#SFphotohunt Portraits: Kseniya Tuchinskaya

This profile is an interview with a San Francisco photographer, inspired by the exhibition The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936–1951 and the #SFphotohunt Instagram contest. This interview is with Kseniya Tuchinskaya, who won the #CityRitual challenge.
Kseniya Tuchinskaya's winning submission to the #CityRitual challenge of #SFphotohunt.

Do you have a favorite place to photograph? Where is it and why?

I don’t have one favorite place to take photos, or rather, I most love taking photos when I travelit’s part of the way I experience the new place I’m in. Locally, I love to go to Briones Regional Park in the morning before the fog burns offthe landscape looks surreal and beautiful. I also love any old buildings, the rustier and peely-painted the better.

What moves you to take a photo, and how do you know when you got a great shot?

I like to photograph details other people may have overlooked, or when I spot patterns or reflections or striking colors. I think that details can often capture a place better than grand vistas, which are not my strong suit. I occasionally have a gut feeling that pushes me to take shotsI’ve learned to listen to it, even I have doubts about a certain shot being any good.

Do you work analog/digital, or both? What are the advantages of your chosen medium? 

I shoot only digital. I have a Canon DSLR (a T1i with just the kit lens), and recently got an iPhone for those times on the go that I’m not hefting my big camera in my bag. The main advantage of digital is not worrying about space - with a big enough memory card, I can take as many versions of a shot as I need, and can adjust settings in real time. My iPhone camera is not a "serious" camera but I love it for the ability to capture moments quickly; it acts as a sort of photographic sketchbook for me.

How did you discover photography and what was your first camera?

I discovered photography when I was a kid in Moldova. My family had an old heavy Soviet film camera, all black and white film, and sometimes I would get to press the shutter button, which was a big treat. My father would develop photos every few months and I was fascinated by the process; it felt like magic. Eventually, once I was around 10 and was living in the US, I got a film point and shoot with money I won in an art contest. It was a very basic box of a camera, but I had it for years and loved the anticipation of getting back that envelope of developed photos. I used to do a lot of drawing and painting, and realized that I could translate those skills into composing photographs, and it was a fascinating challenge to translate an experience or a trip into still images.

Has photography changed the way you see the world?

I worry sometimes that I miss out on living in the moment because I am so busy taking photos. I have to remind myself sometimes to put the camera away - it can have the effect of making you feel nostalgic for the moment as it’s still happening, because you put that barrier of the camera between you and it. On the other hand, I do pay more attention to my surroundings and have a keener eye for ordinary beauty in details.

Do you belong to a community of fellow photographers? If so, what do you think this contributes to your photographic practice?

I shoot on my own, mostly, though I have a close friend who also loves taking photos and is technically much more proficient! She gives me pointers. I joined Instagram recently, which has shown me a different style of photography. It's amazing how creative people get with those little squares!

What is your must-have photo gear / who are other must-see photographers?

I'm an amateur; I didn’t even have a DSLR until 3 years ago! And I didn’t know how to use it until about 2 years ago. But I believe it is not about the gear at allsome of my favorite photos that I’ve taken have been with a point and shoot. A DSLR can offer much more flexibility and precision, but if you have no sense of composition, timing, etc., a fancy camera will never change that. “The camera” does not take good photos, photographers do. I don’t have a favorite individual photographer, but I am inspired most by the photography in National Geographic, and I also love photojournalism blogs like The Atlantic's In Focus and boston.com’s Big Picture.

Do you have any stories about a time you took a photo on the street, and something unexpected happened?

I am shy about taking photos of strangers. On a recent trip to Israel I purposefully pushed myself to get over itin a couple cases it led to really interesting conversations with the people I was photographing, which is encouraging for the future!

Do you have a favorite subject?

I love photographing both nature and urban scenes in unusual weather: fog, snow, or right after it rains Also, I love old, rusty, decayed things, abandoned buildings, things of that sort. Another hobby is looking for street art, which is a challenge to photograph in a way that adds something of my own instead of just being a documentary shotthat’s still a work in progress!

Anything else we should know about you and your journey to becoming a photographer?

I consider myself a dedicated beginner, but I know I have something to say through my photos, and want to share those small beautiful or unusual moments that I see and capture. I'd love to challenge myself to takes photos with an assignment or theme in mind, and also to improve my technical mastery.


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