by Scott Billings, digital engagement officer
We recently hosted freelance photographer Asher Svidensky for a free public lecture at the Museum, on 16 March 2016, in a talk about photography, people, storytelling, fish, fire, and some rather impressive birds.
Asher’s work has been featured by National Geographic, the BBC, the Guardian and many other media outlets, and includes projects on Mongolian eagle hunters, Yin-Bou fisherman, and the Miao ‘goddess’ in China. The talk offered a good opportunity to hear Asher discussing some of these projects, talking about his methods, and explaining why he thinks photography can be the “eye candy” which lures you into the fuller story.
As a photographer and sometime journalist I found this a refreshingly honest appraisal of the types of images he is making: sumptuous, atmospheric, pooled with light and colour, and beautiful, but ultimately designed to make you swoon a little.
Rather than big up his photographic prowess, Asher instead presented his photography mostly as a means to an end. It is the people and their stories, he explained, which interest him more than photography, but striking imagery attests to a strong story.
Some photographers take a lot of time and effort into getting to know the people they are photographing; into creating those relationships and creating the understandings and learning about the culture so they can get more from it and make a better image.
So the image stems from the photographer’s submersion in people and culture, or in the ‘story’, and then itself becomes the route into that story for the reader – the irresistible “eye candy” that whets your appetite. On a slightly less adventurous level we aim to do the same with the natural history collections images on this blog.
In the hour-long talk, Asher also spoke about many other aspects of his philosophy of photography, and revealed details about his acclaimed Eagle Huntress of Mongolia project, in which he documented the rise of the first female eagle hunter of the Mongolian Steppe.
You can watch a short excerpt from the talk in this video: