Yan Pekar is a Barcelona based photographer that grew up in Russia and has developed a great passion for photography with his experiences abroad while living in Russia, Israel, UK, Portugal and Spain. His portfolio includes clients such as Samsung, Jack Morton Worldwide, Metropolitan magazine, Big Spaceship digital agency, musicians, writers, models, sportsman, restaurants, startups and Modelmanagement.com. For Yan, photography is much more than just taking pictures but a way to create meaningful photography.
Keep on reading to learn more about Yan Pekar’s photography and get some tips on how to become a professional photographer.
Modelmanagement.com: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Yan Pekar: I grew up in Murmansk, north of Russia, where there is no sun during winter days, and no darkness during summer nights.
A few years ago I made a decision of leaving my corporate job to become a freelance photographer. Since then, I am a freelance Barcelona-based photographer specializing in emotional and publicity portrait, and reportage, and providing photo tours and photo walks in Barcelona. My objective is to create meaningful photographs and help people in the process of learning photography. Especially those who want to move from photography being a hobby, to photography being a business.
I developed a passion for photography over a lifetime experience of living in Russia, Israel, the UK, Portugal, and Spain.
In my work, I use a “Tactical approach to photography” concept that I developed (I did not create it!:) – a mix of army, martial arts, and psychology techniques aimed at bringing a photographer’s mind to a state of emotional balance and “here and now”.
MM: Was there anything specific that you can remember that made you want to become a photographer?
YP: Yes, several things contributed to my decision of developing as a photographer. First, this is the most natural way for me to express myself. Second, I was looking for something that can help to preserve the beauty of this world. We are getting disconnected from this world by spending more and more time in virtual reality (social networks, phones, etc.), and I believe photography can help people to restore that connection with themselves and with the world.
Last but not least, the intention of creating meaningful photos has also inspired me to develop as a photographer. As it’s becoming easier for people to take pictures, there are millions of boring and tasteless photos captured. I believe that if one wants to develop as a photographer, she or he has to develop a good taste, which is (in my opinion) a “must have” for a good photographer. When I do photo walks or photo tours with my clients, one of our objectives is to “come back with pictures you are proud of” and “shoot less, think more” instead of “shooting thousands of photos just for the sake of shooting”.
MM: What does photography mean to you?
YP: Everyone I photograph is like a huge unknown city I have never been to. When you go to a city you have never been to, you start with exploring it, trying to find little gems which would show how beautiful it is. Same with portrait photography, – I am trying to get to know a person, and find out what makes her or him unique and different. I see portrait photography as a tool, which helps to document and preserve our personality. Each one of us is unique, and not a copy of others. For this reason, I don’t see a point in creating photos which look the same as thousands of other photos. This is why I build the idea of a photo shoot around the personality of a person I photograph.
MM: Do you still find photography challenging even after all this time?
YP: I am always looking for challenging photo shoots, as it helps me grow and improve. I think the most common approach that a photographer can take is to develop a workflow and shoot in the same locations, under the same conditions. This approach is less risky and much easier for a photographer, although it may not be beneficial for a client, as the photographer is making clients adapt to his style, which (including location) may not match their personality. I choose a different approach, which is to try and understand my client’s personality, then build an idea and find location matching their personality, – in other words, building my style around the personality of a person I photograph.
MM: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
YP: They say that a good image has three main components: the light, the subject, and composition. I would add another component: the photographer’s ability to see beyond the obvious, and focus on being “here and now.” How can you take a photo of something happening “here and now” if your mind is not “here and now”?:) There is a great technique which I learned from a very talented photographer, Rani Bruchstein, and which helps in developing the ability to see beyond the obvious – take a simple object, and try to photograph it from 10 different angles. The first shoots will normally be “typical”, and if you keep thinking, you have a higher chance of creating a photo which will stand out. In my Barcelona photo walks, we also focus on simple techniques aimed at bringing photographer’s mind into a state of “here and now”.
MM: The first words you see when you open your website are ¨Reflection of your soul”, why is that, what is the story behind it?
YP: Photography helps me in finding people’s inner beauty, their Soul, and taking it to the surface, to show how beautiful and unique they are. When I was creating my site, I was a bit stuck trying to find an appropriate name which would match my photos. The title “Reflection of your soul” was suggested by a friend of mine, Darina Ai Radhika, who said that the portraits I create have something in common – they look natural yet deep, not posed, and show the personality of people, their Soul. Thank you, Darina. I hope so 🙂
MM: The first time you worked with us was in 2014 at the Fresh Faces Grand Finals as a photo call photographer and this year you were a behind the scenes photographer. In which way was this experience different and what did you enjoy the most?
YP: Both experiences were amazing, and I enjoyed both of them. With the first one, I had more of a one to one interaction with the participants, while in the second one I had more freedom to move around and more opportunities to create a variety of photos in different locations.
MM: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
YP: It is my responsibility to plan and prepare for a photo shoot and make it as predictable as possible. As a part of preparation for each shooting, I scout and visit locations, to get familiar with it, check lighting conditions and select optimal shooting positions. Also, my preparation includes checklists of what we want to create and “Plan B”, in case if we need to change location.
MM: How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with his subjects to bring out their true self?
YP: I noticed that more often than not, photographers press the shutter button without establishing any emotional connection with a person they photograph. As a result, there are photos with the same face expression, no emotions: just blank. You can correct many things in post-production (we should always do as much of the “right” things as possible in camera during the shoot rather than thinking “I can correct it later”), but you can’t add emotions to the original photo if it does not have it, or make a boring photo look better. When I started to analyze the reason to so many emotionless photos, I realized that one of the reasons is that often the photographers are more focused on technical side of the photo shoot rather than on a person they photograph. This is why, for me, a photo shoot is a dialog, during which a photographer would try and talk with the person they photograph in such a way that creates emotions which they want to see in the photos. You are welcome to join one of my “Photo sparring” workshops where we practice how to talk with a person you photograph in such a way that creates emotions.
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