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Interview with Alter-View Photographer Vitaliy Raskalov

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer Vitaliy Raskalov

Vitaly Raskalov is a photographer, traveler, co-founder of On The Roofs and internet sensation, whose climb on the 650-meter-high Shanghai Tower gathered over 60 million views on YouTube. The young daredevil travels the world, scales head-spinning heights and recommends everyone to ditch “ your brilliant career and start living”. Vitaly talked to us about his start in photography, relativity of risk and his favorite cities.

Describe your path to becoming a photographer?

I got into photography 8 years ago. It all started when I bought my first camera and was curious about what photography was. This whole climbing thing came up later. At the beginning I would photograph pretty simple things, you know, what most people usually photograph. Then one day my friends brought me up to a roof and off I went.

When did photography cease being just a hobby and became something you’re doing for a living?

I don't really know, I think it’s been something I do for a living this whole time. I used to have occasional day jobs but never stopped making photographs. Maybe now I don’t focus on photography as much as I used to, but it’s still not only part of my job, bot my main hobby too.

Were there any photographers who influenced you?

There were people who inspired me, but none of them actually shaped my artistic views, meaning no one really gave advice of any kind. I’ve been on my own in my artistic journey.

What was your first photo-related job?

I can’t remember. I remember selling my photos for the first time. Then they started hiring me to do photo shoots, also I worked for different agencies, shooting things like architecture and factories. I even got invited to Kazan during the 2013 Summer Universiade to photograph the city from above. I think this was the first time someone paid me to do that.

What does it feel like to risk your life every time you climb on a roof?

It’s not like I particularly feel anything. It’s all part of my work routine. There are other risky situations in my life, which aren't in any way related to roof climbing.

How do your friends and family feel about what you do?

They are cool about it. I’ve been doing it for a while already and managed to explain that it’s just a job, like any other. Also, I’m not some sort of a reckless nutcase, I use my head while I’m there. It seems much more dangerous from the outside. Riding a motorbike brings much more danger, because during one day on a motorbike I encounter twice as many risky situations as I do during a year of roof climbing.

Where’s home?

Home is wherever my mom is. But if you’re talking about a particular location - I don’t think I have one.

What’s your favourite city?

There are a few cities I like: Hong Kong, New York, Moscow, Paris and Vienna. Hong Kong is the city I’m always happy to come back to; Moscow is pretty neat too, however, there’s no one particular city I can call my favourite.

What do you like about the cities?

I love their energy, that peculiar atmosphere and the way people live there.

How would you describe your style?

I don't think about it that much. I guess, like an impressionist painter, I just try to express something I feel through photography. There’s no hidden meaning in my works.

When you climb on a roof, do you have your shots planned out or does it just come to you?

Photography is not the first thing on my mind, because often just getting where we want to is a big deal. Images come later when I see the shot I want to take. I don't consider myself a great photographer, I simply do what I like.

Your advice to someone starting out?

Don’t listen to what others say, do what you like even if someone says your photos are bad, just keep going if that's what you like.

Why did you join Alter-View?

Micha Stroyev, who I knew prior to joining, invited me to join a great project, so I took it on board. For me, everything in life is as simple as that. When I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t, I do it.

To see more of Vitaliy's work go here:

To find out how the Alter-View team and Vitaliy can make your brand or product stand out with unique photos, contact us!

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer James E Harvey-Kelly


Interview with Alter-View Photographer James E Harvey-Kelly

The Alter-View team is growing with wickedly talented people and today we are psyched to welcome a new photographer to our team: James E Harvey-Kelly, a London-based photographer and fashion designer. Although photography has been his lifelong passion, James started out in fashion as a designer and creative director for menswear brands. In 2015 he decided to ditch his fashion career to follow his dreams of being a full-time photographer, and it worked.

How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?

My father was always very passionate about photography. In our family house where I grew up there was a dark room, and he had lots of amazing cameras and he taught me from a very young age. When I was 8 he bought me an Olympus OM10, which is a little manual 35mm SLR with no automatic functions and he told me that I had to work out how to use it before he let me use any of the big electronic cameras he had. Because of this from a young age I had a real fascination with photography. I was always really interested in fashion and I was always really interested in photography, those were always my two passions.

When I left school I went and studied theology at university but really I was into photography. So I was in London and I was working a lot with photographers as an assistant and stuff like that and doing almost no university work. At the same time I was quite social so I met a lot of people, who were already working in the industry. I had the opportunity to work in fashion photography with a couple of really amazing photographers, to assist them and learn from them. But it became clear to me that, although I was really passionate about fashion and about photography, those two passions weren’t really connected. The photography I liked was more reportage or art photography, and so I started to realise it wasn’t possible for me to express what I wanted to in terms of photography by doing fashion photography. When I left university I kept assisting and then I ended up working as a photographer and doing more landscapes and reportage, but not really doing proper jobs, just kind of messing around, building up my personal work, assisting people a bit. But I couldn’t work out how to make any money doing it. And I suppose also I didn’t have the confidence to know whether my work was good or not or how to use my work.

So I ended up having an opportunity to go into doing fashion as a tailor and designer. I worked as a menswear designer and then I ended up moving to Paris, to work for a menswear brand there. Then I came back to London as a creative director and worked for a while in that space and I didn’t touch a camera for about 7 years at all. But I was working a lot with photographers, I was the guy who was producing and art-directing the stories, or the campaigns, or the lookbooks. I was the one who was saying “ok this is what we want”  and then I picked photographers and worked with them to create what we needed. And because I had a background in photography I understood the language of it and could have very useful conversations with photographers which was a really important part of my job. After a while I quit my job in fashion and I didn’t know what to do next so I took a year out. I started doing freelance work, producing and art-directing photo shoots for fashion brands and then I got the opportunity very randomly to shoot a couple of them, because photographers became unavailable. Even though I wasn't confident about doing this, I thought I should give it a try. I think because I’d spent the last 7 years before that, being the person who was in a position of authority working with photographers, suddenly I had the confidence and the insight to apply that same authority to my own work. Even though technically I was less good, because I hadn’t photographed in such a long time, I had a much more clear idea of what good photography was. Then I got more and more opportunities until I hit a point where I decided that's all I wanted to do. So since then I’ve been working as a photographer in the fashion industry, but also in art-photography, portraits and landscapes and that’s the journey so far.

Have you had any mentors along the way? Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

I’ve had a lot of mentors, although I’m not sure they have always been aware of it. The first was my father, who was really passionate about photography. He has never worked as a photographer, but he’s always been someone that’s been really passionate about it and this  shared passion has always been a big part of our relationship. He taught me the basics of how photography works and when I was young he introduced me to all these great classical black and white photographers, like Jeanloup Sieff, Norman Parkinson and the old Magnum photographers like Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa. When I was a kid I really understood photography as being about that, those guys represented what photography was to me . So he gave me a great grounding in this classical framework of photography.

I’ve been really lucky over the past 10 years to have been able to work really closely with some amazing fashion photographers and I have learned something from every single one of them. They’ve had some wildly different perspectives and I think that’s one of the main things I learnt while working as an art-director and as a producer rather than photographer, that it's not that meaningful to categorise people as good or bad photographers, rather it's about having your own vision and sticking with it - it’s as simple as that. It was really cool being able to work with all these super talented people and get inside their aesthetics and understand where their approach was coming from.

Also because I mostly shoot on film, a lot of my process involves working with printers in darkrooms in the labs. Over my career I’ve used a few different labs and I’ve been really privileged to develop some very close relationship with printers. When I was 20 I used to work with a guy who printed a lot of the Magnum photographers’ stuff. Every morning I would get up, cycle to his lab and stay there for 2 to 3 hours. He’d just show me all the things we could do or he’d do all my prints or we’d just talk. He taught me so much about what was possible with photography and gave me so much confidence. And he’s just one of them. All of these guys have become mentors to me in different ways, because I didn’t have a classical education in photography and these people know their stuff and are super patient.

Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?

That’s a funny question, because a lot of people in my life around me maybe see me as someone who takes quite bold moves. Often I’ve taken jobs, which I was completely unqualified for, but for me they never felt like risks. They’ve always felt like the only thing I could possibly do at that moment. I think I’ve always been someone who’s passionate and I’ve been extremely lucky that my entire life so far I’ve only ever done jobs I’m really passionate about. In that sense I’ve never had to do a single bit of work in my entire life, it’s always been natural. For example when I left my last job with a brand in London a year or two ago, it was probably quite risky. But again - it felt inevitable. There’s a saying “ fortune favours the bold” and maybe that's a bit true.  Before I decided that photography was all I wanted to do six months ago, I’d been quite reserved showing people my work, because I felt I had a lot to learn still, which I do. So I thought I’d just work quietly in the background, build a body of work and when I’m really proud of it, then I’ll push it. But then I realised - you’re always improving, you’re always changing, your work from a year ago never looks good to you - so you might as well put yourself out there now. And as soon as I put myself out there, I had so much positive feedback and so many opportunities and it’s still seems to be happening and I’m still learning which is amazing. I’ve been lucky.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

I think when people see you doing something which is really authentic to you, then of course they are 100 % supportive. Also photography is a cool job, because it gives you good stories to tell. You’re a bit of an explorer: you’re exploring places or other people’s lives and you get to go and sit with interesting people and photograph them, understand the world better and be aware and alive, so I think that's only going to enrich the lives of those around you.

What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?

I’m not sure. I think I’m most interested in quite simple things, when things feel really natural and true.  I’m interested in empathy, although that sounds pious. That’s why I love portrait photography, although the same thing extends throughout the disciplines, because you get to sit down, you get to look at someone, you get to talk, you get to know them a little and you get to slowly find moments of commonality and hopefully through that create something meaningful. There’s nothing more specific than that. I like it when a photo looks authentic and real, and doesn’t feel contrived or overly directed. In a more practical sense I’m always inspired by other photographers. I love those early colour great american landscape, road trip kind of photographers like Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston. I can look at their photographs for hours - they have such a wonderful relationship with light and this very composed, but also throw-away kind of aesthetic. And it always feels so honest.  That’s something that influenced me hugely and I find that style very fascinating.

How would you describe your style?

Whats’ funny is even when I was working as a designer, I always seemed to gravitate towards a rich, bold colour profile in everything I do and that’s something people often identify in my work. I suppose also there’s kind of the looseness I go for, I generally don’t like things looking like they are too deliberate, too composed and I like something that has an emotive hook to it. Ultimately everything I do - even fashion and landscapes - comes from reportage standpoint.

Do you have a routine?

I get up at 7.30 pretty much always, then I meditate for 20 minutes, have an egg white omelette with spinach and an espresso and then I spend maybe an hour doing emails. I keep in touch with people, talk to my lab, arrange production of photoshoots, That’s always a good way to begin the day, it gets your head straight in terms of what you want to achieve. Then I usually cycle to my l lab, where I look at prints we’re doing to make sure they are ready or take the printers through what we need to do. And then I’ll usually come back to the studio and either I’ll be shooting, or I’ll be working on retouching or production for whatever’s happening the next week or two.  I’ll find some time to socialise and have dinner sometimes but now days mostly I work into the evening - usually until 11 or so - creating mood boards, making references , and that’s my life pretty much every day.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

I hope the same thing I’m doing now, but just more. I love to travel - that’s a really important part of my life and something I’ve not been doing so much recently. At some point I would like not to be based as much in London. London is a very important city for me to be in right now, because it has that creative energy and I have a really good network here, but at some point I’d like to live someplace more sunny and by the sea. I spent a lot of extended periods of time staying abroad by the sea and it always improves your life so immeasurably. I’d like to be travelling more, shooting more, just doing the same work really. I’d like to shoot a mixture of occasional fashion campaigns, occasional reportage, work on exhibitions - variety keeps you fresh and you keep on learning the whole time. As long as I’m taking photographs, I’m happy.

Why did you join Alter-View?

Misha Stroyev, the founder of Alter-View, is a good friend of mine and much of my work has been based around my personal relationships. Which is really important, because you end up with a positive natural energy around your work. I’ve also been interested because it’s an agency with more of a reportage, documentary focus. In London I find my work gravitating more towards fashion, because that’s where most of my network is, but I was really interested to work with an agency, that has this reportage/landscape outlook. It's something I’m excited to explore more.

To see more of James's work go here:


Interview with Andrew Semark


Interview with Andrew Semark

Andrew Semark is a freelance photographer living in Vasse,Western Australia. Andrew spoke to us about being a creative entrepreneur in a small town, the everyday risks of making ocean art and the importance of living in the moment. When Andrew isn’t on his jet-ski shooting waves, he’s home with his wife and two children.

Describe your path to becoming a photographer: How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?

I was raised by my Mum and Dad who don’t really have a creative side to them and was always told to work with my hands. I knew I had to provide for my family, so I when grew up I started working in a workshop – spent my days covered in dirt. But I always enjoyed photography and it all started as a hobby years and years ago, when I began making landscape shots. It took me so long to learn and find what I really wanted to do. I grew up surfing and eventually I just combined my love of photography and my love of the ocean, but it was a slow realization. I remember the first time I shot waves then got home, opened the files on my computer and that’s when all the pieces just fell into place, because I fell in love with what I saw. Gradually photography was taking over so much of my time and eventually just bounced itself to the point when it consumed everything I do. I haven’t reached where I want to be as a photographer yet, but I’m super-blessed to be doing that now. Being in the ocean for me is an escape and then I go home, see everything on my computer, and get to relive those moments and see so many little details that I missed when I was there. When people see my work and say “well, I didn't know ocean could do that” – that’s precious.

Have you had any mentors along the way? Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

Where I live there’s a guy Christian Fletcher who shot landscapes of the area, and I would look at them and thought to myself: “these are incredible” and so I started shooting landscapes too. Then I met this guy named Russell Ord, he is the person I admire very much: from his amazing work to his outlook on life. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him and he’s the one who mentored me. He’s the kind of person, who’d tell you if your work was crap. I learnt so much from him: from photography to doing business, to people management, to handling situations.

What was your first photo-related job?

My first photo-related job was a wedding - a good friend told me he’d love me to shoot his wedding. Personally, I love weddings - spending this day with a newly married couple is really precious and you can’t help being happy at a wedding.  So I took it on board, did the day,  got a super-good response from them and that really kind of pushed me to the next level. I had been avoiding it, because with photography - put your work out there and there’s a lot of potential for disappointment, but then it worked and I realized I’m going to find people who love what I do and people who don’t but I’m loving what I’m creating and that pushed me further to keep doing work as a photographer.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

My wife is my rock, she’s behind everything I do. I spend a lot of time in my head and she helps me get out of there and produce everything I’m thinking on my camera. She’s always been so supportive for me throughout my journey and she’s always been amazing, and my kids – just as well. I grew up learning to work with my hands, to make money for my family and support them. I’d like to think that my kids look at me believe that they can accomplish whatever their passion is and You don’t have to work any job but do what you love.

Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?

Every time I’m in the ocean is a risk, if you think about it. Moving from working in a workshop to full-time photography career was also a risk and it still is. I live in a small country town and it's crazy here in summer. Then comes winter and it’s like a ghost town. During summer time I’m so busy with the business, in the ocean or doing wedding shoots. So I love it here in winter, because I get to spend time in the ocean and can focus on the creative side of my craft.

Where’s home and how living there influences you?

Living here dictates everything: winter months are hard on the business side of things, but it’s the time when you can build the portfolio. Also winter makes landscape so much better - a lot of people don’t get it, they just see the blue skies and blue water during summer but it is just as beautiful during the winter months. Sometimes there are really tough times, but I’m always trying to stay in the moment.

Do you have a routine?

I do and I don’t have a routine.  I like getting up early, so in the early hours of the morning you’ll probably see me shooting and creating. Vasse being a small town, I rely on local business to continue to work and spend a lot of time connecting with the community around me. During the day I might have a coffee and chat with a potential client to see if I can work something out for them. In the evening I’m usually back at my computer, learning new techniques, getting inspiration and staying in touch with what I’m doing.

What are your plans for the future?

I have long-term goals , which I might never reach them, but that’s what I have in mind. I’d love to have my own little gallery, showcasing area, and a little coffee-shop, where people can have their coffee, look at photographs and hang out.  That’s the dream. But for now I’d love to keep building my brand as a photographer, and be able to produce what I thinking in my head into my camera and never stop learning.

Why did you join Alter-View?

Joining a community on the other side of the world is pretty exciting. This could take me anywhere – I see other photographers do incredible work, that’s very inspiring.

Your advice to someone just starting out?

The biggest one is your vision will evolve, as you go through photography. What you might start doing initially will eventually change and won’t be where you end up at all, and you might find at times that you’re falling in love with different aspects of photography. Enjoy your journey, enjoy every moment as it comes, don’t take it too seriously, because otherwise it will consume your craft.

To see Andrew's work click here!

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Interview with Maïder Oyarzabal


Interview with Maïder Oyarzabal

Maïder Oyarzabal is a freelance photographer, travel writer and ambassador for Nikon and GoPro, whose client list includes Expedia, Allibert Trekking and Tourism Australia among others. When not wandering between oceans and mountains and moving from stranger to strangest, Maïder is based in the Basque Country, France. Maïder is represented by Alter-View.

1. Describe your path to becoming a photographer?

I started doing photography 5 years ago, when I went on my first big solo trip and spent 8 months in Asia and South America. Before that I had actually never really travelled or taken pictures. So photography and travel are interconnected for me. At a certain point I was doing my normal day-job in marketing and working on different side-projects at the same time. But brands and tourism boards wanted to work with me more and more, so I got enough confidence to take a big step and became a full time photographer.

2. Have you had any mentors along the way?

I can’t really use the word mentor: I’ve been growing professionally and developing my style together with my fellow-photographers. They are people I met on Instagram, or during travels and press trips. Sometimes I still work with them, and we mutually learn from each other, but I don’t consider any of them my mentors. If I had to name one person, it’s Adrienne Pitts, London-based travel and lifestyle photographer, whom I met during my trip to Finland last year - I really like her style.

3. What was your first photo-related job?

Ironically the job that drove me into this and gave me confidence was doing wedding shots - that was something I couldn’t picture myself doing, since it’s pretty far from travel and lifestyle photography. It wasn’t my first photography related job, but it was a really challenging one, the one that clicked.

4. Have you ever taken a big risk to move forward professionally?

I can’t say it was a big risk - there were no obligations like mortgage or family - it was more of a challenge: quitting my normal day-job and just going for it. I thought it was a good time to spread my wings and get into image making full time. I was just going to try and see what happens, and if it wouldn’t work, I’d find a way to get back on my feet.

5. Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

My family totally support me and it’s nice to know I have them, and they’ll be always there for me. My friends are also supportive. Even before I got into photography, most of my friends were working in some sort of creative industry - such things help you grow and get feedback and encouragement you need.

6. Where’s home and how living there influences you?

I consider the Basque country my home, this is where I live right now. I didn’t grow up here, but my family roots are from this place so I came back to live here a year ago. I’m really inspired by this place’s fantastic nature: I live just between ocean and mountains. For me it’s the perfect place. I find a lot of inspiration and strength in this surroundings.

7. Do you have a routine?

It depends on whether I’m home or on the road. When I’m home I quite like to have some sort of routine, because I need balance. While on the road you don't know when you’re going to sleep or wake up, and days are mostly long and stressful. So when I’m home I do sports daily and I love hiking in the mountains or walking on the beach - it definitely helps my creative process. As for the work days - I mainly work in the afternoon, because I’m not a morning person.

8. How would you describe your style?

I would say I shoot bright and colorful pictures most of the time. I also have this thing for outdoors, because that’s where I can express myself. I’m really spontaneous and sensitive in my work. Of course my style’s changed over the years, as in the beginning I didn't know what I was doing. I used to shoot everything I could, but now I am really fascinated by nature and the way people interact with it. I learn from my mistakes and now have a better eye for composition.

9. What are your creative plans for the next 5 years?

I am not the planning-obsessed kind of girl! My past experiences taught me that I mostly have to be ready anytime and seize the opportunities so I won't talk about plans, but rather objectives. I want to keep on traveling, go further in my creativity and develop series I would be proud of.

10. Why did you join Alter-View?

It's a great opportunity for development and getting my work promoted.

I also love the fact that we are a community of photographers coming from various backgrounds and cultures. I really look forward to meeting and working with the Alter-View team as I am sure it will be really stimulating and enriching to learn from each other.

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