It seems like the urge to capture the unexpected was always there for Adrian Skenderovic, but it was one night coming home from a party that he came across a pretty surrealistic moment and captured it. Since then, his camera always accompanies him and he keeps “collecting moments” with humour to this day.
Adrian, you manage to capture the human behaviour within the ordinary, something we all see in our day-to-day life. Can you remember when you started capturing these moments and what drove you to it?
Since I was a kid, I always collected stuff: from coke cans to phone cards, from graffiti stickers to records. For me, photography is like collecting moments. It’s never-ending. Fifteen years ago, I was wandering around the city with a small camera to shoot graffiti. One night of 2007, I was coming back from a party on the night bus, and – I was not drunk – I saw a clown sitting in the empty bus. It was a surrealistic moment and I took the shot. Since then, I always prepared to shoot the unexpected.
You play with humour, the ridiculous, even the absurd. Has this always been your approach towards photography?
Weird stuff makes better pictures, of course. But most of the time, it takes some effort to find anomalies in our boring daily life. You have to look in tiny details that no one notices. If you are dedicated enough to document the ordinary, it can become extraordinary. That’s what I’m trying to do in my work, with a different approach depending on the project.
You shoot both on film and digital, which do you prefer and why? Does your choice have anything to do with what you're going to photograph? Or maybe it has more to do with a certain result you want to achieve?
To be honest, I don’t really care about the camera, and I’m really bad technically. So my camera is a point-and-shoot that makes ok pictures without too many settings. I started photography with a film camera. I was like a kid at Christmas when I was discovering the developed picture, I loved the magic. Now I shoot both. Film is always charming, capturing something on film adds more ‘value’ in a way. But digital allows me to experiment more – to shoot anything, to collect boring stuff without feeling guilty about the cost of film. The boring stuff can become interesting at some point, after some years. Like my City Veins project I just published. I collected those red tubes for at least five years before doing something. That’s the kind of anomalies I’m looking for when I walk around the city. The single images are not that interesting but the series, and the fact that every picture connects make the project worth a look.
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The title of your website is Everything Is Amazing and Nobody Is Happy. Would you say that's your outtake from your work? Is that how you see today’s society?
I’m a big fan of stand-up comedy, they take ordinary behaviour or observations and turn it into gold. That’s what I’m trying to do with photography. That’s why I picked that quote from Louis CK, “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy” when I was trying to find a cool title for my website. This sentence resonates well with my two series about tourists in Paris. I live in Paris, but I don’t notice the beautiful monuments anymore.
In my project Down The River, I captured the life on the Seine river by shooting tourist boats from the top, looking at tourists that are looking at Paris. I was first attracted by the colourful boats packed with tourists, then I realized I could find some extraordinary moments if I spent enough time waiting on the bridge for every boat to pass.
In my Follow the Guide projects, I wanted to see things from the tourists' point of view, capturing the unexpected props raised by their guides in front of the blurry monuments. I was amused by the weird objects used by every guide: car antenna, selfie stick, wooden stick, kid sabre, teddy bear, plastic flowers, etc.
Photographers like Martin Parr and Joel Meyerowitz are known as pioneers of street and social photography. Also, Parr is the master of the absurd and humour as well. Have you been inspired by them or any other photographers out there? Could you name some of the people you feel have had an impact on you as an artist?
Of course. Meyerowitz is the purist, the real street photography master. I was a hardcore street photography fan when I started. Now, I opened my mind, that’s why Parr is even more interesting in my opinion. He made so many projects, so many books, with a specific approach every time. It’s very inspiring. I could name Michael Wolf as a big inspiration as well for his approach as series, always with a nice concept and a specific style (portraits with Tokyo compressions, landscape with the architecture of density, snapshots with his numerous series where he collects stuff.
The stolen pictures of phone texts by Jeff Mermelstein are in my opinion one of the best projects of the last years. I’m fascinated by how a famous street photographer shooting with the almighty Leica for decades can change his approach to tell the best stories just with shitty pixelated phone photos.
Do you plan your day around taking pictures or do you always carry your camera and wait for something to happen?
First rule, I never leave home without my camera – I feel naked otherwise –, so I’m ready whenever. When I have some time, I just walk around, get lost in the streets, eyes wide open. I shoot whatever interests me most of the time but I don’t shoot that much, few flicks per day. After a few weeks, I look back at the pictures and classify them in the numerous lightroom sequences I have. It makes me start a lot of series that I fill day after day, years after years. Sometimes, I go out to collect pictures to enrich a specific project.
“If you are dedicated enough to document the ordinary, it can become extraordinary.”
You also work on creative advertisement, how does your creative process differ between the two?
I started photography by doing spontaneous snapshots, to escape my work in advertising where everything is thought and prepared. Now, I’m trying to keep the street photography approach (candid shots in the city, not staged), while developing a more consistent body of work, with a concept, a cool name and everything. A leopard can’t change its spot.
How has becoming this observant affected your take on reality?
I realized that globalisation is a nightmare for a photographer's eye. Cities and people all look the same, it’s boring. It takes more effort to find the tiny moments or subjects that are different, weird and interesting. But sometimes magic happens, and you better be ready!
Can you tell us about your plans for the near future? Are you currently working on a new project?
I’m really into photo books for several years now. I would love to make my projects come alive in a different publication like I did recently with my City Veins zine. Editing, sequencing, design, format, paper, etc. are good ways to push the concept of my pictures. Maybe the Down the River project is the next to come. Six years after I started, I’m shooting again to create more material. I’m also working on a project with a more organic approach, mixing different street work. From urban landscapes to street photography to weird garbage on the sidewalk. I’m trying to mix everything in the form of a book.
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