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ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

Best of 2014 Honoree: Max Eremine

By August 6, 2015March 6th, 2017Best of 2014
Atlanta, GA
Max Eremine views his work as a search for underlying order and beauty in the seeming chaos of life. Double exposures, DIY filters, pre-exposed or found film and mixed media are just some of the tools he employs during totally improvised, jam-session photo shoots. He allows elements to fall where they may while balancing them with careful control over lighting, camera movement and post-processing, in a jazz-like fusion of order and chaos — yin and yang.

© Max Eremine

“I hope my images brighten up someone’s day, just as making them brightened up mine,” he explains. “While many artists see their purpose as afflicting the comfortable, I see my main purpose in comforting the afflicted, starting with myself.”

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

Max Eremine: I’ve been a photographer for four years.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

ME: Two years.

ASMP: What initially prompted you to join ASMP?

ME: On the advice of another photographer, who suggested I join in order to book some assisting jobs.

ASMP: What do you consider the most valuable aspect of your ASMP membership?

ME: I do love the assisting opportunities I get through Find an Assistant, which are not only a part of my income, but also a great way to learn from other professional photographers. I also occasionally attend ASMP workshops and seminars and enjoy a discounted professional insurance policy.

ASMP: What is the most important relationship you’ve formed through your ASMP membership?

ME: Once again, it’s the many great photographers I’ve had a chance to assist. I don’t want to name any names in order not to slight anyone, but I have to say that I’ve learned something every single time.

ASMP: Which ASMP education/advocacy tools do you find most helpful to your day-to-day business?

ME: I enjoy the ASMP e-mail announcements, which keep me in the loop regarding current developments in copyright law and keep me informed about local workshops and seminars.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

ME: I am an art portraitist and a fashion photographer.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?

ME: To be honest, I am not a gear fanatic. Of course I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my camera and lenses; but other than that, I strongly believe that a great image can be made with any equipment. It’s all in the mind really. I’m going to stick to this opinion on equipment until I find corporate sponsors.

ASMP: What is unique about your approach, or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?

ME: I believe my biggest strength is my ability to improvise on the spot and achieve desired results. For this reason I actually enjoy the type of work many photographers avoid: short notice, limited budget, unplanned, etc. Whatever the limitations might be, I’ll go around them, or make them work to my advantage, and make things work. To borrow an analogy from Eastern philosophy, I am like a bamboo shoot rather than an old oak tree — when the wind blows I bend, but I do not break.

ASMP: How long have you taken this kind of experimental approach to fashion and beauty? What was your inspiration for this body of work?

ME: I have been doing experimental and improvisational type work from the very beginning, simply because my work reflects my personality. Sometimes I think that being easily bored is my defining characteristic as an artist. For this reason I like extremes — either simple, minimalistic images or very complex and elaborate ones. I think this body of work reflects that perfectly, as it has a little bit of both. My main inspiration was the work of Dadaist and modernist photographers of the early 20th century and also Renaissance paintings — two extremes, which seemingly have very little in common.

ASMP: Your artist statement mentions the search for underlying order and beauty in the seeming chaos of life. Is this an overarching quest in your daily life?

ME: In my personal life I am surrounded by the beauty of my wife and son. It’s the impersonal outside world about which I’m most concerned. As an anxious introvert living in the modern world, I often feel bombarded with negativity from social and mainstream media. Photography for me has always been a sort of therapy, a way of dealing with the world outside my immediate surroundings. I hope my images brighten up someone’s day, just as making these images brightened up mine. While many artists see their purpose in afflicting the comfortable, I see my main purpose in comforting the afflicted, starting with myself.

ASMP: What equipment did you use to make these images? You mention the use of pre-exposed or found film — are all of these images shot on film, or did you also shoot digitally, or with both media types?

ME: I started out shooting film, but nowadays I shoot 75 percent of my artistic and 100 percent of my commercial work using digital equipment. So the equipment is different. I still use film because I like the element of surprise, the joy of darkroom discovery, and the comparative unpredictability of the film format. With double exposures especially, I like the organic, often imperfect results I get on film. To me, digital double exposures often look too perfect, too over-produced, too forced. But commercial assignments are of course different; the results need to be premeditated, predictable and as close to perfect as possible. Hence the use of digital format, which makes it easier to achieve these type results.

ASMP: Some of your images are black-and-white and some are in color. Please talk about your decision-making in this process.

ME: I am a spectral chauvinist. My favorite colors are black and red. So black and white photography is undoubtedly my favorite. When red tones are prominent in the subject, I default to color. However I am shy about my use of color, and tend to desaturate it somewhat. And of course I mostly shoot in true color for commercial jobs (such as fashion assignments) where color is important.

ASMP: How did you choose the models for this series? Do you have an initial idea from each model of what you want to achieve in an image, or do you generally leave this to experimentation or random chance?

ME: Most of the time I have a general idea as to where I want to start, but I leave lots of room for improvisation. In fact, my best images are oftentimes completely unplanned. I am very picky as far as models are concerned and try to work with models with unconventional and unique beauty. For me, the choice of model is crucial to the creation of the image. I do not over-direct my models; I want them to bring their own vision to this. The creation of the image is like an improvised jam session when both the model and the photographer play two equally important instruments. If I have a theme for the shoot, then we both have a general idea of what it’s supposed to look like in the end, but we may interpret it slightly differently and adjust each other’s styles accordingly to each other’s performance.

ASMP: You use the music references such as “jam session” and ” jazz-like” in your artist statement. Do you have music playing in the studio when shooting these pictures?

ME: Yes, music is a huge inspiration for me. I always play music during my studio shoots, and also while editing and retouching. Sometimes an idea for an image comes from a song line. Other times, during post processing, I let the music I’m listening to influence — consciously and subconsciously — my editing and retouching decisions. What I mean by this is that my decisions tend to change completely, depending on what I’m listening to during my editing and photo-manipulation process. Sometimes an image I’m working on resonates with the music and everything just clicks. As for style of music, I listen to everything from classical to jazz to EDM to death metal.

ASMP: Are you also a musician?

ME: I was a radio DJ at one point of my life (WRAS 88.5FM #saveWRAS), but I do not play any instruments.

ASMP: You also refer to the elements you use as “semi-Dadaist”. Are you a fan of Dadaism in particular?

ME: I am indeed a huge fan of Dadaism and early 20th-century art movements in general. I think this was one of the most groundbreaking times in the history of art. Dadaism, specifically, does have a special meaning for me. It is very anti-academic and revolutionary in nature. To borrow terminology from Eastern philosophy, it is extremely Yin in nature. And I’ve always considered myself a Yin photographer. I embrace the dark, the chaos, the passive, the non-conceptual, and non-scholastic — and therefore Dada. From the more modern artistic movements, I’m very much drawn to the ideas of remodernism.

ASMP: Are there particular photographers or artists whose works inspire and influence you?

ME: There is a huge list of people who inspire me, and it’s a perpetually expanding list, too. Renaissance painters, Man Ray and Helmut Newton definitely come to mind. From currently active photographers, I’m very much inspired by Nick Knight and Formento+Formento. There are a lot of talented people who have undoubtedly influenced my work and my style.

ASMP: Please talk about your image-making process.

ME: Most of the time it happens organically. During a photo shoot a “what if I do this” sort of idea may come to mind. And I always try to follow these leads. If it doesn’t work, I make changes until it does. Or, I just set it aside for next time and try something else.

ASMP: Your statement mentions post-processing as one of the elements you employ in creating your images. Please elaborate about the type of post-processing you do and the types of software you use.

ME: Like most modern photographers, I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I try to achieve everything in-camera, but the finishing touches and tonal corrections are of course done in post.

ASMP: You’re originally from Moscow. How long have you lived in the United States? Are your Russian roots and heritage an influence in this body of work, or for your photography in general?

ME: I’ve lived in the United States for 18 years now and consider it my home. But, generally speaking, I do not believe in the concept of countries and nationalities and consider myself an unabashed cosmopolite.

ASMP: How did you get your photo career started? Did you have any mentors guiding you or offering advice?

ME: Photography was, career-wise, a late discovery for me. I had a corporate business job and just collected old film cameras as a hobby. I figured out how they worked and started using them for fun. The hobby eventually turned into obsession and eventually a new career. I’ve learned photography from books and experience, and have never had any mentors, so I am entirely self-taught. This is both a weakness and a strength. I might lack some knowledge that I could have picked up from a formal art education but, on the other hand, I believe it helps me to be more non-conventional and unique.

ASMP: What brought you to Atlanta and how long have you lived there? Do you find this city to be a lucrative place for a fashion and beauty photographer to be based?

ME: Originally I came to Atlanta to go to college, and stayed when I met my future wife. Atlanta is a great place to start a career in photography. It’s smaller than New York or Los Angeles and therefore it is easier to get noticed, but it is big enough as far as finding clients and professionals to work with is concerned.

ASMP: Your Web site notes that you’re based in both Atlanta and New York. Where do you spend most of your time? Do your clients in Atlanta differ from the clients you work with or are trying to attract in New York?

ME: I spend most of my time in Atlanta, but I am considering moving to either L.A. or New York in the near future. However, I don’t rule out the possibility of staying in Atlanta and continuing to commute to New York for clients whenever such need arises, just as I do now. Working in New York is often tougher, since the competition level is much higher; however there are simply more possibilities for growth there. Being a New York fashion photographer is a brand in itself. Clients in smaller markets, such as Atlanta, are more likely to pay more attention to a New York photographer than a local.

ASMP: You also work with international clients. Is there one particular country or photo market in which you’re busiest or that you prefer to others?

ME: I’ve been published internationally, but most of my clients are in the United States. If I were to pick one country where I’d love to exhibit and hopefully gain a following, I’d say Japan. I’ve never had a chance to travel there, but I perceive it as a very unique place that is, in many ways, the exact opposite of any locales I’ve experienced so far, and that appeals to me — like all extremes. And, of course, I would love to sing along with the Tom Waits song “Big In Japan” and actually mean it.

ASMP: From the look of your Facebook profile, you’re quite effective in using social media to show and build exposure for your work. What other sites do you post to that are as effective?

ME: Facebook and Instagram are the ones I use most. They are not perfect, and I am very much annoyed by their censorship of artwork (a complete ban on artistic nudity to be specific), but we live in the age of Facebook and I simply do not reach the same amount of people on other networks.

ASMP: How long did it take you to get more than 200,000 likes on your Facebook page?

ME: It took me approximately three years. The only thing I did to achieve this is to try to post something new every single day. It’s almost like a daily exercise routine; I can either shoot something new or find an unpublished image from the archives, but it has to be done. It certainly keeps me on my toes — no matter what mood I am in on any given day, I have to produce something to share.

ASMP: What’s the most interesting or compelling feedback you’ve received about your work on social media? What’s the most valuable relationship you’ve gained?

ME: I do use Facebook for professional networking quite a bit, so many of my professional contacts came from Facebook. As for feedback, I receive many comments and messages every day and I am always amazed that so many people liked my work enough to take a moment to say something. All of the comments are dear to me. It is absolutely amazing that a large audience can be reached directly within seconds and without any intermediary (editors, curators, art critics, etc.) As an artist, I cannot think of a better time to create, because in the end, we create art for it to be seen. An artwork that is seen by nobody is stillborn.

ASMP: How much time do you spend viewing, reading and commenting on other people’s content on various Web sites, blogs and social media channels?

ME: I virtually never comment, due to the lack of time, but I do look at a lot of images every day and I am subscribed to countless Web sites and blogs. However, this process is completely unstructured.

ASMP: Do you have plans for continuing this body of work and building it into something on a larger scale? What are your ultimate goals for this work?

ME: I do not have any particular goals for this work other than exhibiting it in various markets. Projects like this have a life of their own and if I lose interest in it, I will most certainly abandon it. Or it may lead somewhere else.

ASMP: Your commercial work is in fashion, lifestyle and beauty, and these images certainly address similar subjects. How does your commercial work influence your personal image making and vice-versa?

ME: I believe that both my artistic and commercial work share the same aesthetic and style. Doing artistic work allows me to explore, push and define my boundaries, and explore new techniques. Commercial work, on the other hand, is basically the safer, easier-to-digest version of my artistic work.

ASMP: Please describe how this current body of work has affected your business to date. Have these images generated new clients or markets for your work? Have they given you new visibility with existing or past clients?

ME: Many of my commercial clients find me through my artwork, so the answer is most definitely a yes.

ASMP: What clients do you shoot for commercially? Are clients generally interested in having you employ the methods and techniques used in your personal images in commercial assignments? How much freedom do clients give you in exploring your own vision in a shoot?

ME: I’ve been quite lucky with my clients so far, in that they typically hire me specifically because they want to use my style, techniques and vision. So I typically enjoy a lot of freedom when doing commercial work. Oftentimes they even ask me to recreate one of my existing artistic images for them — often with the very same model — but with their product featured in the shot.

ASMP: What kind of marketing or networking do you do for your photography?

ME: My marketing consists of social media and word of mouth. I’ve had a lot of referral business, which is probably the best marketing channel there is. I cannot think of a better marketing strategy than working to gain a sincere and enthusiastic referral from past clients.

ASMP: Do you work with a rep or advisor to help with your marketing?

ME: I do not yet have a rep or adviser. I am open to this, however.

ASMP: What is the most important business advice you’ve ever received?

ME: To develop a portfolio of images that I actually enjoy shooting, rather than the one that could be more financially rewarding. As a result, I almost never get offered jobs that I dread being a part of, and I enjoy going to work every single day.

ASMP: What’s been your most valuable business decision to date?

ME: To take the plunge and to become a full time photographer. Learning to swim by jumping into the water in the middle of the lake, so to speak. And, of course, to join ASMP.

ASMP: What is the most important advice that you’d give a young photographer starting out now?

ME: Do not spend too much time looking for advice or critique. Do what feels right to you. Shoot. Analyze. Shoot again. Everyone is different and everyone’s opinions are different. But the world is so massively overpopulated nowadays that there is a market and audience for every type of photography and everyone’s unique, individual style.

ASMP: How do you see your career evolving over the next five years?

ME: In five years, I hope to be a much better photographer, making significantly more money. I also hope that I’ll be enjoying my work as much as I do now. I quit my previous corporate career because I was dreading going to work every morning. I don’t want to make the same mistake ever again.

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