How long have I been photographing? How did I start?

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko.

It depends on what point to start count from. I was fascinated with photography on some subconscious level. Back in school I had an old rangefinder camera. Completely mechanical with manual exposure – no electronics at all. I developed film by myself, I made prints by myself. I still remember the scent of chemicals.

I remember my experiment with enlarging a photograph to a really big size. I put my enlarge on a side and projected the image from one end of 7 meter hall to the wall on the other end. On the wall I put letter size sheets of photo paper. The hardest thing was to develop those sheets exactly the same time to keep the same tonality. And I did not succeed on that. Different sheets ended up being darker or lighter. Despite that I enjoyed experimenting.

Later, in high school, my parents bought me more advanced camera – film SLR. It had electronic exposure metering! That was when I learnt my first lesson: not to trust tools. Since I started relying on exposure metering I did not get a single shot with a good exposure.

Still I would not say I did fine art photography in the school. After I entered a university I abandoned photography completely. There was no way I could setup a dark room in a dorm.

After post-graduation school I moved across an ocean to the US. I did not immediately started doing photography again. I traveled a lot, bought a simple digital camera and was taking some random snapshots which I have not even bothered to look at since then.

After a few years living in the US I noticed that I spent too much time working. I needed something that would take me away from work. I tried several hobbies and could not stop on anything.

At the same time my wife got into photography. She was the first we got a DSLR for. I thought about trying myself in landscape photography. I bought a tripod, started reading books and explore landscapes around. And I really like it. Photography has become part of my life that I cannot live without.

Fascination with Paper

I don’t know what is that between me and paper. I just like looking at paper, its smooth or rugged surface, feel it in my hands, think of photograph that look good on that paper, print it and look at it. Every time I go to a photo store I end up buying a sampler pack of some paper. Today I went to a photo store to buy lenses cleaning solution and end up with another sampler pack.

With inkjet printers we have a huge selection of all kinds of papers and surfaces to print our photos on. I have whole bunch of various inkjet paper at home. Some of it never even makes to printer – after studying it I realize that I don’t have the kind of photos that would look great on it. Sometimes I print on it just to realize that it does not work the way I expected. And other times I’m just wowed with the way the print looks.

My main medium is canvas. That’s what I use for most of the prints nowadays. Photo impressionism looks especially great on canvas. The rest of paper is just for fun – just because I’m fascinated with paper.