Interview

Meet Olga Kuzmenko, the woman behind the camera

Olga Kuzmenko

For those of who haven’t heard of Olga, I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen her work before. Working as a photographer she’s published photos in Kerrang, The Irish Times and My Global Mind to name a few. Also, a lot of her live photos are published with online magazines and often shared on social media by the bands. She does photo shoots for bands, models and is exploring the world of video. Meet Olga Kuzmenko, the woman who gives us all those awesome pictures.

Hi Olga, who or what got you into photographing?
Nobody really, I’ve always been quite visual and just made a decision to buy a camera at some point. Well, I guess the fact that my granddad was a photographer has probably added to it a lot on a subconscious level. I remember my-4-year-old-self in a dark room with him, it was fascinating! I like seeing my photography as a homage to him.

What gear are you currently using and what was the first camera you got?
For photographs, I am using Canon 5D III, for video – Sony a7s II. The first camera that I got myself (I don’t count a little digital “point and shoot” that we had in our family at some point) was Canon 60D when it was new on the market. I still have it. I also have an old Canon A1 film camera which comes out very occasionally.

Photograph by Olga Kuzmenko

Most of your photos have a certain vintage dark feeling to it, how do you manage to capture this on all those different locations and with different people? And how do you manage to exclude it on the family photos?
Maybe it’s just the photos I choose to share that have that look as they are the photos that I like most. But of course it’s not just a selection itself, it goes together with editing. The family photos on my website are the first photographs of this style I’ve taken, so I was playing with the photos, trying out something new to me.

When does a photo have “soul”?
I’d say a photo has a soul when it evokes emotions/feelings when one looks at it. I wish I could say all my photographs have a soul (in my opinion of course), but it is not true, I don’t love all of them equally. Sometimes I just need to have a good number of photos for a publication when I’d share just one or two of my favourites if it was up to me.

From the 20 photos I make with my cellphone, bands or random landscape, I’m usually only satisfied with 1 of them, do you have the same problem or do you have some good advice so that every photo can be a masterpiece?
Every photo cannot be a masterpiece. Even if you put a lot of thought in the shoot you end up with a selection from which you need to choose a few photos or that one photo. A variation in lighting, composition or angle can make a world of difference, and you have to experiment and try out different combinations all the time. 1 out of 20 sounds pretty good to me! In my case, it would be 1 out of 50 or 100 probably, depending on the shoot. But I wouldn’t call it a problem, it’s just a part of the modern digital photography process. It can take up a lot of time to choose the best photos, but when I am not in a rush to deliver photos I actually really enjoy scanning through the digital negatives picking the best ones to work on.

How much time do you spend on editing a photo? Is editing necessary to give a photo something extra?
It really depends on what the photos are for and which shoot it is. It can take anything from a 5-minute touch-up today of editing of the same photo with a lot of frustration and self-beating!

Editing is necessary of course as the photos coming straight from the camera are negatives just like the old analogue negatives, and it’s only through “developing and printing” a.k.a. editing one can open the potential of a photo. That is why RAW format is called raw.

Which band was the most fun to take photos from on stage?
I want to say shooting big bands is always fun, but it’s not always like that. For example, shooting Metallica was a stressful experience (enjoyable all the same) – a new venue in a foreign country, problems with the photo pass, stuff like that.

The most fun happens when I am a part of the crowd finding myself right in the middle getting knocked around all the time. Those are my favourite gigs, they are challenging. Once though I ended up with my camera bouncing off the floor when the singer of Sick of It All jumped off stage in the crowd not expecting to knock the camera out of my hands in the middle of changing lenses.

The Dillinger Escape Plan guys were sweating all over the pit and looked like they were about to fall on us. I’ve seen them falling off amps (and with amps) before, so I kind of expected it to happen, not feeling really protected by the barriers in the pit. But these things happen only when you don’t expect them to happen!

Of course, I’d also call it fun when big bands like Megadeth share your pictures.

Photograph by Olga Kuzmenko

And which band is high on your bucket list to take photos from?
I have a few. Have been dreaming of getting kicked in the face by QOTSA at some stage! But seriously speaking I’ve never actually shot them, so would love to do that.

Rammstein is really high on my bucket list. They put on an amazing show with loads of pyrotechnics. It’s not always about the show though. It’s an incredible experience when you shoot a band that you actually love! Sometimes during those shoots, I have to remind myself to stop headbanging and focus on shooting as it’s only for the first three songs anyway (I can always headbang as much as I want after the work is done).

You also made some videos for bands, if you have to choose between filming and photographing, what would you rather do?
Photographing for sure. At the moment anyway. I’ll see where filming will bring me.

How does a normal week go for you, what’s your agenda for the upcoming week?
Next week I hope to be shooting New Music Dublin Festival 2018 at National Concert Hall for Allen Kiely Photography (AKDIGITAL). I am quite excited about it actually!

I also will be shooting a couple of live gigs. There’s always one or two of those a week.

And I have an artistic TFP shoot with a model lined up during the weekend that involves fire. It will be fun!

My week is normally a mix of prep for some upcoming photo/video production, actual shooting and editing.

What are you wishes for a new camera in the future?
You mean what technological improvements would I like to see in future generations of cameras? Higher ISO’s with lower noise is always needed for shooting concerts in low light. As is faster auto-focus in low-light and maybe high-speed continuous shooting. Higher frame rates (at an affordable price) for video recording would be nice to let me do slow-motion shots.

Any advice for other photographers to close this interview?
Be bold!

Find more of Olga’s work HERE

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