Capturing a Mother’s Love in Andreapolsky
An exclusive interview with Russian photographer, mother and farmer Elena Shumilova
BY ROBIN JAY
It’s nearly dawn on the quaint rural forested farm in Andreapolsky, Russia. As the sun peeks over the barn, 3-year-old Vanya lovingly nuzzles nose-to-nose with a gray-haired baby rabbit, while his 6-year-old brother Yaroslav runs alongside a gaggle of toddling yellow ducklings.
Their mother, Elena Shumilova, watches from afar, with her 135 mm camera in hand. She quietly lifts the camera to her eye, careful not to draw the attention of her sons or persuade their actions. When sunbeams kiss the cheeks of her boys just right, Elena snaps the shutter, capturing another dream-like photograph of tranquil life on the farm as her family knows it. Come evening, the young mother of two will post the photograph online, sharing it with millions of her Flikr followers worldwide.
An Unexpected Talent
Less than two years ago, the former architect and designer borrowed her parents’ camera and “started playing around with it.” Elena says she never dreamed her photos would become so popular. In fact, they went viral – like wildfire. The global response to Elena’s imagery became so tremendous that a year ago she turned her newly found hobby into a business.
“I largely trust my intuition and inspiration when I compose photos. I get inspired mainly by desire to express something I feel, though I usually cannot tell exactly what that is,” Elena told South Florida Opulence. “When shooting, I prefer to use natural light – both inside and outside. Every day, I try to learn to see light in a new way. I love all sorts of light conditions – street- lights, candlelight, fog, smoke, rain and snow – everything that gives visual and emotional depth to the image.
“My parents are good photographers, too. Unfortunately, they don’t have enough time to develop their passion. My mom taught me to draw from the earliest age, and certainly thanks to her, my abilities to create images developed.”
Elena says her passion for photography manifested in early 2012 when she got her first DSLR camera. Soon after, in the summer, she upgraded to a Cannon 5dmark2 with a 50mm lens.
“I’ve been shooting every day and processing the images at night. By autumn, I felt I found my own way of approaching photography.
“At the end of winter 2013, I got a new lens – 135mm – which immediately became my favorite one.”
Life on the Farm
It’s easy to see that for young Vanya and Yaroslav, who help feed the animals on the farm, interacting with the cute critters comes second nature.
“But every photo shoot is a little tiresome,” Elena admits. “Children and animals always behave unpredictably, yet I always try to keep tranquility. If you start being nervous, it’s transferred to all.
I try to use only natural poses and scenarios of behavior of my children and animals in the concepts. They are ordinary children; they like to run, play, ride a bike, to help on the farm, to study
life around them.
“I really think that I’m a very usual mother,” she said. “But it’s not so simple to put your feelings into the image. I think a good picture is about mood. It’s like music. And I hope I’ve learned to do it.”
Indeed she has.