Al Lapkovsky is an award-winning photographer and creative retoucher who is currently based in London. He works in most diverse areas, blurring the boundaries between commercial imagery and ﬁne art photography.
In his stylistic approach, Al combines the eye for reality as well as his intuitive feeling for situations and people, bringing a unique vision to his images. His portfolio embraces narrative qualities which show cutting-edge authenticity, boundless instinct for moods and preference for the dramatic gesture – invaluable qualities which have contributed to him gathering a multitude of international awards including ﬁrst place in this year’s International Photography Awards (IPA) / Professional Advertising / Self-Promotion category and ﬁrst place in Professional Portfolio category in Tokyo International Foto Awards.
We were stunned by all of Al’s photographic works, but were especially impressed by his recent project
«Disconnecting Connection». Al found some time for an exclusive interview for our magazine and spoke to our Editor in Chief, Irina Rusinovich, about his view on photography, the idea behind his projects and his future plans.
How did you get interested in photography? Do you have an educational artistic background?
When I was 18, I moved from a small town in Eastern Europe to a huge and wonderful London. I needed some way of recording my memories so I went to an second-hand camera shop and got myself a basic ﬁlm camera. A few rolls down the line and I was hooked. One year later, I met Katya (my partner) and passion for photography was shared between us. Yet one more year later, I went to Moscow and took a very intensive crash course on photography. But most of my education in fact happened in bookstores such as Waterstones, Borders and Foyles, going through hundreds of photography albums and books.
How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph or series of photographs? Do you have any preferences regarding cameras and format?
Lots. It takes time. It takes thinking. I write down all of my ideas in a notebook and periodically come back to them. Some ideas never get shot. Some get reworked, and out of those some new ideas evolve. When I’m certain that the idea is worth it – I shoot it. Preparation and producing also takes time but this is an easy part. For the shooting process itself, I spend most of the time setting up the camera and lights. The actual shooting sometimes takes around two minutes. If everything is ready and I clearly see the picture in my head, there is no need to shoot countless frames.
The larger the better 🙂
I’ve used everything from 35 mm ﬁlm cameras to 8” x 10” large format cameras. But these days, I mostly use digital DSLR or medium format cameras as post-processing is a substantial part of my work and a digital medium gives me the ease of use.
Do you think talent for photography is something a person is born with?
No. I think one should have curiosity as a main drive. If you are interested in life and look at things asking questions – you can become a photographer. Photography is about cutting the scenes out from the life around you and freezing the time. If you do it without the camera in your hands, then you can learn to do the same WITH the camera.
Lets talk about your Disconnection Connection Project, what is the main goal or motive for this series?
There are three main reasons for the ‘Disconnecting Connection’ project.
The ﬁrst one is to show how an unlimited access to the screens affects the state of mind of kids and teens.
The second one is to highlight how some adults are unable to prioritise ‘live’ interactions and tend to disappear into gadgets while being in a company of other people.
And the third one is to ask a question of how much time is wasted by indulging in a stream of questionable information which is constantly thrown at us via the internet and various gadgets.
This project had been brewing in my mind for a couple of years, and all that time I was collecting ideas and making sketches. Actively though, two separate events had proved to be a catalyst which pushed me to start putting everything together. One of them was a recent death in the family and the reaction of friends and relatives, immediately following this event, who sent their condolences mainly by using text messages and emojis instead of a more personal phone call and a real hug – so much more needed at the time.
And the second one was when I, my partner, and my young son, attended a birthday party. Speciﬁcally, it was what we had witnessed on arrival – that all the adults present at the party were verbally interacting with each other, whereas the kids were all ‘stationed’ in different corners of the room intently stuck to their blue screens.
How long did the preparation take? How did you ﬁnd your subjects?
The shooting process itself went pretty straightforward, but the organisational part was a challenge as this is a personal project with (proverbially) no budget behind it. However, a lot of people had supported me by taking part in this project by either taking on a role of ‘actors’, or by allowing me to use certain locations, etc. That was a huge help and which I appreciate enormously!
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing this project?
The photography part was easy, but some people were of an opinion that with this project I have assumed some sort of a ‘naming and shaming’ mode and that I have tried to divide people into ‘bad’ people (those holding gadgets) and ‘good’ people (those without). Whereas, this is course the last thing I wanted to do, having spent a long time thinking of how to approach the subject without this kind of negative message. But in my opinion, there are indeed a lot of extreme cases of the gadgets’ overuse and they must be shown and hence discussed.
How important is Photoshop in your ﬁnal images?
For the ‘Disconnecting Connection’ series it wasn’t that important. Yes, the semi-transparency effect is done in Photoshop, but with a careful planning of the shoot itself this task takes only a minute in Photoshop.
What do you do besides photography?
I’m designing and building studio lighting which I later use for my photography. It is a great way of spending long winter evenings – soldering hundreds of tiny resistors, emitters and wires.
What are your plans for the future?
Professionally, my goal is to ﬁnally break into a commercial advertising market and to be part of meaningful and original campaigns. Artistically, I’m striving to ﬁnd a way of combining things such as story telling, social responsibility, politics and art in my photographs. And also of course, ﬁnding a way to sharing my art with as many viewers as possible.
Best of luck and thank you for the interview!
To see more of Al’s work visit his website at https://www.begemotfoto.com/about-us/