Andrew Kovalev – A Portrait Photographer for Future Generations

Russian born portrait photographer Andrew Kovalev started photography as a hobby but in a few years became a professional. Leaving his homeland to pursue a photographic education, Kovalev travelled a lot to find his final destination, ending up in Paris at the Spéos Paris Photographic Institute. He takes environmental editorial portraits across the UK, Europe, and Russia. His photos have beautified the covers of Forbes, RBC, Simple Wine News, were published in Le Point, Der Spiegel, The Sunday Times, Le Monde, and Bloomberg Business week. GEORGIA TODAY caught up with Andrew Kovalev and his wife Tatiana (contemporary artist working under a pseudonym Tati S. Titch) during a working visit to Tbilisi.

Tell us a little about your development.

I was born in a little town in the north of Russia. In the 90s my family moved to Saint Petersburg. After a stint in Moscow, in 2011 I moved to Paris to study photography and spent four years working for different magazines and ad agencies, as well as doing my personal projects.

I started photography as a hobby in 2006. Bought my first camera, started taking pictures and over the next two years it developed into something more professional. First I got a few jobs at some local magazines and, after moving to Moscow in 2008, was already shooting assignments for Forbes. But I realized then that if I wanted to be a photographer on a higher level I would have to go abroad to acquire a proper photographic education. In the end I chose Paris.

What motivates you to photograph portraits?

Tatiana: Andrew is a collector. He collects history through people. He collects faces to save them for the future generations. That is why, for example, he likes to photograph elderly people — they have stories, their life experience on their faces.

Andrew: A friend of mine once told me there are two approaches to photography. You can take pictures to show all the horrible things of the world, suffering and ugliness, to make people shudder. Or you can capture the good things in people and in their everyday lives, to help them see beauty in them, in those near them and in the world around.

Tatiana: When we walk along the streets and see passersby, Andrew tends to notice extraordinary details in them. When Andrew looks at a person, he does so in a loving way, trying to catch this person’s character and beauty.

How do you get what you want from your subject into a photo?

There is no way to always get the result that you want, because in portrait photography it’s not only about photographer, it’s collaboration between a photographer and a mode and there are people who would confront the camera. In general, the main skill of a portrait photographer is not about camera, light or composition but the connection between photographer and his or her subject.

How do you make this connection?

There are different strategies. The more practice you get, the more of them you acquire. It becomes your toolkit, based on your experience and your intuition. Some people are afraid of camera, or might have had bad experience with photographers in the past, or they might be distracted by something at the time of shooting. During such moments you need to talk to them or give them a role to play, but it doesn’t always work out the way I want it to. A very important part of photographing someone is your ability to change your strategy when you see something is not going as planned; you have to be ready to improvise. But even then there are people that you just can’t connect with, due to extreme time limitation, for example. When a picture doesn’t show a real person, a real emotion, I settle for simply taking a technically good picture.

Is there someone you would like to photograph?

Oh, yes. I want to photograph Nick Cave. He is an incredibly talented person, who inspires me a lot, and to photograph him is like a dream.

How would you photograph him, in color or black and white?

Wow, wow (pauses). I would make a mix both.

Who is your favorite photographer?

That changes all the time. Right now, I admire Tim Walker.

What are you shooting here in Tbilisi?

I first came here last year on an assignment for the magazine titled Simple Wine News — to shoot a cover story on The Askaneli Brothers. That was my first experience with Georgia. I find it a fascinating country with a lot of creative potential and amazingly talented people.

We’re working on a series of portraits called “Tbilisi Fairytales”. Each episode of this project will represent one Georgian cultural phenomenon, a symbolic event or a legend, or even a contemporary story related to the country. We work on that project with the help of Kartuli Pilmi. The director Khatuna Khundadze and her team are extremely supportive. And we are constantly looking to collaborate with local talents. So if you are a Georgian creative who wants to become a part of “Tbilisi Fairytales”, please, feel free to contact us.

They say, when creative from abroad come to some place with their own vision, they might become an important asset for a country, developing and making the local culture stronger. American filmmaker Thomas Burns, who opened his post-production studio in Tbilisi some time ago, is an excellent example of such an influence. He brought with him “fresh blood”: new vision and new energy that helps Georgia’s movie industry grow. People got access to new knowledge and experience that were not here before. I believe, that the power of a creative project multiplies when an artists from outside gets involved. Together we are capable of doing great things.

You can find Andrew’s work and his contacts at or check out his Instagram: @ckovalev.

Meri Taliashvili

09 June 2016 21:29