Cristina Benzi: Where did you take the first picture in Berlin?
Andrea Russo: Beelitz,
the infamous abandoned hospital on an autumn day, when it was still an
off-the-beaten-track urbex paradise. It was literally awesome!
CB: How did you develop your interest in photography?
AR: Kinda just for fun. I was always interested in art and needed to do something creative in my life.
Everything started with a cheap Lomo camera. It was 2010, I went to New York with my brother and I just
got given a Diana mini. It was literally a piece of plastic and it was not supposed to take incredible pictures.
To be honest, I also didn’t have a clue about photography. I had never done any photography course or looked into it.
I basically learned from my mistakes (that’s what I still do!). Anyway, I took a few pictures during this trip, but I still had the feeling that something was missing.
When I went back home and spring and summer came, I carried on using it, but this time around I focused on portraits of my friends and then-girlfriend, who soon became my muse. Everywhere we went, I carried the camera with me an didn’t miss a chance to shoot. Back then I was experimenting way more that I am currently doing. Guess I was trying to explore this world that I knew so little about and understand what I fancied the most about it.
Shortly after, I decided to sign up into Lomography’s online analogue community and started to upload those first attempts. The reaction I got caught me by surprise: not only people liked my pictures, but Lomography itself started to use some of them to advertise their products.
When I graduated my friends bought me a medium format camera, a Lubitel 166+, and that’s when I sort of realized that photography could become more than just an experimental game.
CB: What has inspired you to create The BLNKDZ?
AR: My friends and the city are the biggest inspirations. I just noticed that all my friends have something special. They might have different backgrounds, jobs and goals in life, and quite different personalities but they all share one thing: a positive, brave, open minded, empowering and inspiring approach to life. And I really do believe that this is made possible by the city we call home, Berlin, which seems to relentlessly attract this kind of personalities. Here you can find a free atmosphere, you have the chance to dig deeper inside of you, try out things, express yourself, say out loud how you feel, and eventually just be who you are.
So yes, I’m constantly inspired by who they are and I know that others can feel the same as I do. That’s quite how the project started.
CB: On this exhibition you haven´t got just only photos, there is also a statement. What did your friends said on theirs?
AR: They are very interesting but also very different, and not necessarily related to Berlin. I actually didn’t push for one direction or another when I asked for a caption. I was very curious to see what they could come up with. And the outcome was great. From self acceptance, to finding a passion, to rebelling to a macho society, Russian superstitions, the creative process, dealing with your life after turning thirty… Of course there are also a few captions about this city. About a love-hate relationship with
Berlin, being born and raised in such a desired and discussed place, about its role in finding or losing yourself…
CB: It would be interesting to know if you develop/scan/print the pictures yourself.
AR: No, I don’t. After blaming for years the fact that I was moving too often to put a small lab together, I had to admit to myself that I actually didn’t care about that part. I prefer to focus on connecting with people, taking pictures, coming up with projects and write about them.
CB: You also made a BLNKDZ book. How was it?
AR: I felt like I couldn’t print for the exhibition all the captions the “kids” wrote or all of their Q&A. Too many words on a white wall might have appeared intimidating rather than stimulating so I had to make a selection and just hang one for each “kid”.
The book looked to me like a perfect answer and also allowed me to show more of the portraits I took.
CB: Do you have new projects coming up on mind?
AR: To be fair, I simply love to take portraits and to connect with people. I absolutely like how, most of the times, the intimacy and reciprocal trust achieved during a session can be the start of a friendship or make a bond even stronger.
This said, I’m also a big fan of traveling. This keeps me going in life probably as much as as the creative process.
Because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to look at things with brand new eyes. It taught me to see the beauty in the smallest details and appreciate the uniqueness of some moments. If with portraits I’m very much in control, when I’m traveling I allow myself to be more spontaneous.
the way, the B L N K D Z project is not over just yet. There’s so many
other opinionated pretty faces that can’t wait to be captured. So stay