Critique

Lonely and Insecure: Professionals Reviewed Dmitry Medvedev’s Photographs

It is known that photography is one of the hobbies of the former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. We showed his photographs to professional photographers, an exhibition manager and a photo editor without disclosing the name of their author and asked them to review the works.

Russian politician Dmitry Medvedev is notorious for his love of Apple, social networks and photography. He once confessed in his video blog that photography had been his hobby since childhood when he took pictures with his Smena-8M camera. These days Medvedev uses Leica, Nikon and Canon. “I like capturing landscapes, I like capturing architecture, and of course, I like capturing people” – the Russian prime minister says. – “But honestly, it is very difficult for me to shoot people, as due to my job it would look odd if I suddenly jump out with a camera and start taking pictures of someone. I’m afraid, people won’t understand.” Already after his inauguration for president, in March 2010, Medvedev participated in the outdoor photography exhibition World In the Eyes of Russians.

Bird in Flight showed Medvedev’s pictures to photographers Oleg Klimov, Dmitry Kostyukov, Donald Weber, Tarsicio Sañudo Suárez, photo exhibition manager Katya Zueva, photo editor Iren Mayorova, while not disclosing the name of their author, and asked to review the works.


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Donald Weber
Photographer, World Press Photo two times winner

I see a photographer who is curious, interested in the world and using their camera as a way to explore that world. The photos are pictorial; meaning, it is about the aesthetic and the visual composition of the work first and foremost. The strongest images for me are the image of the twisting river and the image of the bridge. The photographer has acknowledged their interest in the “visuality” of the image. The image of the river uses the twisting lines of the river, contrasted against the sharpness of the trees, the starkness of the landscape is revealed through the very twisty line. A classic example of a negative and positive, a white black or, as opposites attract. The image of the tree in the foreground with the temple from India almost works as the photographer has used the foreground and background to create depth. The other images were flatter for me, as they don’t rely on the space of the environment to truly capture those spaces.

The image of the tree in the foreground with the temple from India almost works. The other images were flatter for me.

If you are wanting to shoot landscape and architecture, you really must commune with the space you’re shooting, to reveal it not just pictorially but also spatially. How does the surrounding affect what you’re doing, how can it inform compositional space and what do the buildings or landscape do to each other to inform the presentation of the photograph? Trust your visual instincts first, do not rely upon overt compositional gestures to dictate the photo.

(Upon finding out these photos were taken by Medvedev.) Hah! Funny. If I had known that, I would’ve been harder! I thought it was a high school student.


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Dmitry Kostyukov
Works for The New York Times, Liberation, Russian Reporter GEO, GQ, Vokrug Sveta (Around the World). Former AFP reporter.

It is difficult to perceive these photographs out of context. Of course, I immediately knew they were taken by Medvedev. We can’t talk about anything very artistic here. But documentary photography is not only composition, colors and light, it is also a document (sorry for this repetition). Most of the photographs look like they were made by a regular tourist on a regular group tour, but there are exceptions, such as the shot of Kremlin from the helicopter or a marine pier with a coast guard ship in the horizon.

Most of the photographs look like they were made by a regular tourist on a regular group tour.

You notice there are no people around on this photographs, that this is the reality not accessible for the others. My students at MSU often ask me what to shoot. And I came up with a decent answer in the past years: if you do not have a theme that fascinates you, it is better to shoot your subculture – what surrounds you, what is available to you, what you know well. From this point of view, Dmitry Medvedev has a competitive advantage – he can capture things that are not accessible to many. Moreover, these photographs are important for society, as they show things that nobody sees and never has. So, the artistic side is not that important here.


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Katya Zueva
Photo exhibition manager

These photographs could be used to illustrate a tourist guide, if they were a bit more juicy. With regards the top shooting angle – I can’t say the author fully used what it offers.


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Tarsicio Sañudo Suárez
Photographer, International Drone Photography Awards prize winner

The photograph with the mountains – the location is great, but a horizontal composition would look better. Almost all the photographs need color correction. The photo with the bridge looks like an amateur iPhone photo. The shot of the night city is really cool, as if it were taken by a drone flying out of a window, although the reflection tells me it wasn’t. I like the composition in other photographs.


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Iren Mayorova
Kommersant newspaper photo editor

The shot with a tower is an interesting geometrical photograph. It would look good in B/W. I can’t figure out whether there’s a cross there. If there is, this photo gains a plot, additional meanings, religious connotation. The top of this building is in a ray of light. But everything needs to be post-produced and photographed correctly, to show details. A lot was cropped on the right, the shot is too long now, it makes you want to crop it more. The photograph of the city at night conveys the feeling of movement. The buildings are not standing still, they are moving at the spectator. It is interesting and unusual. It happens due to the tilted buildings on the sides and the perspective. This shot also needs to be post-produced to add more contrast. This is a movie frame, not a photograph. It needs to be made into a series, you want it to continue.

Other pictures are just passing shots of an amateur photographer. What did the author see in them except the beautiful nature? And if it about the beauty of nature, you need to wait for the light and season that would make it fascinating. There is nothing to say separately about any of those pictures.


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Oleg Klimov
Documentary photographer, worked for Time, Elsevier, Stern, Le Monde, Magazine-M, Izvestiya, Komsomolskaya Pravda, The Independent, The Guardian, The Washington Post

If it is a series by one photographer, I can’t say anything about the photographs, but I can comment on the personality of the author: it is a rather lonely and insecure person who aspires to look at the world from a bird’s eye view. I don’t understand why only the top half of the Motherland statue is in the photo. Should this person be doing photography? Why not? Photography has not only artistic, but also a therapeutic purpose. It heals. I’m sorry if I was offensive, but I was at least honest.


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Cover photo: AP/East News. Other photos: Dmitry Medvedev

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