The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Valery Plotnikov: “I Was Lucky to Know Amazing People“


Valery Plotnikov opened his exhibition, Vladimir Vysotsky and Others, at the Yasnaya Polyana Gallery on March 2, 2018. On that day, we talked to the photographer and learned about his favourite photos and his attitude to modern museums and contemporary photography.

They call you a portrayer of the departing epoch. Who do you think could be pictured as the symbol of the second half of the 20th century?

From my point of view, it’s Dmitry Likhachev and Daniil Granin. Those are two great people, and it doesn’t matter that one of them is a scholar and the other – a writer. Simply the way they are, from birth, they are two great people, two true representatives of the intelligentsia, which for our country is a rarity and a wonder.

Is there a photo of yours you can call your favourite?

No, I can‘t. There are maybe a dozen or more of my photos that I personally prefer, but I don‘t have favourite ones.

Are any of those photos in this exhibition?

Yes. The ones of Grigory Kozintsev, and of Irochka Kassil-Sobinova. And of course, the photo of Prince Leonid Obolensky.

What are the main principles of your creative work as a photographer?

I don’t have any creative principles. I just have a personal attitude about this activity. There are people whom I respond to, who are of interest to me, whom I even really like, and first and foremost I try to photograph them. Moreover, my life turned out very nicely in that I was lucky to know amazing people. I’m happy that I happened to meet them and that my profession was such that I managed to capture them and leave a record of them – pardon this high-sounding phrase - in the history of our long-suffering country.

You often refer to photography as an artistic activity. Is there a particular photographer or a painter who you would like to make your a portrait?

No. I don‘t entertain any such thoughts or worries about myself now. I am always behind the camera, and I myself have taken a small number of photographs I find interesting and, in general, that’s enough.

What’s your attitude to the development of mobile photography? Do you consider it a promising trend?

No. I have no attitude about it, but my thoughts about it are as follows: I know for sure that it corrupts one. Although it’s possible in some inexplicable instant even to make a unique shot, but no more than that. But then again, the world must need it – this crazy, endless photographing, and even more – those selfies… For me it’s kind of wild… These people somewhat resemble barbarians… I have an old man’s belief that the public keeps getting stupider; at any rate its taste is as bad as it gets. But it’s not a reason to be sad, at least from my point of view. I was a witness to a wonderful period, I knew wonderful people, and, as Zhukovsky said: “Don’t be sad that they aren’t with us any more, be glad that they lived.”

Do you attend photo exhibitions and museums in general?

I do attend exhibitions. Moreover, from an early age I studied at an art school, and an art institute, and at the Institute of Cinematography at the camera operator faculty. I used to know the history of arts quite well back then (probably not as well any more), I just loved it, I lived by it. And there are absolutely amazing people among my classmates: Oleg Grigoryev, the poet; Misha Shemyakin; Yura Rusakov; Natasha Abdulaeva, I could go on with this list much longer… It is my life. There was a time when I simply lived in those museums, in the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, in Brodsky’s apartment – it has an amazing collection.

What kind of museum visitor are you? What do you pay attention to?

To tell you the truth, when I see these crowds, I'm taken aback. I have lived so happily, and for so long, that I remember a time when it was rather quiet in the museums, not many people at all, but one could communicate with the paintings and drawings, and be “face to face” with the artists.

Which great people who didn’t live in your time, and whom you thus didn’t meet, would you like to have photographed?

I would like to have photographed Mikhail Vrubel, the artist. I woud be very grateful to him. Well, I guess Rakhmaninov and... Akhmatova. I practically managed to do the rest.

The exhibition will be open until April 22, 2018. More photos from the opening can be seen HERE >>>

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