I moved to the United States from Ukraine in 1991 and grew up in the NY/NJ area. After I finished studying Social Psychology and Russian Literature in college, my stepfather bought me a Nikon point and shoot camera. The first photo I took on it was a portrait of him. I remember looking at it and realizing that I had captured an essence of him that I had never before seen photographed. I thought, “Wow! This little camera thing can do that!??” And so I began playing with it and exploring parts of New York City with it. The camera gave me an excuse to go to places that I might otherwise be afraid of going to. It incited my curiosity.
Now I photograph candidly on the street every day. In addition to street photography I am also an avid practitioner of meditation. Both bring me joy and make me more present with the world around me. I am currently teaching a street photography workshop that fuses the two in a way that will help students find ways to reduce anxiety and integrate street photography into their daily lives.
Anywhere there is raw life happening. From the streets of New York to the sand dunes of Death Valley (but mostly New York).
Every day. I never leave my house without my camera. And when I do I’m mostly miserable because that’s when you see the most incredible scenes unfolding in front of you. Scenes you couldn’t even make up. And you wish you had your camera!
Before I go out and shoot I do a short meditation to help calm my mind and clear it of any distractions or worries that I may have been experiencing earlier that day. Any fights at home, worries about the future, wonder at what I’ll be having for lunch, etc. I’ll listen to a song that makes me feel good and inspires me. Once I step out into the street I become keenly aware of my surroundings. Shapes, faces, gestures, noises, and smells. My gaze widens. All I have is this moment in front of me. And when I see something inspiring appear in front of me, something that touches me in a way that I can’t quite explain but I know that I HAVE to photograph it, I press the shutter.
In terms of subject matter, my series ‘Fragments of Consciousness’ specifically focuses on moments of loneliness and restlessness that an urban dweller often experiences. After living alone in New York City for some years I noticed how prominent loneliness was among the people around me. It is a unique kind of loneliness. One that someone experiences being surrounded by strangers but unable to reach out and connect with any of them. After a few years of shooting on the streets of New York I noticed that this was the subject matter I was most drawn to photographing.
Because I must. I have never been so completely consumed and passionate about anything in my entire life. Growing up I always saw and heard about other people having “passions”. I was a jack of all trades, but never really felt the overwhelming desire to immerse myself deeply in anything until I discovered street photography. And I use the word discovered because for me that’s what it was. An accidental discovery of something that now looking back I can’t imagine being without. The power to be totally present and attuned with the world around you is something I have always had, but photography is a direct manifestation of that ability. The street photographer is able to capture that power, print it, and hang it on the wall.