May 20, 2019
Mikhail is a young Russian mathematician and photographer currently based in Switzerland. His photographic work leans towards documentary photography with an artistic and investigative approach. In his series "Zürich", Mikhail explores his home town from "the outsider" perspective. After moving to Switzerland, he can now go back to his birthplace and see it with fresh eyes, discovering new and interesting sides that are difficult to observe when immersed in a routine. His contemplative approach rises questions such as belonging, identity, culture and longing for a place, inviting us to explore our own roots.
am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?
MB - I was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. I graduated from the Rostov State University with a degree in applied mathematics and worked as a software engineer for a few years. At some point I became interested in documentary photography and film-making. I participated in a number of workshops and masterclasses, including Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School, and eventually graduated from Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov School of Documentary Film and Theatre in Moscow. I studied photography in the long-term masterclass by Alex Majoli (Magnum Photos) and Daria Birang.
I moved to Zürich more than 8 years ago, because I got a job in computer engineering. I still combine working in this field with photography and film.
am - How did you start in photography?
MB - When I was 20, I became a fan of a British band, called "Manic Street Preachers". They had a song named “Kevin Carter” about a Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalist who eventually committed suicide. I liked the song so much that I bought a book about Kevin Carter and the famous “Bang Bang club” - a group of photojournalist who covered the first years of post-apartheid Africa. This book was my first connection to photojournalism and documentary photography. I became so inspired that I bought a camera and started taking pictures. I never felt strong enough to go to war (like many photojournalists, that I read about, did), but rather focused on what was around in my own life.
am - What is “Zürich” about?
MB - “Zürich” has been shot in Rostov-on-Don, my hometown in Russia, over the last 8 years – since the moment I left Rostov and moved to Zürich. The title is actually the only connection between the two places, but I think that it is important to establish this connection: these pictures would never happen if I didn't move. The way I look at Rostov suddenly changed. I was no longer an “insider”, and not really a total “outsider”. I saw a lot of seemingly ordinary things in a completely new light. And I was a bit confused by this new perspective: I had mixed feelings, I sometimes loved and sometimes hated the place.
My occasional visits to my hometown are always time-limited, and I feel the urge to preserve and try to photograph every little moment on such trips, because I'm never sure if something that happens there, would happen again. Every little encounter feels unique. For example: I go with my mother to a local supermarket and I know that the next time when we go to the same supermarket will be in 6 months, or maybe later. Or maybe it will get demolished, or maybe my mother won't want to go there anymore. During my trips to Rostov, everything becomes worthy of a picture: every little thing.
am - What were you most interested in capturing with these images?
MB - I was interested in the people – my relatives and friends – and also in places that I remember well, mostly in my neighbourhood. Later I also understood that I'm fascinated with cars: especially with old and abandoned ones. They popped up quite a lot in my pictures. A thing about all the pictures is that nothing on them in staged. In Rostov I carry a camera in my hand all the time and try to get a picture whenever I feel there's a possibility.
am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?
MB - I'm inspired by William Eggleston, Ralph Gibson, Stephen Shore, Larry Sultan, Erik Kessels and many others.
am - What’s your favourite movie?
MB - That's a tough one. Not only I watch too many movies to name a particular one, but also my idea of a perfect movie has changed over time. If I need to name just one, I'd probably name “Shoah” by Claude Lanzmann. Every time I watch it, I feel perplexed by how incredible this movie is.
am - What is your favourite photo book?
MB - “Nika Forever”, a photo book by Slavica Perkovic. The book is a story of a girl growing up, done entirely from VHS stills. It's simple, but emotional and moving. I really like this book.
am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.
All images © Mikhail Bushkov