Recently I had an interview with Alexey Shifman from RAW Streetphoto Gallery. He started this urban gallery to give upcoming street and urban photographers a chance to exhibit their works in print in stead of only through on-line platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px and the likes...
Web adress: http://www.rawstreetphotogallery.com/
WJ: Hi Alexey, thank you for taking the time to have this interview with me.
AS: You're most welcome.
WJ: Where does your interest in urban photography come from?
AS: I have a great interest in photography in general and urban style is only part of it. Freedom of expression with photography that can take any shape and form, possibilities are making me feel excited.
When photographer is showing the world and it touches me, I do not much care if it is urban photography, fashion photography or nature photography - feeling of inspiration. This feeling at the fingertips which can bring to the new level the consciousness, think it is the source of my my interest in photography.
WJ: In your opinion, what is urban photography? Do you have any expertise yourself?
AS: As you know, I am a gallerist and art curator. My expertise in photography has more art historical perspective rather than technical. I prefer not to give to the artists advice how to make photography. Photography is an art, that means there is no expertise, it is not mathematics with established formulas. Each artist, photographer has its own style, I can only indicate the interesting points in the works, but never how to do the work.
However when you ask me urban photography, I would rather speak about street photography. This way my definition of the street photography is the photography that was not staged or planned.
Photography of Life from the point of view of an artist, and it does not matter the subject of photography: people, animals, urban or space. Street photography is about interconnection of life, time and photographer.
WJ: You started a gallery for upcoming talent. Why did you choose to exhibit upcoming talent in urban photography?
AS: That is good question, thank you. This decision came very spontaneously: I was very upset that so many talented photographers have no place to exhibit their works outside social media. Such situation prevents photographers to grow, develop the skills and find public recognition. Thus, decision was easy - change the current situation.
WJ: Recently you moved to another location. How is that transition going?
AS: It is going on very well. Now location at Coolsestraat 75 gave me much more freedom to curate more sophisticated exhibition than I could do before.
WJ: What are your criteria for talents to have an exhibition in your gallery? Do future exhibitioners (photographers) have to share some of the costs? If yes, how much would that be approximately?
AS: Oh, many questions in one go! Talent and money, well, unfortunately it should go together but it is not always the case. I love experiment. I love when photographer can go out of established frames and permit himself to create despite the disapproval of public. Art and photography should be sometime provocative, rough, RAW if you prefer. That is my criteria. Not making nice picture, but looking for the true picture.
I understand the expenses of exhibitions are relatively high, so usually we share the cost of production. And naturally, there are always special cases that should be discussed with every artist. So the participation cost can vary. For example if photographer wants to edit a book, or the website is not good enough, or photographer wants to have very special material for printing the works. All is possible but as you can imagine, costs will go different way, nevertheless everything is still possible.
WJ: What is the duration of the exhibitions in general? How do you get a consistent flow of visitors towards your gallery?
AS: Usually an exhibition time is one month, sometimes two - it depends on time of the year.
RAW Streetphoto Gallery host many events: art meetings, photography workshops, cinema nights, workout sessions - so gallery is always busy. There are many visitors to the gallery and it encourages to develop the new activities.
WJ: It seems to me you have a Social Media marketing plan. Do you have any plans to promote works from exhibitions in bars, restaurants, etc. in the city?
AS: Indeed, social media and virtual world are the parts of our daily life, I can not avoid it. Actually it is very interesting to see how the virtual reality influences the real life, for me it is not very clear what has bigger influence on decision making, very peculiar.
Personally, I do not think that promotion in bar is good for any gallery. But I work with publishers like Art Index of Rotterdam or Where to go to, even Rotterdam tourist information….
My target is to give a solid platform for emerging artist, by promoting artist in a bar or restaurant I can ruin his/her artistic career before it even begins. I do a lot of care with artist I am working with.
WJ: You have a team of four persons and it seems you are the commercial driver. Do you see any future collaboration with third parties to gain more traction for your initiative?
AS: You want to know all my secrets, I like a lot your questions. Naturally I have a team. The secret is that I can not do it alone. RAW Streetphoto Gallery consists of 5 outstanding persons and we all our different responsibilities, that we have selected. It is an amazing to work with such talented people: Maxim Shifman (my brother), Tatiana Shifman (my brother's wife), Kseniya Serbina and Imad Gebrayel. So we are family.
I make naturally business collaborations like with printing studio Oppa or now I am working with photography center of Athens in order to make photography exchange, also developing very creative collaboration with German Urban Street Diving group and much more.
Wish I could have 50 hours per day or copy of me to make more work! And there are still so many things to do!!
WJ: On the website info it seems it's mostly for Dutch photographers. I saw one line that stated you are open to photographers from other countries as well. What's the story?
AS: Really? Probably I should change the website. RAW Streetphoto Gallery is open for international photographers too. The coming year it will be French, Finnish, Italian, Israeli, Mexican and American photographers, as you see not only Dutch.
My wish is it to widen the limits so frames are avoided as often as possible.
WJ: You have a five year lease for the new location. Where will you stand in five years from now with this initiative? What's your goal?
AS: That is true. In this location I will stay 5 years, indeed if i like it, may be longer. Rotterdam is changing very fast and I am happy that gallery is making the influence on the city too by making its culture more vibrant.
My wish now is to open the second RAW Streetphoto Gallery in Tel Aviv. I found out so many incredible photographers at Middle East, so it is my personal obligation to bring these talents for the large audience.
In 5 years from now RAW Streetphoto Gallery will become a part of street photography movement and not only in the Netherlands but in much wider spectrum. My target is to create a platform for emerging photographers and support the photographer's career development. By that time 2022 I will definitely be there.
Finally, I am sure that photographers the gallery is working with will find their auditorium and will go for the new artistic heights.
Using the opportunity of our kind interview, I would like to invite all the readers for the new exhibition of street photography opening “Timeless Istanbul” the 4th November at 16:00. It will be french photographer Veronique de Suerte and her reflection about crossroads of the city, history and people inhabiting it. Join the opening and if you have more questions you can ask me directly in the gallery.
WJ: Thank you for your time and we'll meet again.
AS: Thank you for the interview and we'll definitely will.