Chinese photographers are going global, and the global picture community is focusing on China. From Trunk Xu to Zhang Jingna, the favored by yours truly Yin Chao and the all-round celebrated Chen Man, these togs bring a new picture of China to the cutting table. On the other side, then, we find the foreigners entering China. From Russia to Shanghai, they’re snapping away. One muses: In life… Can we actually capture that one moment?
“Photography quickly became an obsession, a desire to capture every moment of beauty surrounding me.” Oleg Chebotarev.
Born and raised in the Russian Far East, the area bordering Asian countries and influenced by Asian culture to some extent, now Shanghai-living 28-year-old Oleg Chebotarev first took up landscape photography at that long-gone tender age of 14 … And it quickly became an obsession, a desire to capture every moment of beauty surrounding him. At a time when there were no phones with built-in cameras surrounding our every angle, for any budding photographer such as Chebotarev, this lack of 2016 tech could prove quite frustrating. A little shy going up to people and do their pictorial portraits, Chebotarev found himself mainly working with inanimate objects.
Fast shutter speed forward 14 years, and the shy boy from Russia’s Far East has made his way its way to the actual Far East, i.e. Shanghai. This city of sass and snap has proven to work wonders for many a creator across all creative lines. From April 2015 onwards, Chebotarev started working on his photo-portfolio. Styling the photoshoots himself helped him express his personal thoughts and ideas to the next degree. One year later, in July of 2016, Temper Magazine focuses the fancy new glass on the man of the hour and asks: Is one picture really worth a thousand words? Chebotarev’s story, for one, is. Пойдем (pay-DYOM)! (Pardon my Russian.)
Temper: When did you and photography have that moment, that all-important click (cheesiness is my forte)?
Chebotarev: “I wouldn’t say that I really ‘chose’ photography as a profession, but this particular art form has always spoken to me silently… And I was responding to its call out loud. I was working in different areas of the fashion industry, but I realized that fashion imagery was the part I liked the best. Doing this simply makes me happy. Photography remained my passionate hobby until only recently when, after several years of working in the garment manufacturing biz, I asked myself: Why did I come into the fashion industry and what is it I actually want to do? The answer came to mind rather easily: I want to generate beauty and be a creator myself. I already knew that I wasn’t cut out to be a fashion designer (monotonous, organized, constructive work is not one of my strong points), so I decided to utilize what I’d already been doing for years: Photography.”
“Until China starts full-on generating full-fledged fashion, the opportunities for home-grown photographers remain rather limited.”
Temper: A love for fashion vs. the business of fashion. What’s your snapshot?
Chebotarev: “I think I’m both an artist and an entrepreneur. I get inspired and this inspiration requires a release through self-expression. The entrepreneurial aspect helps me to think strategically and build my way wisely. I chose to come to China in 2009, because I knew this market was going to be huge and would offer plenty of fashion opportunities. Back then, I didn’t know exactly which direction I would be heading in as the competitiveness within the fashion industry and the global economic situation were under constant change. It took me six years to not only to realize what I wanted to do, but actually start doing it. However, I quickly came to the realization that, given the current state of fashion industry, budding photographers in China have much less chances at getting proper exposure. The Chinese fashion industry remains in a predominantly ‘consuming mode’, absorbing Western trends and products. Until China starts properly and fully generating full-fledged fashion, the opportunities for home-grown photographers will remain quite limited.”
“I like Wong Kar-wai’s movies. Every random scene from his body of work can be framed and put up on the wall.”
Temper: That moment when you meet your Muse… Any thoughts?
Chebotarev: “My friends – mainly girls – have always been my Muses. Funny, smart, stylish, charismatic and — after all is said and done — beautiful. They were probably my first medium of realizing the importance of style. I get a lot of inspiration from music and cinema. Shanghai, this city of Art Deco, has proven a deep source of inspiration for me. I really like Wong Kar-Wai, the Hong Kong director who was actually born in Shanghai, and his movies since every scene in his pictures can be framed and put up on the wall. Always impeccably styled, perfect color-grading and profound soundtracks that go right through to your heart. The creative process starts off with one image inflicted by something I see or hear. I can then imagine the setting, look, pose, expression and get deeper into the illusion whilst fully savoring the process. I would actually compare this to meditation. As far as Chinese photographers go… I very much respect Sun Jun for being able to skillfully integrate Chinese national themes into fashion photography. Aside from that, his color schemes are very appealing!” [Behold! Below you can view a smattering of Chebotarev’s work.]
Temper: How do you see yourself evolve in the China photography scene?
Chebotarev: “In my works, I always try to create a powerful image which grabs one’s attention or leaves the viewer with a feeling of mystery. I want the photo to talk to people and plant a thought in their minds. Women, naturally, are my favored subject. I tend to portray them strong, even overpowering the spectator. If I had to give a designer reference, I would point to Jean Paul Gaultier. His outfits manage to turn a woman into a this non-bourgeois, emancipated of social pressure and somewhat dominant figure. I don’t want to limit myself to one specialization. The world is rapidly changing, we deal with a constant great amount of information, people tend to speak more than one language… One needs to be flexible to keep up with the world. I will try to realize myself professionally as thoroughly as possible and I therefore would like learn more about video production and basically continue in the directions of styling and fashion editing. If I had any big plans, I would probably keep them to myself until they have been put in place. More editorials and a must-do short fashion film are on the cards for sure!”
Temper: China’s fashion future… Sharp image or fuzzy concept?
Chebotarev: “Accumulated wealth, market scale, Western educated designers, deep integration of the Internet in mass culture and a high-tech production base together create strong prerequisites for China to give the world more fashion brands, as well as start shaping the world’s trends. This process has already been set in motion. China is the only country that has launched a Vogue edition specifically at the younger generation [Vogue Me]. It’s in the avant-garde in terms of e-commerce. Additionally, more and more Chinese designers are gaining industry acknowledgement across Paris, London, New York. Shanghai itself, then, is really turning into a fashion capital. You get to see a lot of stylish people with versatile refined looks, cohesive and well-put-together outfits. Very pleasing to the eye. And ever-inspiring to the mind.”
Photographs capture a moment in time that is lost forever within the next click. Some moments can last a lifetime; others last several (think the iconic “Seven Year Itch” Marilyn shot). I personally call bluff regarding that single one moment. Either way, Chebotarev paints a very real picture of China’s current stance on fashion photography. It’s a sharp one, with nothing fuzzy about it; nevertheless, when push comes to pixel, it flares! For now, we leave you with the following:
One picture may be worth a thousand words, but in the words of Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Muse on that.
Photos: Oleg Chebotarev.