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A City as an Inspiring Muse
Oleksandr Chaptsev is a professional photographer-artist whose inspiring muse is the city of Kyiv. Born and raised in Kyiv, he admires Kyiv and he knows it like the back of his hand. As a matter of fact, it was Kyiv that caused him to go into art photography. Olesya BILOUS joined Mr Chaptsev for a stroll through Kyiv’s streets and asked some questions.
Photos: Oleksandr CHAPTSEV
Kyiv has been the subject of Oleksandr Chaptsev’s photography for the past twenty years. But it is not only the visual aspect of the city that fascinates him — he studies its history, its culture. His interest in Kyiv led him to develop an interest in Ukrainian culture and history as well.
Kyiv, like any megalopolis of today, is not static — it is developing and it is changing. Not all the changes are appreciated, and Mr Chaptsev’s photographs help preserve the memory of Kyiv of the past and the appearance of Kyiv of today.
Mr Chaptsev’s photography captures Kyiv in its various moods, and the photographer’s own moods are reflected in the photographs he takes. One can compare his love of Kyiv to love for a woman. He keeps discovering new aspects of Kyiv in all sorts of weather and in all seasons, be it rain or shine, snow or fog.
“The year 1997 saw an important event in my career of an art photographer. I joined the project launched by the Fuji Sport Studio and took photos of Kyiv at night time. We used advanced photo technology but it was winter, and it was pretty cold, and the other photographers who were older than me, said they’d had enough of that much too sophisticated new equipment and of the freezing temperatures, and let me go on alone with taking pictures. It proved to be an eye-opening and very valuable experience.”
“When did you get your very first camera to take pictures with?” “I was seven years old. My uncle, a professional photographer gave me a camera for a present. But I think I was too little to appreciate that gift and it was my father who mostly used that camera. It took several years for photography to grow on me and at eleven I began to attend a photo studio for children that encouraged an interest in photography as a hobby.
Oleksandr was educated at a technical college but photography always stayed with him as an absorbing hobby. In 2002, when he realized that his hobby had to become his full-time occupation, he went to study at the department of art photography at a college, and since then photography has been his fulltime job.
Mr Chaptsev is a member of the National Society of Photo Artists of Ukraine and is one of the Society’s secretaries. He is directly involved in launching all sorts of art photography projects and in popularizing Ukrainian art photography in the world. “My best friends are photographers, and my wife is a photography enthusiast. She’s very tolerant, she supports me in everything I do, even when my work does not let me stay with my family as much as I and she would want me to do. We are true soul mates.”
Oleksandr took me to the streets and parts of Kyiv I had never been to before and told me lots of stories about the places we walked through and about Kyiv in general.
He has a particularly soft spot in his heart for Kyiv of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and of course, he explores them as a photographer with a camera in his hand.
“My favorite spots in Kyiv? That’s a difficult question to answer… But I think the Old Kyiv and definitely St Andrew’s could be put on the top of the favorites list. I took an untold number of pictures of this church — in the daytime, at night, at sunrise and at sunset, in the dead of winter and in the heat of summer…When it was under restoration, I climbed the scaffolding to take pictures from very usual angles. As a matter of fact, in my younger years, I used to climb tall trees or construction cranes, or to get onto roofs of high-rises hoping to get an unusual angle for good shots. Now that I am married and have a child, I don’t think I would risk doing a thing like that…After St Andrew’s as the top favorite, I am not quite sure what comes second — Kyiv parks, or the old section of city — Podil, or maybe the Open-air Museum of Architecture and Everyday Life in the village of Pyrohiv?”
“Are there any places in Ukraine that you would go to, say, right away, just like that — get up and go?”
“Yes, there are such places — the cities of Lviv, Chernivtsi, and parks too: Sofiyivka, Trostyanets, and Sokyryntsi. Odesa is also a place I’d love to visit again. I love traveling but after the birth of my son, I stay most of the time with my family, but the moment when I find that he is ready to travel, we’ll hit the road — all of us together.
In 2010, photographs of Mr Chaptsev and of four other photographers were put on the walls of subway car in the Kyiv Metro to mark the Metro’s fiftieth anniversary.
Now Mr Chaptsev jointly with the journalist Ihor Sichovy are working at a photo project which is called Dityam pro Kyiv (About Kyiv for Children). “Now that I am a father, I feel I want to do something for children, not only for my son. I want the children of Kyiv love this city as much as I do.”
Courtyard. Mezhyhisrka Street, Podil, in Kyiv. 1999.
Rays of Early Morning. The Cathedral of Holy Sophia in Kyiv. 1996.
Little Park in Kyiv. 2010.
Vydubytsky Monastery. Early Winter Morning. 2003.
The Evening. Khreshchaty Park. 2001.
The Central Railroad Station in Kyiv at Night. 2006.