Our heroine did not take a single lockdown photo portrait over FaceTime, although there was a demand. And she is still not doing it: Marina chooses sports to gain energy for a real, non-remote photo shoot instead. Such uncompromising attitude and discipline helped the young lady to become successful and not to lower her standards.
’I can not be lazy for a very long time, I am ready to skip sleep, eating, to go far away at 7 am on a stuffy weekend train to do a free photo shoot, just because I want it a lot,’ says Marina Shcheglova, a self-made photographer with a tender heart, a beautiful voice and a shooting schedule booked for weeks ahead.
Before moving to Moscow (Marina's hometown is Omsk) she worked as a waitress, aerobics coach, cashier in a cafe, journalist, illustrator, and was involved in literature and sociology. Now, our heroine is a member of the jury and a four-time winner of the 35awards international prize and a teacher and mentor of many lovers of the art of photography.
Marina, could you describe this journey from a waitress to being on the jury of an international award?
I was born into a very ordinary family. From the age of 16, I lived without parents, while staying in the house of my elderly grandmother. It was important for me to get on my own two feet as soon as possible.
I really needed to establish myself in my creative life, but the path to any big and important goal is never reached in a short period of time. Creativity has always been a part of my life and it provided me with that energy resource without which I could not not imagine myself at all. And it is important to understand that, while doing creative work, it is not possible to forget immediately about your employment record at that time.
It was important for me to be patient, persistent,and to completely get out of mind all those barriers, including public opinion, and everything else that the system imposes on the average person to control them. I have never had external motivators, and there was never a "magic kick" from the outside to put me in my creative mood. I wanted to achieve things. And I still want more. On my "track record" in addition to the position of a waitress, there is also that of a cashier, a salesperson, an interviewer, a journalist, a coach in static gymnastics and step aerobics, a programmer, a laboratory assistant at a university, a system administrator, and some other stuff - I don't remember all of it now.
Do you have a photography work that gave you some huge existential experience? Perhaps it was a picture taken in a hurry on your phone in a taxi, or it was a complex project that you had been preparing for a long time?
Every new photo shoot and every new person, in some way, are a new existential experience. I try to be attentive to each one of those and notice how their identity is superimposed on my energy and mental state. Most of the time, I don't have projects prepared in advance, so, I just improvise on the set. The level of complexity here plays almost no role, except for some technical nuances. And for this, a certain set of tools (lighting equipment and other similar things) may be needed welll ahead of time.
Who was the first client when offers started coming in from people who admired your works? How do you remember this shooting now? Would you change something in it now, if you could?
I don't remember my first client anymore. It was a long time ago. Of course I would change it! And after 13 years I still wish I could change it! That photo shoot I remember to be as very exciting, responsible and unfamiliar. I was worried at that time, I must admit. I wanted to do everything at the highest (as it seemed to me then) level of performance and not to lose face. I remember that we were shooting for three hours, if not longer.
It is very important to outdo your yesterday's self, to reconsider both external means of artistic expression, communication, etc. and the preferences that preceded them, the level of competence, observation, and to develop and improve the ability to think and to carry on your creative processes.
Which seems more difficult to you: to study something or to teach something?
Actually, I did not study photography, but at the same time, I am always learning new things, and everything I can learn by myself from the outside environment is a constant process. All my knowledge is a result of experience and curiosity. As for studying at college and university, I did everything "by the snap of my fingers” as they say: I never crammed, I did not do retakes,and I did not fail any exams. I did not start to teach by waiting to be older and more experienced even though, for a long time, I was convinced that teaching was only possible until I was at least 30 (or even more) years in business and had lots of experience collected over those years. My first students came to me by themselves, it was a request for some basic theoretical knowledge from the category of "how to shoot in manual mode and what is exposure " Now, after more than six years I ‘ve been meeting more and more people who request to help them with the formation of thinking and philosophy in the field of photography, which I am incredibly happy about. It is extremely important for me to teach my students to think, feel, speak through photography, not just press the button and control the aperture value. After a certain level of awareness, I do not consider either one or the other to be difficult.
How many of your photos can you call perfect, the ones about which you can say that everything was caught in the most fantastic way?
I don't have perfect photos. And I will never have. If one day I suddenly find such a "thingy" in my portfolio, the world of photography will be summed up for me once and forever , because development, growth and general sincere devotion to the craft are possible only under the condition of absolute love, inquisitiveness, and a desire to polish things.
Do you think the language of photography will change due to the the events of recent years? Is something radically new coming?
It's hard to say. Of course, photography, like any other kind of visual art, is constantly undergoing changes, and these metamorphoses are nothing but the influence of a number of external factors. One-day genres appear, and become a trend until the next, steeper "turn". Partly, it is very good: the masters try something new, and they speak and reflect things differently. In part, they adapt, as for example, it was with shooting through FaceTime during a lockdown (they also tried to pull me into a similar format many times, but I never held a single online photo shoot. I think this is not only a kind of mercantile approach to the shooting process, but also, in part,a sort of “pampering”, if you will). All this, of course, finds a response from the viewer which exists in the proposed formats, or not quite competent in some nuances. But it seems to as very important to be able to answer a number of questions to yourself. Such as: How bright and palpable is the aftertaste from such an image? What is a decent photo for you? At what level does it resonate and how does it settle in your mind? I prefer to stay on the side of the very "classical ideology" of the image, which lives outside of time. I like being a “gourmet’ of sorts at this moment.
What are your favorite words from the photographer's vocabulary?
"Stand still!’ Or ‘Freeze!’ " When I verbally "lead" the model inside the frame, it is important for me to fix some of her “vibes” and for a very long time I have been using the words: "Stand still” or “ Freeze."
What should a person who calls himself a photographer never allow himself?
To be fake or untrue to yourself. At all levels: in relation to yourself, your craft, your voice, your feelings, the person in the frame, as well as to his inner and outer world, to the desire to create something really sincere, strong, eternal, etc.