Svetlana Shutkina: the photography novice learning from Magnum experts

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Earlier this year, Magnum Photos collaborated with The Nippon Photography Institute to hold international workshops for promising young photographers, in partnership with the BJP. The workshop were led by three leading Magnum photographers, each of whom have produced a book in Tokyo at points of their career: Bruce Gilden (Go), Jacob Aue Sobol (I, Tokyo), and Gueorgui Pinkhassov (Sightwalk). Russian amateur photographer Svetlana Shutkina was selected from the attendees for the Fuji Camera Award, winning a Fujifilm X100T camera .

Pinkhassov, whose 1996 series collected stolen moments of everyday Tokyo life, said that selecting a winner was a tough task, but Shutkina’s work and unique story was too good to ignore. “Svetlana’s case is a special one,” he says, “[as] a native of Chabarovsk she resides in Tokyo. Initially Svetlana hesitated to join because she could not speak English and was a complete novice in photography… [but] the more professional a photographer, the less flexible she/he is.”

For Pinkhassov, a Magnum member since 1991, the secret lies in “letting go and letting an image come into the camera on its own. All one has to do is not get in the way and not resist. The photographs Svetlana showed at the first meeting were already quite right.

She learned the art of rhyming forms quickly and effortlessly, The more spontaneous one is, the quicker such secrets are revealed. I take great interest in such individuals and, frankly, learn from them myself.”

BJP speaks to Svetlana about the Magnum workshop:

Why did you decide to sign up to the Magnum workshop?

It was my dream for a long time to take part in Gueorgui Pinkhassov’s workshop. When I saw that such an event was being organised in Tokyo, I signed up without hesitation.

What is your work in Tokyo about? Why did you choose the subject?

The distinguishing feature of this workshop was that it had no theme. On the advice of Gueorgui, we had to follow our intuition, to be spontaneous and liberated, freed from any prejudices. The goal was to follow the light, shadows and geometry – to search for new forms.

How did you go about shooting your work?

There was no theme or concept, we just had to photograph by impulse. But I was looking for some kind of mystery in the town. As Gueorgui taught us, I tried to take photos of usual things [but] not in a trivial way.

How was the experience of learning with Pinkhassov? What’s the best advice you received from the workshop?

Gueorgui is a great artist and a master. With him we learned to see things differently: to change our habits by ignoring the original shape of objects and turning them into a completely different art form. He was able to create a friendly atmosphere, make us curious and had an infectious enthusiasm and love for photography.

He told us not to be afraid of making mistakes and to shoot constantly. [He said] spontaneity and naivety are the best friend of photography. A good photo is the immediate reaction to the unexpected: a burst of light, texture, shape. Even in everyday life, poetry can be found, so it is important when we take photographs to leave our rational side at home and to merge in to the space and to catch the moment here and now.

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