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November 28, 2021


Photography by Andrew Rovenko
Interview by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico

Andrew Rovenko is a photographer and creative technologist, originally from Odessa Ukraine. Andrew moved to Melbourne Australia more than fifteen years ago, where he now works and lives. Andrew started his family here and shares his life with his wife Mariya, an artist with a degree in theater costume design, and his four year old daughter Mia, Rocketgirl. Andrew's photography journey started close to twenty years ago but its his personal projects using a film camera that has resonated with so many people way beyond his commercial work and has given him the most inner joy.

“The best thing about personal projects is that there’s no pressure to make any plans. We’re there on a journey taking one day at a time and seeing where this road might take us.”


THE PICTORIAL LIST: Andrew please tell us a little about what it was like growing up in the Ukraine, and your transition to Australia. How old were you, and what brought you there?

ANDREW ROVENKO: Being born “behind the iron curtain” and having experienced both - the USSR times and what came after its collapse, I think there was this natural thirst of exploring more of the world and seeing what else is out there.

And what could sound more adventurous to a 20-something year old, than travelling to the other side of the world to the mysterious land down under...So once such an opportunity came about - this adventure started and then became our new life.

TPL: What was the first camera you ever held in your hand, brought to eye, and released a shutter on? What is the camera you use now?

AR: I think that would be my granddad’s half frame ​​Chaika (Seagull)

Coincidentally, it’s name came from the call sign of the first woman in space, which only now came to my mind after answering this question 😊

I love to experiment with my equipment and have quite a few cameras “on rotation”, depending on what I want to try on a particular day, or bring out one that I haven’t used for a while. 35mm cameras are great for “quick snaps” on the go and I have a few different ones that I like for their different quirks. 4x5 is the best for really slowing down and immersing yourself into each shot, and medium format offers great balance between the two.

Which is why I use the medium format Mamiya RZ67 for the Rocketgirl series. With no in-built metering system and manual focus - it makes you just slow enough to avoid mindless snapping, but at the same time it’s portable enough to carry around and much quicker to use than my 4x5 cameras (and anyone who shot with vintage barrell lenses can relate to having a real shutter being alike to cheating, so this camera is almost too easy 😊

TPL: What have the Rocketgirl Chronicles brought unexpectedly to your photography?

AR: The ability to see the world just a little bit differently. This is probably the most precious gift to any photographer, and I hope I don’t lose it.

TPL: Do you think Rocketgirl has changed you as a photographer, and if so how?

AR: Yes, the “view of the world” that became maybe just a tiny bit closer to what it used to be when I was a kid.

*Editor's note - Read about the Rocketgirl Chronicles here on the website via link below.

TPL: What have been some of your most memorable moments as a photographer?

AR: It’s a very hard one to answer, as “carrying memory” is the inherent property of every photograph, and when I look back at many photographs - they bring back places, people and experiences of that moment. And with each such moment being an equal part of life - I really couldn’t single out even just a dozen from over 20 years of making memories 😊

TPL: What are some tips or advice you would give yourself if you started photography all over again?

Not taking pictures is just as much (if not greater) part of photography as taking them.

TPL: Do you see differently now, than you did when you first started out in photography? If so, define that new vision.

AR: Different styles of photography require different vision. As many new starters, I focused way too much on technicalities of the craft. I used to look at “locations” and “lighting” and “subjects” and consider how well they look/work together, whilst the single most important question now is - what will this image say to the viewer.

TPL: Do you have any favorite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?

AR: Oh, that’s an impossible question. Every decade since the invention of photography has been represented by many inspirational masters that I admire for different reasons, from Prokudin-Gorsky who pioneered the colour process and produced amazing documentary work, to the famous Weegee whose journalism photography is just incredible (and who was born in what’s now Ukraine), so my head starts hurting even if I just start scratching that surface.

TPL: If you could choose just one photographer to shoot alongside for the day, who would you choose and why?

AR: It would have to be Sally Mann, at the time of her “Immediate Family” work. Being able to portray such artistic, but at the same time raw and honest stories with her children, not mentioning the equipment that she used - just beyond comprehension, and being able to observe how such magic was created would have been very special.

TPL: Besides your spots you photograph for Rocketgirl Chronicles, what are some of your most favorite spots you find inspiration to explore through your photography, and what draws you there?

AR: This is very cliche, but the sea is always a magnet. And it’s not really photography wise, as it’d probably be one of most explored themes out there, but just personally. The sea is always the same and never the same, which makes it an endlessly interesting subject for personal studying.

TPL: Other than Rocketgirl, are there any other photographic projects you are working on, or have planned in the near future? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years? What do you hope for Mia in five years?

AR: The best thing about personal projects is that there’s no pressure to make any plans. We’re there on a journey taking one day at a time and seeing where this road might take us. The Rocketgirl chronicles were never planned, and it happened to be the most enjoyable experience so far, so the only plan at this stage is not to make plans 😊

TPL: When you’re not out photographing, or commanding mission control for Mia, where do we find Andrew Rovenko...what would he be doing?

AR: That’d be the laundry, developing fresh rolls or at my desk scanning the results of our latest adventures. There are also a couple of old motorcycles sitting neglected in the garage and patiently waiting until I can pay them some attention, but I don’t think they have much hope any time soon.

Andrew Rovenko has a deep passion for photography and creative technology that he has been exploring for close to twenty years. If you are interested in discovering more of Andrew's beautiful photography and creative work, use the links below to explore further. Let Andrew Rovenko's photography challenge and inspire you!

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