, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Son House.
Websites you like to visit?
I don’t surf Internet too much. Only if I need something. Mostly I’m just blogging, posting my works to the web, do correspondence with the websites or magazines wanting to work with me or to feature my works, looking for the models and new locations for my projects.
You live in Belarus and also travel for work? I wonder how is it like, living in your country. Surely not that smooth sometimes?
It’s widely known that Belarus is Europe’s last dictatorship. Unfortunately it’s true. And it’s not smooth here at all. Many people think my works are somehow connected with the political situation in our country, because they reflect the loneliness and disappointment of a person living here. I don’t know. To some extent it can really be so. But I don’t like all those political things. I’m much more worried about my inner world and about what I can show with my works.
Is it possible to make a living as a photographer?
Sure. But it’s a way harder to do it here than in (western) Europe for example. The whole business structure is organized perverted and it doesn’t function properly here. A belarusian businessman keeps far from any risks. He would rather enjoy an average partnership with somebody who can offer poor quality but stability at the same time than take a risk and probably make his business prosper and go ahead instead of standing still. A dull logic. But I was honestly surprised when I saw that magazines, blogs etc. from Europe are looking for interesting creative people and sources themselves. A lot of publications of my works were made since they’d discovered me and my art.
Plans for 2012?
To change the world of course :)


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