Alexander Khokhlov is a beauty, fashion, street, fine art, and commercial photographer from Moscow, Russia.
Born on May 9, 1982, Alexander was first impressed by live performance photography. However, at the end of 2008 after attending his first studio master-class by photographer Vladimir Kalinin, Alex’s perspective changed and he quickly became interested in moving his photography into the studio, and creating studio and “beauty” photography.
Collaboration is a huge part of Alexander’s work, and almost all of the projects that Alexander created in collaboration with make-up artists have quickly gone viral.
Alexander has had two exhibitions showcasing his work. “The Next Look” in Moscow, Russia, 2011, and the “Weird Beauty series” was exhibited in Moscow, Russia in 2012.
He has been interviewed by Thrashlab.com, Odcloneno.com, 30 degrees, Betrend.pt, AS de Pixel and his work has been published on many websites and articles including: the Daily Mail (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Metro (UK), The Huffington Post (Canada), 20 minutos (Spain), Zoom.nl (Netherlands), Quotation (Japan), Life Magazine (China), AS de Pixel (France), ABFLY Magazine (Italy), The Art of Bodypainting book (Netherlands), Digital Camera Polska (Poland), Wienerin (Austria), Creator (UK), Trente Degres (Switzerland), Manor House Quarterly (US), Petapixel.com, Photography Masterclass Magazine
Join us in this detailed interview with Alexander Khokhlov as he talks with us about his experience collaborating with other artists, what inspires him, and he speaks about the simple rewards of being a photographer. Alexander Khokhlov’s interview is an inspiring read that you don’t want to miss! 🙂
How did you become interested in photography?
As far as I can remember, it was in 2007. I saw my friend’s photos of a live concert shot with his Canon 350D and I said “Wow, I want to try this”. I am a musician also, so with photography I wanted to create emotional, colorful images of live rock shows. So I went to the nearest store and got my first camera – it was a Canon 400D.
When first discovering photography you were very much impressed by live photography. What live photography inspired you the most? And how was your experience of shooting live photography?
I play drums and most of all I love live music – seeing the emotions of the artists, the concert light and atmosphere. In 2007-2008 I preferred to shoot rock and metal concerts, because my band played really hard music at the time and our musical environment was the same. At the present time I still like to shoot live photography, but it happens rarely because of time constraints.
In the end of 2008, everything changed for you as you became interested in fashion and beauty photography. What inspired this transition in interest?
It was attending my first studio master-class by photographer Vladimir Kalinin. After these classes I decided to try photography in the studio – I enjoyed the atmosphere and resources which can help you to realize any creative idea.
Do you have any formal training in photography? And how would you summarize the experience?
We have no good photography institutions in Russia, so I had to find the courses, master-classes, lectures, videos on my own. It was not a big problem from 2007-2009, but at the present time it’s really hard to find a good photography teacher in Moscow – everyone with a digital camera thinks that he is a master.
What inspires you?
Everything – nature, music, good movies, books, exhibitions, museums, travels. And of course I have my muse – which is my lovely wife Veronica.
In 2012 you displayed your amazing “Weird Beauty Series” in an exhibition at Moscow, Russia. First, please tell us about your “Weird Beauty” series done in collaboration with make-up artist Valeriya Kutsan? Secondly, how was the exhibit?
First of all, there were two separate ideas going into the images but they were both processed in black and white. After the images were ready, I called Valeriya and said that it is a cool concept and we can make an interesting series together. Valeriya told me that it would be great to make a New year calendar in a conceptual way, so we started the series called “Weird Beauty”. The denying of other colors helped us to focus only on forms and volume and to prove that usual simple forms, familiar things or characters can be a main part of wonderful beautiful looks.
The works were exhibited in an art-cafe gallery in Moscow from September, 2012 – December 2012. We had a big presentation and sold several original copies of our works.
After creating “Weird Beauty” yourself and make-up artist Valeriya Kutsan created your second project together titled “2D or not 2D”. How was your experience of creating this body of work with Valeriya? What was the biggest challenge you faced when making the series?
The main challenge of 2D or not 2D series was to make the image flat. You know, how our faces have volume and the light mostly accentuates this volume of the face. Valeriya’s challenge was to put make-up on a model in a way where she looks absolutely like the picture; and my task was to make the light flat and not bring volume or depth into the image. This is unusual for me and for many photographers because I like the volume and depth which light/shadow creates. In this case everything was opposite. This challenge was a consequence of our project’s main idea.
Secondly, were you prepared for how much this series of work was going to blow up on the internet? How did you handle the work going viral?
The “Weird Beauty” series got a lot of positive responses, comments and publications. We did not expect that the series would be so popular. When we were making the “2D or not 2D” series I had doubted that we could repeat the success of our previous project. But the result exceeded all of our expectations – this series is more popular the the first one. Of course, the viral expansion has the negative aspects too – for example, a couple of weeks ago I found a website selling t-shirts with prints from the “Weird Beauty series”. It is illegal, and I’m currently working on solving this problem with my lawyer.
How important would you consider social media to be? And how has it helped with the exposure of your work as a whole?
I think it is important because it helps people to follow the new works of an artist. And I try to be in touch with my followers with the news, works, and any advices they have to offer.
Left to Right: Circle of Life, Uncolored Life, Coffee Break.
What’s on your gear list? (camera, software, etc)
In most studio shoots I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 70-200 mm f/4L USM or Canon EF 85 mm f/1.2L USM II lenses. In post-production I always use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
Who are some of your favourite artists and/or photographers?
Patrick Demarchelier, Solve Sundsbo, David Lachapelle, Mario Testino, Peter Lindberg, Alexander Rodchenko, Steve McCurry.
Your most recent project titled “Table Stories” done in collaboration with Veronica Ershova, is absolutely fantastic. I love your minimalist approach. Can you tell us about this project?
This is absolutely a new project which is dedicated to word games and double meanings. These images are created with a mix of photography, philology, art, minimalism and sudden paraphrases. We took famous phrases, proverbs, simple words and made visual versions of these phrases, etc in the studio, using just a table and models. Each photo is attached to its title. For example, you know what “facepalm” means – it is when you have nothing to say, you are speechless. And there are a lot of ironic smiles and “memes” on the web about “facepalm”. But we approached the image and phrase literally – the model in our image closes the face with the palm leaf. The result is interesting, funny and sometimes reminds us of Captain Obvious. We also became models in the series – for example, you can see me in the “Morning Kiss” picture and Veronica performed in “Mona Listens”.
Left to right: Morning Kiss, Face Palm, Mona Listens.
Right now there is a part 1 and part 2 to “Table Stories”. Will we be seeing a part 3 soon?
Yes, for sure. I think there will be several additional parts because we have a lot of great ideas for this series.
What are you currently working on?
At this moment me and my wife Veronica are collaborating with stylist and image-maker Mikhail Kravchenko. We did the wonderful Marge Simpson image last month
This year me and Veronica will continue to work with Mikhail Kravchenko and Valeriya Kutsan for several interesting ideas. Also we are preparing for the Paris exhibition – we are planning it for the end of June. In addition me and my band Ocean Shiver are preparing to play a live show with famous electronic band Kosheen on April, 12th.
Is there anything (within the realms of photography or not) that you wish you were better at?
I would like to learn how to play drums better.
Other than your collaborations with make-up artists and beauty work, you also partake in street photography as well as creating beautiful lush portraiture. What is your favourite type of photography to partake in?
As you said I like street and genre photography. I like to shoot the details of the cities when I am traveling, to take photos and videos. For example, last year I took a lot of pictures in Switzerland, England, and Scotland. This year I have already been in Milan and going I’m to Paris this summer – good cause to make some interesting images! I can’t remember a moment when I was traveling somewhere without a camera.
What is your proudest moment as a photographer?
The proudest moment is when you are looking at the finished result of an idea. Because the idea is just the beginning. The process of realization is really hard – to find the team, models, to organize the studio, find decorations and props, properties and locations, build the light scheme, retouch image and so on. And when you are looking at the final image and you like it – this is the proudest moment. Because you see your own soul in the work.
What is your favourite photo that you’ve ever taken?
I think my favourite photo is in the future.
How important do you consider collaboration to be?
It is important to collaborate with different artists because it helps to advance your skills. But with one note – they should be artists of a really high level.
Where do you hope to see yourself and your work go within the next 5-10 years?
I hope to open my own studio and art-gallery. And of course there will be much more creative projects!