It is an honour to feature photography, designer and artist extraordinaire, George Mayer. The Russian-born photographer graduated from the Ural College of Arts and Crafts, and began his creative career as an interior designer. Since pursuing his passion for photography, the multi award winning photographer has achieved countless successes. His images grace the covers of many books, his art hangs on the walls of numerous galleries and his photographs star in several tv shows. Renowned for his interesting play on light and shadow, George’s unique aesthetic embraces a stylish blend of classic and modern.
Before establishing yourself as a renowned photographer, you graduated from Ural College of Arts in environmental design, then pursuing a career in interior design. When did you realise your passion lied with photography?
At the College of Arts, we were majoring in painting, drawing and composition. The curriculum included photography as well, so I learnt how to work with analog photography, print pictures and even take photograms. During three years of work as an interior designer, I continued my self-education in this direction. I used to buy fashion classics, photography albums and read professional magazines. In 2007, I bought my first studio equipment and since then I have not been doing any more interior design.
Born in Russia, does your heritage play a part in your art/designs?
The surroundings always influence the artist. I grew up in a residential area overwhelmed with strict lines of panel buildings. Whilst studying, I came to appreciate the direction of constructivism in architecture and design. I studied the legacy of the great Russian avant-garde artists such as Vladimir Tallinn and Alexander Rodchenko, who are known as the founders of constructivism.
I prefer simple but well-calibrated forms in art. When my wife and I first arrived in Barcelona, we were not particularly interested in the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, but we immediately headed to see the Pabellón alemán of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Since 2008 you have partaken in numerous international photography contests. Does the competitive environment push or challenge you as an artist?
I am neither very passionate about contests, nor am I upset if my work doesn't win. I use competitions to submit my works to jury members and audiences for viewing, to meet interesting artists, and to look at the work of competitors. For me, it is rather a way of communication.
An array of awards and outstanding repertoire of press, what achievement or highlight are you most proud of?
I am content when my art is highly appreciated by the respected members of a jury. I was pleased when my works were displayed at Carnegie Hall and Somerset House. The awards are gratifying, but they are not the only motivation for my being engaged in creative activity. They are just the icing on the cake. I enjoy the process a lot more than the result. I take great satisfaction when I work in a studio or open another exhibition. Although, answering your question, I would like to highlight my collaboration with the World Photography Organisation, thanks to which I met many outstanding artists in person, including Martin Parr.
When did you first fall in love with art?
Consciously at the children's art school. It was there that I realised how powerful art was and how it could influence people’s minds.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
In music, architecture, painting, cinema and literature. I like to be inspired and fascinated by something. I try not to lose this state for as long as possible and share it with others with the help of my creative activity.
What is your favourite camera to shoot with and why?
I love the old school technique, I have a Linhof gimbal and a Hasselblad 503 CW medium format in my studio. Of the digital equipment, there is the Phase One P40 and Leica M9 adapter. I just love all of these cameras, but I use the modern Sony Alpha 7R III for the job. Last year, at the invitation of Sony, I did a presentation for the new Sony Alpha 7R IV camera in Russia. It is at the pinnacle of technological progress at the moment and it is pleasant to realise this as well as it is convenient to use such a device in work.
Light often plays an important part in your art. What other techniques do you enjoy experimenting with?
I do love to control light. I use long exposures and stroboscopes. I combine constant light with flashes and experiment a lot with optical attachments and refractions. But lately I've been trying to work with colour. It's a completely different dimension that can have a powerful impact on the viewer. Despite having viewed a great deal of visual art and having learnt much in the field of colour psychology, the mystery of colour still remains incomprehensible to me.
Your project LIGHT. SHADOWS. PERFECT WOMAN. Is most striking. Out of all of your projects and images, do you have a personal favourite? If so why?
It is not easy for me to evaluate my own works, because many of them hide some kind of personal experience, and I may not be objective. For example, I like the work "Nadezhda", but on the frame is my muse and my favourite model, as well as my wife and I cannot step back and be impersonal. Portraits of such projects as “Light. Shadows. The Ideal Woman”, “Libido and Mortido” and “Anima” are a reflection of my inner state, an attempt to establish a link with the subconscious. There is no way I can single out individual photographs. All together they are like a mosaic of the irrational part of the human mind, or conductors between the conscious and unconscious.
Trialing numerous techniques and skills, has your vision and style evolved or transformed over time?
The experiments that I do in creative filming, I then apply for commercial orders. So, my training as a professional photographer continues and is always improving. Though the most important change happened a few years ago, when I turned from a great variety of techniques and genres to a qualitative in-depth study of a particular topic. Then I became aware of my own style.
Photographers and designers often have a ‘muse’, for example Audrey Hepburn for Hubert de Givenchy, Twiggy for Justin de Villeneueve or Jean Shrimpton for David Bailey. Who would your muse be?
I've always been excited about Veruschka. This is probably due to the fact that she is capable of transformation, and generously allowed the author to use this ability. In many of her portraits, the model as a personality disappeared. She knew how to conceal any hint of emotion, while she could amaze and hypnotise the viewer with the help of body language. If we perceive the body of a model as material for fashion photography, then Veruschka has this material of the highest quality.
A creative mind with an exceptional eye for detail, are you able to talk us through your process when creating your art. From your initial concept to final piece?
The idea of photographs often flows from one project to another, only the shooting technique changes. While sketching, I plunge into a kind of trance, try to disconnect from the outside world and establish a connection with my guide to the world of the unconscious, my Anima. It is at this sacred moment for me that the main work takes place. Already at this stage, I know what the poses, scenery and light will be like. In the studio, I just need to accurately reproduce these drawings in practice.
The recent and unprecedented quarantine period proved a confusing and difficult time for many. All creative industries were put on pause. How did this affect your creativity?
My shooting in the USA and an exhibition in Moscow have been cancelled. I had to return to my hometown in the Urals, where I continued to work actively, opened a new studio, completed several interesting orders together with my wife and conducted some creative filming. It is connected with the fact that the quarantine regime was not strictly observed in small towns. In addition, putting active life on pause can always be used for self-education, and more creative material.
We would love to hear what you are currently working on? Are there any exciting new projects you have coming up?
Now I have taken up shooting the Anima project and have already finished off a series with the red colour imitating the glow of the planet Mars. Mars symbolises the masculine principle and active aggression, while the nude female figure is contrasts and balances this aggression. I plan to continue studying the phenomenon of colour and its effect on humans. I hope it is within my reach.