Dmitry Medvedev: I visited the Best of Russia 2009 photo exhibition. Given my personal interest in the subject, I wanted to say a few words about photography.
In historical terms, photography is a relatively young art, only a little more than 150 years old. All art forms share the common function of helping to represent the surrounding world, see something new in it, something we hadn’t noticed previously, learn something we hadn’t known earlier.
Photography also has a specific function of its own. Whether daguerreotype or digital, taking photos is a fairly straightforward procedure and photography can therefore seem a simple affair, just a form of amusement that gives us all the chance to snap away on anything from the best camera to the most basic model. But as the years pass, each negative created, or each digital file, takes on special significance in that it remains an exact copy of a particular moment in life, and in this sense creates a particular atmosphere for the photographer, for those in the photo, if it is a photo of people, and for those simply viewing the photo.
I think that the main sense of photography, of photos as an art, lies in that they capture the special sadness of moments already gone and never to be returned. This is photography’s real meaning, I think.
People often ask me how long I’ve been interested in photography. My interest dates back a long time. I first got into it probably almost 35 years ago, as a child, when I spent time at the Pioneers’ Palace. I had a marvellous camera – a Smena 8M. Anyone involved in photography back then will know that this was the cheapest, most basic model of Soviet camera, with the worst optics – well, with the most ordinary optics, shall we say – and probably the most difficult to use. It was hard to use because there was no range finder. You had to do everything by eye, decide on the exposure. The camera had none of the features needed for taking good quality photos.
But this very lack of features was a good thing really because it meant you had to put effort into taking photos, learn to judge the exposure, the light, the contrast. It meant learning by trial and error. Then there was working with the negatives, the whole process of developing, fixing, printing, repeating these procedures, drying the photo, and this is all a part of my life that I will never forget. Perhaps it is for this reason that photography still interests me so.
True, there was a long period when I stopped taking photos, and then I started again, as an adult this time, probably after 30, and I got really interested in it once more after it became possible to buy modern cameras.
What to take photos of? Anyone who picks up a camera asks themselves this question. I like to photograph nature, architecture, and of course, people. Though, to be honest, photographing people is no easy task for me because, given my job, it would look a bit strange if I were to suddenly turn up with a camera in my hand and start taking photos of people. I’m afraid it would make people wonder what on earth I think I’m up to. But I enjoy photographing all other kinds of objects. Of course, the results vary, as is the case for anyone taking photos.
As far as technology goes, people also often ask me in blogs what kind of camera I use. These days we are lucky in having such a big range to choose from. Around ten years ago, I bought several decent Canon cameras, the ones that use film. These days, I mostly use digital technology, but sometimes I still like to use film. It is more complicated, true, but it has its own special appeal.
I like to use different kinds of cameras. Here is one of them, one that your average person would find rather complicated to use. This is a Leica, a classical Leica, and this is the new M9 digital version. I use other cameras too – Canon and Nikon, for example, good digital wide-lens cameras. I recently got the chance to try out the new Leica, and I must say that this is a good camera, and I notice that photographers have praised it. It is quite a complicated camera, but has high resolution capability and a very good matrix – in other words, it has a large number of pixels.
When I get a free moment I try to take some photos. I don’t just take photos at home, but take my camera with me on practically every trip. To tell the truth, I often don’t end up getting the chance to actually use it, and if I do, I usually end up photographing mostly the views from the residences or hotels I stay at, or even out the car window, but when I do get the chance the resulting photos have an interest for me as memories of the places I’ve visited, and I travel a lot.
That is about all I wanted to say about my interest in photography. I hope that this art will continue to develop. This excellent exhibition that I just visited presents a picture of our country, a picture of the specific moment in time that was 2009. These photos represent photography at its highest, when each photo is a work of art in itself. These are random shots, but what is most important is that they are all little pieces of our country and our life in 2009. I think these exhibitions are of interest for everyone and they attract all kinds of people, from masters in the art with years of experience to those taking their first shots on an inexpensive camera. Here, they are all equals and this is really good to see.
I wish you all good luck with your photos. I think this is a fine art and also a fine way to pass the time.