Sergei Pavlov happened upon photography by chance. As a teenager he remembers taking out his family’s digital camera for the first time. “I started experimenting with the settings and was intrigued most by ‘panorama’ because I thought it was a funny word. I moved my camera from left to right, capturing my dog in three different shots, and when I saw the result, I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.” It soon became his escape from the boredom of his quiet life in the countryside.
Later he left his small town in southern Finland to study photography in Helsinki, first shaping his aesthetic at a more ‘free’ institute and later sharpening his skills at a technical photography school. The influences of both are visible in his work; in his black and white portraits and landscapes, he captures the everyday by challenging visual conventions and demonstrating the beauty of simplicity.
While his education equipped him with the necessary tools to pursue a career in photography, he worked as an assistant to learn the ins and outs of the trade. Following the work to different cities meant his life “wasn’t very stable at the time,” he recalls. Moving seven times in just one year, he had to condense his belongings to fit into one suitcase. “I couldn’t bring much with me and I found it was easiest to own just black clothing.”
Sergei admits shooting in monochrome is less complicated than in color. “You don’t have to care so much about the set design and the color of the clothing. It gives you more time to focus on different things,” he says. Stripped down to the basics, his first series of black and white portraits echo this sentiment. While carefully crafted, they have a raw feel to them.
As a member of the LGBT community, photography was a way for him to reflect his growing sense of belonging and acceptance. “When you’re part of a minority you want to feel safe, and feel like you’re part of something. I wanted to create photographs that I would want to be in myself, hoping that others would see themselves in them too.”
While admiring of the work of photographer David LaChapelle, he felt “weird that the LGBT was always portrayed in this colorful way, as a world full of glitter and champagne.” He explains, “I love it but I never felt like I was a part of it. I wanted to bring more diversity to the LGBT scene and make a portrait series that felt natural and timeless.”
Like his portraits, his landscape photographs are emotive in their simplicity. While attending a ‘nomad’ workshop in Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, he embraced the calmness and ease of living in the wild. “With so much space to breathe, I could focus on the smallest details, like the grass on the beach, all these things you don’t have the time to see because so much is happening around you all the time.”
Following a nomadic lifestyle of his own, Sergei is currently moving to Paris to pursue his photography career. “It’s really hard to make a living as a photographer at home if you’re not doing advertising,” he says. “I love Finland but it I can’t do the work I want to do. I want to shoot the world.”