A cool photographer: works and stories by Sanan Aleskerov
JAMnews’s interview with Sanan Aleskerov
Sanan Aleskerov is the coolest Azerbaijani photographer-that’s the opinion of many of his colleagues and admirers in Baku. Decades of work, awards, photo exhibitions and numerous disciples.
However, he himself doesn’t consent to this title.
More photos are available on his website
Not the coolest
“The ‘coolest’ is too abstract notion so as to subsume someone under this category. I regard myself as one of those few people nowadays, for whom feature photography is the only craft, profession and lifestyle. I have been so long and persistently engaged in photography, never ‘cheating on’ this sphere with any other one, that I have probably thus achieved certain recognition.
Weddings in the photo industry
“Photographic art has gone out of fashion in Azerbaijan over the past seven years. People no longer seek to get engaged in photography, as it used to be several years ago. The interest in this sphere is coming to naught. I think, it’s related to the economic crisis.
In other words, people think more about earnings rather than about art. Regrettably, you can hardly earn you living with a photo camera. Therefore, only few people are engaged in it.
“Photographic art isn’t a profitable business in Azerbaijan, of course, if we are talking about art rather than about commercial photos. And even this market is mostly limited to wedding photography. Weddings in Azerbaijan are the whole industry, involving people of different professions, be it designers or cameramen. In our country, art and money are the parallels that practically never meet. Therefore, teaching is the only real source of income for me.
Never add anything of your own
“My disciples are mostly the people, who just like to take photos and who want to learn how to do it well. I, in my turn, try to explain them the essence of photography. For example, to teach them that a photo should, in no way, embellish and distort the reality. You should shoot what you see and the way you see it, admire it, tell about it without exaggeration.
“I’m not engaged in reportage photography, except, perhaps, in the broadest sense of the word. I never take photos of protest rallies, blasts and volcano explosions. However, I, for instance, was photographing my father’s disease progression day by day. That’s also ‘reporting.’ I think that even the photos from the friendly get-togethers, in their essence, are also the reporting.
“I don’t like telling about photos much. First of all, because, as a rule, there is nothing to tell about, there are no dramatic events hiding behind them. Secondly, a photo is a visual type of art; it should tell for itself and give pabulum for reflection.
It’s impossible to get photographic education in our country
“It’s impossible to get more or less professional photographic education in our country. It has never been possible. It happened so that from olden times, people in Azerbaijan were somewhat indifferent towards photography, not paying much attention to this kind of art.
“I’m a self-educated person. In due times, I enrolled in journalism faculty hoping to master some basics of photography. But nothing of the kind happened, since we were not practically taught the subject. At the end of the semester the lecturer just collected our academic record books and ‘drew our marks.’
1950s are still out there
“I’ve been recently looking through my archives and I’ve suddenly realized that I have been photographing the same things – 50-60s’ of the 20th century, all my life. Those were the years when I was born and when my childhood passed. Though it may sound strange, but whatever and whenever I photograph, the viewers always have a feeling that things happen in 1963, for example. The atmosphere, exterior, the people’s poses and facial expression. Maybe it’s all about how I view the things or, indeed, little has changed in Azerbaijan since that time and photography exposes it.