Today we're gonna open up about the person behind Alter-View and its creative community. Micha Stroyev, Paris-based photographer and Founder & CEO of Alter-View, embraced photography at an early age, got a stellar business education and lucrative management career, then left it to disrupt the photography industry. The former corporate executive turned photographer turned entrepreneur, recalls his path into the world of photography, and risks he took to build a business he believes in.
How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?
Photography was part of my life since childhood, but it wasn’t until 2004 that I started taking it more seriously. But an aha moment happened ten years ago, when I went on my first Bali vacation, coincidentally that was shortly after I‘d got my first DSLR and started toying with all those editing tools that were coming out at the time. When I got back from my vacation I saw that some of my shots were pretty good - one is still among my favorites. That’s when I realized, I wanted to shoot more beautiful pictures and maybe occasionally sell them to galleries, but never thought it would amount to anything more than a hobby. After that for about 7 years I took pictures but never published my work – there was a certain belief among photographers that once a photo was published on the Internet it lost its value. So I had been in this mode till 2014, but eventually I started publishing my pics, gradually built up an online portfolio and started socializing as a photographer, but still it was no more than a hobby. Only a year ago I realized, I wanted to do something that drives me every day, which is photography.
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
Alter-View was and still is the biggest risk: before I started it I’d worked in IT and Oil & Gas industries. The job I quit to found the agency was the General Manager for a new branch of an Oil & Gas company, which I supervised from scratch. Personally I love business development, love starting new projects and growing new businesses from scratch, but when I was done building the structure and got deeper into details of the Oil & Gas industry, I realized that wasn’t where I saw myself. That’s when I quit and fully channeled my energy into building Alter-view - it wasn’t an easy decision to make and it took some time, lots of thought and conversations with people whose opinion I value. So since September 2016, I’ve been fully focusing on Alter-View and photography.
What was your first photo-related job?
I guess the first was in 2004 - I was working as a reporter for a French photography website. But as for me, work is whenever I take a camera into my hands, but I was never looking for jobs on purpose and did what came to me naturally - got hired as a photographer for a variety of projects, curated exhibitions and when someone was willing to buy my work, I gladly sold it. But I never pursued clients.
Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
People, who influenced me creatively are mostly Americans, since I consider them trailblazers and not only in photography. As for those that inspired me to go further in my work, that would be lifestyle photography by Chris Ozer and architecture shots by trashhand.
Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?
My family and friends are very supportive – they know I’ve been into photography from an early age, and when I decided to focus on Alter-View and photography, I heard things like “Finally! What you’ve been doing before was so not you!”
Where’s home and how living there influences you?
Home is definitely in Paris although I’ve lived in the USA, England, Russia and Switzerland. Paris is great for architecture and lifestyle photography, because it’s - you know - Paris. But another great thing about it is that a two-hour drive from Paris will take you to fantastic-looking nature.
How would you describe your style?
My photography style has been changing a lot over the years. When I just started shooting, I focused on lifestyle photography – people vs. nature, people within nature, moving people - that kind of thing. Gradually I moved to architecture and it had been the focal point of my art for some time. Then I graduated to landscapes, and now you can say that I’m back to lifestyles, but I think photographer shouldn't limit himself to just a couple of genres, as many people do. If you make great photos, you'd better try and apply yourself to as many genres as possible, otherwise it’s a waste of talent. That the principle I live by.
What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?
I’m inspired by many things – it all depends on time, place, environment, company and my mood at the moment. If you’ve been in photography for as long as I have, your creative vision evolves, and looking through the lense of a camera is just as natural as seeing with your own eyes. I don’t look for inspiration - it comes to me. If I see something I’d like to shoot and don’t have a camera with me, I get really frustrated. I love life, I love the world I live in, and I want my pictures to inspire others.
Why did you start Alter-View?
It all started when I realized that the photo industry is facing some sort of curatorial crisis. Most of works exhibited today are very 2007 and way out of touch with the current situation on the market and demands of customers – people see works of photographers online, but they cannot find them in galleries. Even though the European market is highly competitive, it’s nearly impossible to find photographs worth buying. At the same time there are lots of talented photographers that never get a show with galleries – only because there are unspoken rules in the industry and if you go against the flow, you’ll never make it. So I decided to create a gallery where photographers, can get the visibility and recognition they deserve. Another idea was to help talented photographers meet brands, that want to elevate their content marketing. Both initiatives were supposed to commence at the same time, but then I thought that strategically it’s better to start the agency first, as gallery opening requires much more preparation and talent recruitment.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans are mostly around the agency and the gallery, which are now two standalone projects: we’re already working with brands for photo and video production while growing our community of photographers to showcase at the gallery, which is set to open in 2018. But most of all I’d like to move the photo-industry forward and to make and sell art of the present and future, looking to the years 2020 or even 2030.
To see Misha's work click here.