Lecture by Pinkhassov

A couple of days ago I watched a truly engrossing lecture by Gueorgui Pinkhassov, which he gave in Leica Academie in Moscow, where a number of Magnum photographers spoke. Pinkhassov (I love how his name and surname are transliterated so exotically with Latin letters) is the only Russian-born full member of the Magnum agency. I was so excited by the lecture, I immediately forwarded it to my brother, who is also a photographer.

The lecture itself is in Russian. Below I share some snippets that I found most inspiring.

In a refreshing reversal of the usual order of presentation, he started by showing a lot of his photos quickly, and spoke only afterwards, when the eye was saturated and the viewer craved story. He spoke about his early work and how he was uninterested in reportage, and was rather drawn to the geometry that can be found inside the frame. He experimented at night in his flat with light and geometrical objects, he literally measured angles and lines with a ruler, looking for the right proportion, perhaps the golden ratio.

He further explained how a photo can play two roles:

  • information source, protocol, providing clarity OR
  • a certain sophistication, encoded message, complexity.

The latter, according to him, is art.

These ideas sit very well with me.

In this picture it is not clear in the beginning what exactly is being shown. And yet there is a plot as well as a visual intrigue.

It really touched me how he rejected the populism of bright colours and obvious contrasts, to which we are so used on the internet nowadays, in favour of minimalism, geometry, “fractality” as he called it (and I couldn’t help remembering Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who so likes to apply fractals to every possible situation).

Without compromise, in his photos Pinkhassov stresses the light as the main painting brush in photography, allowing all the rest disappear in shadows.

I later discovered that he virtually doesn’t use Photoshop. Until very recently he photographed using his Canon 5D Mk II directly in jpeg format, as he knew he wouldn’t post process the photos. The reason being, as I understood, not so much the principled resistance to post processing, as simply the lack of skills of working in Photoshop and perhaps the lack of need to do it.

His best work, according to him, is his Tokyo collection.

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