The Sony World Photography Awards are an annual photo contest run by the World Photography Organisation within a partnership with Sony. The WPO is an international organisation that creates initiatives for professional and amateur photographers, such as contests and programmes. The Awards constitute of 4 contests rewarding different types and levels of photographers : the « Professional » contest, divided into 10 categories, the « Open » contest for amateurs, also split into 10 themes, the « Youth » contest for photographers aged 12-19, and the « Student Focus » contest for those studying photography.
In the context of their 10th edition, the Awards announced their shortlist and winning lists in last March and celebrated a great diversity of professional projects and single images from amateur photographers that were creative and original. Among the winners, there is the stunning portrait, « Mathilda » (featured image of the article) shot by Alexander Vinogradov and rewarded by the award « Open Photographer of the Year ».
Alexander Vinogradov, living in Moscow, Russia, is not a professional photographer, but he is talented and specialised in wedding photography and portraiture. In this interview he shares with us his experience with the Sony Awards and the making of his portrait entitled « Mathilda », inspired by the character of the same name in Luc Besson’s famous movie called « Léon », where Natalie Portman and Jean Reno get on well together.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Vinogradov Alexander. I live in Russia and I am fond of portrait photography. I have a family: a wife and a young son.
What is your occupation in life and background in photography?
I work as a process engineer at a nonwovens plant. Photography is my hobby. I’ve been photographing portraits for more than 6 years. When I bought my first camera, I wanted to start shooting landscapes and macro. But I actually began to get better at portraits, so I decided to work with portrait photography.
How did you decide to participate to the Sony World Photography Awards 2017?
I knew about the contest quite a long time ago. In 2011 I was even at the award ceremony in London as a blogger. The russian Sony team invited me to cover that event for the social networks and the blogosphere. But I only decided to participate for the first time in 2016 while it was the last week for submitting applications. In total I sent 3 and then I found out that I won with one of them.
Why did you make the portrait of that little girl based on the character of Mathilda in Léon? How did the idea come?
The idea of photographing my model (her name is Anastasia Marinina) based on the character of Mathilda appeared after our first meeting, when I realized that she reminded me of the heroine played by Natalie Portman when she was a child. I saw the movie Léon when I was young but it is still one of my favourite films.
Anastasia has huge expressive eyes and behaves in a very adult and mature way. She can instantly change her facial expression from laughter to anxiety.
We spent quite a long time looking for a choker for her neck and also a wig that looked like Mathilda’s hair in the movie. After a few months we both met for shooting. Then I offered the portrait to her mother who gave permission beforehand for her daughter to be photographed.
How did you find the model? Did you see several girls and then choose or do you know her?
I found Anastasia on Instagram. I usually search all my models on social networks. And if I like them, I suggest them to pose for my photos.
How did you plan the portrait (lights, pose, gear)?
The winning portrait was shot in my studio in Moscow where light is constant : there are a large softbox on the right of the room and a reflector on the left to highlight shadows. Then everything was simple : Anastasia and I talked and laughed a bit, then I told her that it was time to work and she instantly changed her face and looked at me. I made the shot at that moment. Regarding the equipment I used my Sony A99 camera and a cheap manual Samyang 85 mm lens.
Do you think culture (here cultural references such as films) can influence our way to see the world?
Yes, I do. Movies but also painting and photography greatly influence our perception of the world. We are being impressed, inspired, and we gain visual experience from those works. Then all those experiences and references are embodied in our work.
How did you feel after knowing you were selected for the Sony World Photography Awards 2017?
I was very astonished and excited when I got a call from London and was invited to the awards ceremony. This has been my first success at a photo competition of such level. I feel very grateful to all the contest organizers and to all my friends and relatives who supported me and believed in me.
It may be news for some people, but actually even if people do not own a Sony camera, they can participate. Anyone can !
In fact it is noteworthy that it was one of the first times that the winning photo for the Open Photographer of the Year was made with a Sony camera.
Therefore, I invite everyone to participate and I wish them success!