Russia is the country that mastered resurrection from fallen empires, wars, and doomed anarchy. Like the Firebird, it rises from the ashes. But there is little known to the 21st-century tale of Russia, so here's photographer Frank Herfort to share his images and stories.
Hi Frank, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, when and how did you start taking pictures?
I started photographing in school time when I was around 15 years old. I felt always more comfortable in showing and creating something visually instead of talking :) So, for me, it was already a long time ago a good opportunity to communicate with the world.
The Berlin Wall and the division inspired you a lot with your photography, like many others. What aspect of that even were you so interested of?
I´m still very proud that I could live in two completely different systems. Even when I was very young, but my early childhood I spent entirely the GDR with Soviet ideas. This simplicity and pureness of life combined with the later on totally capitalized ideas formed my style, I guess :) So, I´m always interested in finding some balance between soul and wealth, which I try to find also in my images.
Now residing in Russia, the place has often been 'villainized' in most Western media. Time to unshroud the mystery -- what's life really like in Russia?
Yes, I lived for around 10 years in Russia, but now living in Moscow and Berlin and I love being part of these two different worlds. Western ideas always meet conflicts with Russian ideas. Russians are very individualistic, very creative and very proud of their country yet they won't always go their own way, without getting directed by someone else. This they already had for several decades in the past. And now it completely changed and I see that Russia is much more forward-thinking than any European country. They are open for everything and are much quicker in realizing and developing. Of course, there are still a lot of “areas” where you still feel the Soviet mood. For me life in Russia it´s more about life than in the Western world, where everyone just needs to work and be perfect. There's always good and bad in both.
The series is named after "Russian Fairytales". Any particular favorites? And why?
Actually, I do not have any particular favorite fairytale and I named this project by accident while reading some magazines.
Your photographs hold a lot of symbolism and icons very familiar in Russian culture; like the nuclear plants, the head of a bear, babushka, fur coats, hats, and boots. In connection with the series title, do you think they are part of the modern Russian fairy tale iconography being weaved today?
I never really thought about this while creating my images, but today I really noticed that these Russian symbols and elements out of Russian culture getting more and more popular in the media, fashion and contemporary art and daily life. Even a simple new opened coffee kiosk is designed with some Russian or Soviet meanings.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Who are your muses?
Didn´t find my muse yet :) Don´t know what will happen if I :) But my inspiration I found everywhere. I have a large list of stories, images, and subject which I like to photograph in the future. Inspirations today are more than ever. But always love to visit the New Tretyakov Gallery with contemporary and soviet realism paintings.
If you could work, collaborate or meet with any photographer or artist, who would it be, and what would you two be doing?
I would be interested in working with Gregory Crewdson, who creates such huge settings. Knowing more about logistics, planning, and budgeting would be good to know. But I already worked a lot with other artists and photographers, as an assistant while I studied.
Describe to us -- what's a day in the life of Frank Herfort?
I´m not sure if it´s good or not, but not a single day is similar to the previous day. My main focus is for my own projects, which I every day check for priority, but I´m also a very responsible photographer for my commercial clients. So, I´m daily moving between, photographing, editing, scouting, email checking, updating, meeting etc.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
Since two years I´m working already on a new book, which is completely photographed, but not edited. This is massive work. There is no downtime usually, but I love work.
For me, downtime really means doing nothing related to my photo projects. It´s very important to keep that distance and passion. So, you will not believe, but we got a small land with an old bungalow near Berlin, which I want to turn into in a typical Russian-styled Datsha with a lovely garden, shashlik, and banya.