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Photography Showcase: Pulitzer-Winning Photojournalist James Hill

Photography Showcase: Pulitzer-Winning Photojournalist James Hill

James Hill has been one of the world’s leading photojournalists for the past three decades. His images have been published by all the major international media and awarded with the most significant international prizes, World Press Photo and the Pulitzer Prize among them. His name is well-known not only for his striking images of militarised conflicts in different countries, but also for brilliantly documenting events and capturing faces of modern Russia, where he has been living and working for more than 20 years now. We’re very honoured that James found the time to tell us stories of his spectacular life in photography and share the philosophy of his artistic approach to photojournalism.

How did you become a photographer?

I became a photographer mostly by accident. After university I was going to work in finance in London. But I had an enormous hunger to see the world, so I traveled for a year in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. With me I had a very simple Pentax camera with two lenses. I really enjoyed looking at the world through it. I got excited about photography, so when I got back to England I started looking for some studies. A friend of mine found a course in photojournalism at London College of Printing (London Institute now). After we completed it, we spent a year working there, doing both writing and photography.

It was June 1991 when I decided to go to Russia. Every decision we take has its conscious and unconscious reasons. I blame the enormous amount of Russian literature that I read in school. I was fascinated with Russia. This was the time when Soviet Union was still in existence. I didn’t have a single friend there, and I liked that idea. I tried to visit Soviet Russia, but didn’t manage to get a visa. With the help of a friend I got a visa to Ukraine. In October 1991 I got on a plane with two bags and a camera, some lenses and 30 rolls of film given to me by London Times. I spent four years working as a freelance from Kiev. During that time I traveled in Ukraine, Russia, Caucasus, Central Asia. It was easy and cheap, I didn’t have much money but it wasn’t a problem. Finally, in 1995 I got a contract with New York Times and went to work to Moscow.

What was your first impression of Moscow?

I’d been to Moscow before. Comparing with Kiev it was like coming from a provincial town to a capital. Despite the common ground, they’re very different cities. When I came to Russia, it was (and still is) a different experience. You have the feeling of vastsness of this country. Working here gives you a perception of something endless: wherever you go, however many places you visit – you still haven’t seen everything. This is the mental idea of Russia: it’s so enormous that you always feel you never really captured it. That’s what has kept me here for 20 years.

Do you think you experienced dramatic professional growth during the first years of your career or did it take much more time to feel like an established photographer?

In any art forms there is a battle taking place: a mismatch between an artist’s ability to capture something and the idea or the concept that he wants to convey. When I look back at contact sheets (it was in 1990s, and there were no digital computers ), I see many opportunities, many moments that I didn’t really have the ability to capture. It took a long time to train the eye. Despite the technical aspect, there’s also artistic development. As a journalist you have to deal with the extremes, which is very difficult. For example, I went to Georgia in 1993 to shoot the civil war, then I went to Nagorny Karabakh and Chechnya. Being in such places drives your personal growth. At that time I wasn’t aware it would be that hard. I grew up in a generation with no war. And emotionally it was very complicated and very distressing. With all these feelings, you still had to work correctly. 1990s was the big time of growing up, sometimes harsh, sometimes coming on its own without your awareness – there was just something happening.

Your photos – despite being works of a photojournalist – most of the time leave the impression of fine art photography. How has your artistic style been formed?

Photography is such a different art form to painting. It is a strange form, it’s like at the same time you are creating and not creating the frame you’re capturing, because things are going on on their own. What is interesting about photography is that if you put 20 photographers in one place, there will be 20 different images. It is very personal. And this point of view will be different not only in physical sense, there’s also a different point of view in terms of artistic response to what we see.

I am very concerned with the artistic quality of the image. I think that some photojournalists are often concerned by dynamic of the action more, and I am also concerned by it, but I also work hard on the framing. You should be using every single part of the frame. I am looking at the corners, balance the background and the foreground, shape the image. Not everyone’s like that. I have been criticized that I make images of war too beautiful. I don’t want to deny that accusation. What I want to do in depicting war is to show that the two things can exist at the same frame, violence and beauty exist at the same moment. I am trying to make a person spend some more time in front of the picture, questioning themselves. Because to me, photography is a question rather than an answer.

One of the painters always influenced me is Giotto. When you look at his paintings you see so much going on all across foreground and background, it’s very busy and lifelike. There’s a church in Padua painted by Giotto, and there’s an extraordinary panel where you see the body of Christ and the people standing around him grieving. But there’s a strange detail, as there are figures in the foreground turned with their back to the viewer. And this is the moment that brings life into image. This is the concept of the wholeness of image, which is very important. It must be comprising many different details that a viewer is able to find. It doesn’t always work, but that’s the aim.

Who else are the artists and photographers that influenced you?

There are 2 photographers that influenced me most. They are Irving Penn and August Sander. I just find what I like in the portraits of both of them is that they’re very honest and very intimate. That’s the most important thing – the sense of intimacy. The person that you’re photographing removes their defences and you can not only see what’s outside but feel what’s inside.

You already told us about your experience in Karabakh, Georgia and Chechnya. Was it much different for you later, when you got back to war in early 2000s and went to the Middle East?

I was much more ready emotionally, having been in other wars. It’s very true what a famous photographer Robert Capa said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. I think you got to be prepared to get very close to war. It doesn’t only take physical courage, but also emotional courage.

In 2003 I was in Iraq for three and a half months. I was surrounded by US Marines. This invasion was a very strange war, there wasn’t really very much resistance. There were ferociously armed American and British troops, and the people they were fighting were not equipped at all. We often traveled at night, sometimes there was an intense fight for a very short period of time and then nothing for a couple of days. I was asking myself many questions about the role in these events – was I involved or not?

When I was in Afghanistan, I was by myself, I wasn’t with any force. What I felt was this extraordinary extreme, a very cold relationship between life and death. Death was a daily occurrence accepted without much reaction. There were people very poor and still ready to share their last piece of bread. Then they start asking you who you’re with, who you support, and in the next moment you can’t say whether they like you or not. I was really captured by the beauty of the nature and the people, at the same time I was astonished by the lack of emotional response to people’s death. I had a hard time moving between these two extremes. And I think that eventually when I came out from there I wasn’t in a very good state.

My wife was pregnant during me being at both wars, this helped me a lot to come back to peaceful life. It’s really thanks to her I recovered. She used to tell me that for a while after I got back she felt much like there was a stranger in her bed. This brutal experience really changes you. You become very hardened there, you have to, otherwise you can’t do it. It’s huge and traumatic stress, but luckily I managed to get over it.

What made you settle down in Russia after that?

I often say that edges are the most interesting places to photograph. One of the most fascinating journeys to the edge was the trip to Chukotka that I did in 2007. We traveled for 3 days through tundra and all we saw was endless whiteness. And as we arrived to the sea – it was frozen. It was like we were contemplating the end of something that was endless. The edges exist in many different forms. And being in Russia for me is an attempt to get to the edge in the physical sense. I also feel that Russian people themselves are people who emotionally exist very much on the edge. They are very emotionally interesting.

Why is your first book called ‘In Russias’?

That book is a collective production. We had a very hard time deciding what to name it. And of course, there was an idea to convey that I am showing Russia in the eye of the foreigner. I think that some Russians find it curious to look at, and others find it absolutely insulting or completely wrong. They see what they see: maybe too many military pictures, or too many tall blondes. It seemed so impossible to capture Russia in one go, there are so many different faces of this country. That is probably one of the main ideas: what the photographs reflect is the pass of the enormous, everchanging, impossible to capture space.

How did winning international awards such as Pulitzer Prize and Word Press Photo influence you?

I don’t think it really changes anything. An artist is always doubtful about the quality of his work. Getting an award is the moment of aware that you can put these doubts away. It’s very satisfying that your work is recognised within the community. In a way it’s also very bounding. It is something that I’m very grateful to receive, I feel that my work is valued.

You seem to have work with many celebrities and politicians. Do you think they are very different from all the other people?

It’s very interesting to work with famous people. Sometimes they let you close, sometimes not. Sometimes they work hard to make an image with you, and sometimes not. I did a portrait of Naomi Campbell for New York Times magazine, she was very late for the shoot. When she got there, we made 200 images, which is approximately 15 minutes of intense work. She made probably 200 poses. She is very beautiful and looks amazing at every shot, but she really works for it.

I find it very frustrating to do portraits. It’s complicated: there are many things that influence the result, including location, light, psychology. But sometimes a person really wants to help you, or he or she is extremely photogenic, or it’s a gift. I once photographed Renata Litvinova. She was 1.5 hour late. When she turned up, she told me she had only two minutes. This isn’t not going very well, I thought. But when I developed the film, the pictures were amazing. And I realized that she did all the hard work: I wasn’t doing much except being angry with here coming late.

What will be your advice to young people who want to become photojournalists?

I think you have to find work you feel passionate about. Both the work you do for yourself and the work you’re assigned to do. Do the projects and photoshoots that you really want to do, and this will be your best work. But I think it’s also important to take yourself out of your comfort zone and do projects that you’re not very comfortable with. It’s also important to push yourself. When I went to wars, I was pushing myself to the edge. But this edge can be around the corner as well. And It’s not about distances, it’s more about yourself. Not only about looking at the world, but also about trying to see what is inside of you and find your character.

To see more of James's work, visit his website:

Road Trip in Tenerife with German Kholmov

Road Trip in Tenerife with German Kholmov

Today we’re taking you on a journey around Tenerife with our Moscow-based photographer German Kholmov. Tenerife, one of the Canaries, is commonly known as a first-class resort, but in the recent years more and more people come here to discover it from the other side: enjoy mind-blowing nature with remote beaches and steep rocks, perform astronomical observations, do hiking and surfing. Together with the stunning images of the island, German has shared some of the travel tips that might be useful for planning your next adventure.

Raul Cabrera’s Minimalist Shooting for H&M Studio

Raul Cabrera’s Minimalist Shooting for H&M Studio

Alter-View team never cease to reach new heights. Raul Cabrera, one of our Paris-based photographers, has recently added another impressive work to his portfolio. The pool of his clients is now joined by the global fashion brand H&M that chose him to showcase their Studio SS collection for digital media.

Misha De-Stroyev becomes a finalist of The National Geographic 2017 Travel Photographer of the Year

Misha De-Stroyev becomes a finalist of The National Geographic 2017 Travel Photographer of the Year

We’ve got some amazing news from Alter-View’s founder Misha Destroyev. His work ‘Henningsvær Football Field’ has been chosen as one of the finalists of The National Geographic 2017 Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. He will now fight for the Grand Prize – the participation in 10-day National Geographic Galápagos Expedition.

Misha submitted his recent shoot taken with a drone in one of the Lofoten Islands during his last yacht trip in Norway. The football field that is found in Henningsvær island is considered to be one of the most impressive football fields in Europe, and maybe even in the world. The photo was taken at the height of about 120 meters in June 2017. The entry became one of the editor's’ picks during the week 10 of the competition. Lately Micha has been informed that his capture became one of the contest’s finalists.

National Geographic 2017 Travel Photographer of the Year is an annual contest that gathers works from professional travel photographers around the world. During the 10 weeks best of the entries are chosen by the National Geographic’s editors and displayed on the contest’s web page. After the entries’ deadline is passed, jury defines the finalists. This year’s winners will be announced online on August 10. Besides the Grand Prize, there are 3 monetary prizes to be awarded.


To see more of Misha's work, take a look at his portfolio:

Photographу Showcase: The Restless Ocean of Luke Shadbolt

Photographу Showcase: The Restless Ocean of Luke Shadbolt

Luke Shadbolt is a photographer from Australia who aims to explore the most dangerous and chaotic side of the ocean. Having vast experience in shooting water sports, he applies his knowledge of the elements in an artistic way to make images that astound, frighten and fascinate. After the presentation of his new series at Photo London, we talked with Luke about his creative background, ideas behind his fine art projects and his approach to the ocean, a model with character.

How did you become a photographer?

When I was a kid, I was really into drawing and painting. I was around 10 years old when surfing took over though, and spent the next 10 years pretty singularly focused on that. However, after school I got back into visual arts and studied a degree in Visual Communications with the aim to work in graphic design. I started including photographic elements in my work, and got more involved in photography from there. I then took on a role as the art-director for a surfing magazine, which got me a lot more opportunities to shoot in the ocean which I was very passionate about. That was how I got into photography really. I starting shooting more and doing less design work and moved into more commercial photography. Then in the last two years I started exploring the fine art side. I still do some art direction which I still very much enjoy. I feel fortunate to be able to work across multiple disciplines, the variety keeps it interesting and they complement each other.

What made you start doing fine art projects?

It was just a progression. One of the projects I did with the surfing magazine was shooting a book. I traveled about 9 months of the year for it and also helped to produce a film for the project. After a year of last minute trips and chasing perfect waves I felt a bit burnt out. At the same time I felt that I was doing all this work not for myself, but for someone else. I wanted to do something out of my own interest, and that’s my first project titled Maelstrom originated. I tried to find the craziest, most chaotic instances of the ocean I could find, with an emphasis on what creates those chaotic movements. When I approach a new project, I like to start with an idea and see where it ends up through the process of creating it. Over the course of taking photos and editing I uncover the meaning behind the idea. It might seem sort of like reverse engineering, but for me it is all about the process, to look at the events and see what actually happened and understand why. Maelstrom was the first try for me, and it was a very steep learning curve. I was very fortunate to start working with the Michael Reid Gallery here in Australia off the back of that series. After showing my first exhibition with them last year as a part of the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, they ended up representing me as an artist, which is how I ended up at Photo London with my second series Acquiesce The Front.

What was the process behind shooting Maelstrom?

I have been shooting surfing over the course of the last 6-7 years. Through my travels I picked up certain spots which, depending on conditions and time of year, might create something interesting in terms of the sort of chaotic movements I was looking for. I’d go to these very remote locations and spend all day watching and trying to anticipate the waves. Spending 12 hours a day in nature was really awesome experience.

Can you name the spots you shot for the series?

I actually can’t reveal where it was shot. I made an agreement with the locals that I wouldn’t reveal locations, just to keep the peace. Plus, it creates an element of mystery around the project.

What is your experience in surfing? Are you a professional surfer?

Ha, no not at all. I grew up bodyboarding and only I started surfing around the same time that I began taking photos. Today I’m surfing mostly, occasionally bodyboarding depending on conditions, but definitely the best way for me to start my day is going for a swim in the ocean. There was a time for 5 years that I was shooting surfing, that I would be chasing every swell around Australia, but now I’m ready for new challenges. I’d much prefer to actually surf than shoot most of the time. I do still shoot surfing occasionally, but mostly when I have a new idea that I want to try it out, or if there’s a spot I haven’t shot before, or a group of riders. It’s more specific. But I’ve been involved in the ocean since I was 5 years old, it’ll always be a huge part of my life.

Are you sharing your creativity between commercial and artistic projects? How does it work for you?

I still have to pay the bills, which the commercial side obviously helps with. It is really enjoyable as well though, I like the challenge of working out ideas that will be understood by the audience and the client, it’s a different sort of challenge than what I face when I’m working for myself. With my art practice it’s a slower process, more self-reflective. It’s like one is looking inside, the other is looking outward. I really enjoy both of them though.

Getting back to your creative path, was there anyone who influenced you?

I had a great mentor in Phil Gallagher, a brilliant surf photographer who probably isn’t as well-known as he should be. He pioneered many surf spots around remote areas of Australia. He was actually the editor at the surf magazine I was art director for, I learned a lot from him. This is the sort of relationship that I recommend in any industry. Find someone you respect and learn as much as you can from them. We still sometimes work on some projects together, but we’re also good friends still.

As far as surf photography, I also was really influenced by Dustin Humphrey. He doesn’t shoot that much these days, but he was amazing in early 2000s. He’s a great example of the idea being at the strength of the image, always trying something different.

Have you ever taken risks to shoot something extraordinary?

Well, my initial idea for Maelstrom was that I wanted to shoot from the water in these sorts of conditions, and I nearly drowned myself a few times. That was only on the smaller days. I luckily had a friend who I talked into coming along with me, who acted as my spotter, which definitely helped alleviate any concerns my fiance had with me heading off to shoot these waves. Taking risks is essential. Calculated risks though, preparation is essential.

How do you usually choose destinations? Do you like planning everything carefully when you travel for photography?

It is very often last minute planning. What’s really important is the understanding of the location. Most of the timing depend on the elements, so you can’t plan everything out in detail. I plan as much as I can, but a lot of the time I just spend extended periods in certain locations to make sure I have captured what I aim to achieve. I’ll often go back to certain locations several times before I’m happy with the output.

What is coming next, after Maelstrom?

I just launched a new photo series Acquiesce the Front, which was presented at Photo London. With Maelstrom I was looking for the chaotic movements of nature and what’s behind them, but I was really focusing on the final big impact. I tried to make the new series textural and a little bit more abstract, more puzzling, showing the moments in betweens the waves as well. Like the situation on a global scale with all the worries about Brexit, Trump coming to power in US etc. I realise that’s a very liberal viewpoint, but everyone has worries which is my main point. I think that you can apply the aesthetic of the storm to what is happening socially, and in turn subjectively. The storms come and go but you can learn from them rather than let them envelope you, and you then apply that learning to the future.

I’m planning to exhibit Acquiesce the Front in November at the Michael Reid Gallery in Sydney, Australia this year. There are also a couple of projects that I’m still brainstorming. I want to incorporate a technological element into what I do. One half of me is attached to the world of nature, but the other half is bound to the technological world. I’m trying to explore how to make these two work together. I think that the future in general is going to be about the harmony of these two things. And we have to try to find this harmony, because advancements are not slowing down. That’s the direction, and there are several different ways I can approach that. I’m going to start with that broad idea, and I’ll see where it goes.

What would be your advice to photographers who want to shoot waves?

Experience with the ocean will always help, so just spending time in and around waves is a start. Be careful, that’s what I’d advise. No matter how familiar you get with the ocean – nature will always throw something unexpected at you. Also, remember that photography is a tool, a medium. It’s a means to realise an idea. You shouldn’t try to copy anyone or be the next whoever. Take inspiration of course. But first, understand why you want to shoot waves, and after that go for it.

To see more work by Luke, visit his website:

Photography Showcase: Alicia Moneva

Photography Showcase: Alicia Moneva

Alicia Moneva is a photographer and artist based in Madrid, Spain. With her works she explores what it means to be a human being, an individual and a part of society. Inspired by the deep studies of human nature and history of art, she immerses the viewer into the uncanny world of unconscious and interpersonal, at the same time giving a lot of space for her images’ interpretation. We talked with Alicia to find out what brought her to creation of this impressive artistic universe.

How did you get to where you are right now?

I have never been a good student. In my youth I used to spend time drawing and painting. When I finished studying biology at university, I got in touch with the world of architecture. I learned to perceive space and light in a new way. At that time, a terrible misfortune occurred. My family member became a victim of the terrorist attack. Suddenly, despite all the tragedy of the situation, I felt integrity and moral strength essential for a vital change in the scale of values. Indeed, dealing with illness, even death, is an essential part of life, and it happened to be a turning point for me.

Was there anyone who influenced you?

Personally speaking, of course the situation with the close person of mine that I described before influenced me a lot. Artistically speaking, the architects that I worked with, especially my husband, Javier García García. I could also mention great painters like Velazquez or Van Gogh, or philosophers like Quintín Racionero, poets such as J.L.Borges and all the artists, scientists, and people who taught me to look at the world at a different angle.

Have you ever taken risks to move forward?

I don’t really think there are many risks in creating. Making mistakes, maybe? But it is not a risk, it is just one more step in the creative process.

The sense of risk, in my case, has to do with my daily life, since I live with and support a chronically ill person, so I always try to find a space for happiness. I also strive to be true with my ideas and personal ethics, which also has an element of risk, probably.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

My parents never took arts seriously. On the other hand, my siblings, especially my sister Marisol and her daughter Musqui, have always been supportive, giving me encouragement and energy, when I needed them most. My friends have also transmitted their admiration and support. I can not complain, life has given me the most precious good it could – people who really love me.

Where’s home and how living there influences you?

I live in Madrid and I like it. It is a big cultural hub and a city with many alternatives. The mixture of people is terrific, all the different ones are all well received. This enriches you much, both socially and individually.

Do you have a routine?

In photography, I always work on an idea, usually related to human being. I read a lot on the topic, I keep myself informed. I want the final image to be a visual poem, beautiful but disturbing at the same time. I also have other, not recommended routines, since I mostly work at night, because it is the best time of the day for me.

How would you describe your style?

It is difficult to speak about yourself. In paintings, I tend to use realistic style, but without hyper realism. I collect objects that tell stories, spaces and fragments that summarize a whole. I like dealing with light, studying it, but I especially love shadows, an imaginary of possibilities.

In photography, I am more conceptual, and I always work with images of people. Photography was just the question of time for me. I started studying psychology and later, philosophy. I needed means to tell things by mixing characters, and I started taking pictures, because painting could not convey what I am expressing now with my photography and video art.

What gives you ideas and inspires you?

Philosophy, psychology, poetry, and theoretical physics, mainly. I am also very interested in human interactions. They never cease to amaze me, often for worse, but sometimes for good, too. These occasions are the ones that fill me with inspiration and hope for humanity.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

I hope in a few years, even in longer time, I'll be doing the same I'm doing now: learning, painting and taking photographs with the same devotion and pleasure.

To see more of Alicia's work, visit her website: