In recent times the Russian photographer Anisia Kuzmina has been concentrating on portraits. Equipped with an M10-R, her exploration of her protagonists is more than just superficial; which is also why she is not interested in actors or models. The thing that fascinates her most is finding totally normal people with no experience in front of the camera. The photo sessions often give rise to conversations on subjects such as self-worth and identity.
You say you feel a connection to analogue photography. Which artists or photographers impress you the most?
I’m really motivated by having the opportunity to carefully think through an idea and its composition, while keeping in mind that I have a limited amount of shots. When it comes to artists who impress me the most I think of Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Arnold Newman, Elliot Erwitt and Richard Avedon.
Where do you think the boundaries of photography lie, let’s say compared to film? Are there any?
Are there really any boundaries, and do we actually need them? It seems to me that their relevance is slowly fading in the modern world. I like observing people, the way they work and go through daily rituals. This inspires me and helps me get a new perspective on my own life.
What is your biggest challenge when taking photographs?
For the last five years I’ve been photographing people with no modelling background, who have no experience in front of the camera. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort, because people share personal stories about not accepting themselves. This requires thoughtful feedback and giving them energy to help cope with their problem. I need to know that my work had an impact on someone, and made them think about things that are important. The most important rule in my work and creative projects is to be honest with myself, and only take on projects that genuinely excite and challenge me.
What made you take up photography?
It hurt watching my loved ones get old and pass away. Photography became something that would allow me to stop time, capture the moment and never let it fade. I want to be able to remember all those wrinkles, eyes, hands and smiles that will one day be gone. When I was a teenager I dreamed of being born a different person. I was afraid of my own self and wasn’t confident of anything I did. Photography helped me reach out to the world and discover the beauty within me.
This was probably what made me start taking portraits. I wanted to have the opportunity to go back to the people I love at any given moment. Portraiture is a long journey to understanding myself through people who trust me, and a great opportunity to observe and document time and life.
What makes a good portrait in your eyes?
It seems to me that the best portraits come out when people let go of any expectations, loosen up and let me capture them in the moment.
When did you work on this series of portraits, and what was your intention?
A year ago I was struggling with my mental health, and it was hard for me to find joy in daily routines. At some point I realized that, sometimes, seeing someone else being happy is enough to fill yourself with joy. This series is about the happiness of those who let me be their observer and a participant in those happy moments. They showed me their favourite streets, fields, and people, their secret spots and rituals. I followed them with the Leica M10-R and captured important moments and personal insights.
Where and when did you shoot the images?
I went to St. Petersburg with my significant other just for this photo shoot. That city has a special place in my heart. I knew that I’d find the stories I needed for the series there.
How did you connect with people? Are you an open person or shy?
I think that everyone wants to be more open, but we all have those moments when we’re just not feeling it. Being honest and being able to listen to myself and other people helps me find a way to speak the same language with them.
You used the M10-R for this project. Which lens did you use and what did you like about it?
I used the Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH to shoot the entire Hideaway series. I have been using it for six years on all the cameras I’ve worked with. This is the most convenient lens for me, it allows me to fulfil my ideas exactly the way I imagine them.
In what ways do the images taken with the M10-R differ from others you’ve taken before?
I was never before able to digitally capture the colours and half-tones just the way I see them with my eyes.
Why did you prefer colour over black and white for this series?
I honestly didn’t know that I had a choice, because the M10-R has a colour matrix and it kind of sets the rules for working with it, as if it had a colour roll of film inside.
Do you have an idea of how you intend to develop your visual language in the future?
I try to listen to my inner voice and pay attention to what I have a genuine interest in.
Would you like to talk about future projects at this point?
Earlier this year I founded ‘metod.photo’, a closed community for photographers. I dedicate a lot of my time to this project. We plan to publish our members’ personal projects in our own printed album once a year.
Born in Moscow in 1993, Anisia Kuzmina lived and studied as a young teenager in Egypt. At 13 she began working as a sea cadet on a yacht, and started taking underwater pictures for tourists with disposable cameras. At 15 she returned to Russia, where ahe enrolled in theatre school and decided to continue working on stage. She worked as a video editor and assistant director on TV before studying Technical Photography and Art at the College of the Humanities at the Russian State University for the Humanities. Over the past five years Kuzmina has been working on personal projects, one of which was an exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, MMOMA, as well as collaborations with Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar and many local Russian magazines, media and artists. In 2020 she founded metod.photo, a collective of photographers who want to shift the focus of the photo industry away from commercial shoots towards personal artistic projects. Find out more about her photography on her Website and Instagram.