Cover in Newspaper “Cebu Daily News”
Article about Artem Levy
There is something mysterious about the way this doppelganger of Jeremy Renner moves with his camera – with a keenness of a post-KGB spy, and the delight of a lover. It could have been his thick accent that betrays his Russian origin, a language barrier he is bent on overcoming, the very reason why he set foot in Manilla in the first place – learn to speak English well.
Artem Levykin, or simply known as Artem Levy, is slowly whipping up a storm in fashion photography this side of town. Trained as a classical concert pianist (and even worked as a full-time pianist in Russia), Artem Levy was happily sidetracked to photography quite by serendipity, stumbling on being a strobist by orientation, and a lensman by profession.
His body of work is quite impressive, mostly capturing high fashion avant-garde themed masterpieces, frame by frame. Here, Artem shares why he “embodies photography in innovating a creative way to express beyond one’s eye without compromising the raw spirit of the image itself” (lifted from his website), how much he loves Manilla, and trying his best to make a mark in every click of the camera.
How did you discover the Philippines?
I was looking for a good school that can help me out with my English. It was also a dream of mine to work abroad since all my life I was working in Russia. Also, I was looking for a place that could somehow nurture my creative side. As an aspiring international photographer, I saw an opportunities here. The Philippines is an amazing country and I want to settle down here. The people here are polite and nice and it’s a good cosmopolitan mix where people of different nationalities understand each other.
How long have you’ve been doing photography?
For eight years, all I did was photography, but prior to that, I used to be a classical concert pianist. I have been playing since I was five. I previously worked at an opera house, and then one day, I just realized that I should do something else. With photography, it’s all self-study. I just loved what I was doing.
Why were you magnetized to the camera?
I was always into fashion photography, and one day my friend in Russia invited me to be his wedding photographer. Back then I thought it was interesting to be a photographer in Russia because unlike here where people are really delighted and into it, in Russia it was just point and shoot, less on the aesthetics. Compared to my city wherein we have four or five magazines, here in Manilla I believe we only have one. In my city we don’t have fashion designers though.
How did you break into the Manilla circle of photographers?
It’s always Facebook! I found an interesting person here and sent out a message that I am interested to take his photo. He saw my portfolio and I was glad that he was okay with it. I do understand that to some there’s always an issue of trust… well, all my subjects have entrusted me with my skills.
What is the most memorable experience you’ve had in a shoot?
Every shoot is amazing, although there is this one funny incident where in my assistant suggested that we do it in a yacht. Right then and there, I packed my stuff in my motorbike and went to Mactan for that shoot. But upon arriving there, not a single boat was docked. The models arrived late, and worse, my assistant did not make it to the location. So there I looked for an alternative… and good enough we found someone who accommodated us… to take a photo in his boat, and I paid a guy to help me out with my equipment and my assistant.
Your work with Mr. Tourism International Judah Cohen is amazing. How was it working with him?
I think working with Judah is most unforgettable and a noteworthy experience because I thought it was impossible. We did it on the roof and it was so hot, although it was almost sunset. It was very dangerous because he was always jumping… There was just this rush and when I’m all excited I just shoot and shoot and eventually I realized that I had taken some good stuff. It was all worth it.
You already got the hang of Manilla life…
For me, with Manilla it’s like there’s always that piece of action – everything is moving, compared to Russia… There may be typhoons or an occasional earthquake here, but it’s also a big party – like there’s Sinulog and the beaches… it’s like a blur… everything is like a dream to me… because in Russia it’s just calm, polite, cold, and boring.
What are the other countries you’ve been to?
I travel a lot. I did Europe, the Middle East. I haven’t been to the US and it may be my next pit stop after two years. But I can say that my affinity is always the Asian countries. I was in Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the people are just amazing.
What’s your take of the stereotype Russia as the relic of the Cold War… always the villain and all?
I don’t take it seriously. What matters most is the present and where I am right now is what I really value the most. In Russia it’s a bit sad because there are pressing issues like the economic problem, the battle between USA, Ukraine and Russia. At least here everything is colorful and flourishing – the abundance of fashion and the arts.
What sets you apart from other photographers?
I plan. My shoot would only take at least an hour or two because I visualize ahead.
What’s your say on photographers using much editing on their works?
I don’t do much post-production. For me it’s just so taxing and it takes a lot of my time. I prefer to just have the perfect makeup, a good model, the perfect background, and then spend the rest of it doing the actual shoot.
Are you a selfie person?
No! I don’t have an iPhone, and I am just not into it.
When you leave, what will you miss most about Manilla?
The people. Manilla for me is significant because it was here that I was able to get in touch with different nationalities. I got to do that during my English classes. And I already have lots of friends here.