Emil Gataullin’s 10 Favorite Photographs

At the request of Bird In Flight, Russian photographer Emil Gataullin chose 10 photos from his archives and explained why he likes them.

Emil Gataullin, 43

Professional artist and photographer. Lives in Moscow. Graduated from the Surikov Art Institute at Moscow State Academy with a specialization in monumental paintings. Was a student of Aleksandr Lapin, one of the leading Russian photography theorists and an author of books and articles. Member of the Photo-Artists Union of Russia. Winner of the international Alfred Fried Photography Award and the Best Photographer award in Russia. Was a finalist at the Vilnius Photo Circle and PhotoVisa international festivals. Winner of the “Young Photographers of Russia” contest and the street photography festival. Has participated in solo and collective exhibitions in Austria, Lithuania, Russia and France.

For whatever reason, I can’t call my own photos my “favorites,” but I can say that about the work of other photographers. About mine, I can say that some are better, more carefully selected, or more successful. I chose several photos that I can still stand to look at, even after all this time has passed, and which have attained some kind of personal meaning for me.

I took this photo in the village of Ferapontovo in Vologodskaya Oblast. Some boys are playing the “sun” game on a swing set with a monastery in the backdrop, and I tried to press the shutter at the exact moment when they were upside down. The boys seem frozen in the shot, inverted upside down, and I think that there is a certain meaning in this.

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I captured a young pilgrim couple during a rest on a religious procession. I shot them without asking permission, and you might say that I invaded their personal space, but even though they noticed that I was taking a picture, they weren’t angry and didn’t ask any questions about it. We didn’t say one word to each other, and I thank them for this memory.

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This is the observation platform at Sparrow Hills – one of the traditional places in Moscow where young just-married couples come for a walk right after signing the papers at the registrar’s office. In 2005, I was going there every Saturday over the course of several months to take pictures of weddings, but as a bystander and not as a wedding photographer. Sometimes this was puzzling for the couples, and once a groom said to me, “Is this guy with us? We didn’t order any damn photographer and I’m not paying for it!”

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On the shore of the Rybinsk reservoir, near the village of Myaska, people gather for the annual, so-called Leushinsky vigil. This is a prayer which is held in memory of the flooding of a monastery during the construction of the Leushinsky Hydroelectric Station. I was there in 2007. In the evening a storm was approaching from the direction of the reservoir, and while rising winds were driving waves towards the shore, a girl who was participating in the prayers was playing there. There’s something subtle and understated in this picture: the movement in a half-turn, a clumsy gesture tilted by the wind and bushes and, in response, the folded hems of her sundress. This subtlety is something that I love about the girl and this picture.

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A monastery in Khotkovo on Palm Sunday. The drains were clogged in the monastery. I was able to get just one shot until they noticed me and asked me not to film there. But the picture, of course, turned out to be something else.

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Kozmodemyansk, Marij El Republic. I was chasing this guy and captured him on the go without taking my eyes off the viewfinder. The truth is, I was most of all anxious about getting the right focus when shooting wide open because the distance was constantly changing. It went like this for a few streets. The man finally dropped the heavy iron frame to an oven door at the gate of his house. I chose this frame as the best one of several takes. However, I still barely got the focus right.

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This photo is meaningful to me because it’s a picture of my teacher, Aleksandr Lapin. A lot of things in my life are connected to this person, and he has had a significant influence on me as a photographer. Lapin himself didn’t really like to be photographed, but on that day he was in a good mood and let me take a few shots.

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In the summer of 2010 I was taking pictures in several villages located along the Pineg River in Arkhangelskaya Oblast. The men here spent about half an hour sitting on the porch. At first there were four of them drinking, telling each other stories and laughing loudly. Later on two of them left, and the two who stayed sat silent for literally a few seconds and thought about something. That’s how I got this shot.

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It was raining on this day in Magadan. The shore of Nagayev Bay was totally deserted. I wandered with my umbrella, taking photos of old, abandoned ships near the fishing port. I needed some people in the frame. Then, as luck would have it, a guy, a girl and two dogs suddenly appeared. This picture really sums up all of my emotions that are connected with Magadan.

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Tantamareski, a billboard for picture-taking. They had the same ones in Gorky Park in Moscow once upon a time. It was fun watching the people who wanted to take pictures in silly poses. I was hovering around this place for a long time in search of the perfect shot and had my eyes trained on the local photographers and where they stood. But the best shot I got turned out to be from behind the billboard.

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