Sergey Chernov is a traveler, an explorer, a one-time graffiti artist, and was nearly a lawyer, but he’s now a photographer and designer, whose large body of work on Fotolia covers different themes, different styles, and – as you might expect – many different places!
Sergey spoke to Fotolia from Cambodia, where he’s currently exploring the mighty ruins of Angkor Wat. We asked him about becoming an artist, discovering your creativity, and creating graffiti in Greece.
Fotolia: Hi, Sergey – can you give us a summary of your creative background? Where and what did you study, and how did you get into this profession?
Sergey Chernov: As I remember, I was always attached to creativity somehow. Being a child in post-Soviet Russia meant being a kind of artist whether you wanted to or not. We used to create lots of toys and things for ourselves, and everyone spent a lot of time in primary school drawing pictures.
I appreciated that experience very much; it was the first and most important “seed” of Art for me. Everything else was just a consequence of that, I guess.
When I was 17 I left Russia and moved to Greece to study Law at Athens University. After two hard years there I understood what I really wanted to do for the first time in my life – and it wasn’t Law.
Somehow, until that time, I had never realized that my hobby could be my real job. So, I stopped studying Law (which was the most boring thing I had ever done) and switched to the Infographics College of Art and Design for the rest of my four years in Greece.
This is where the artistic part of my personality was properly shaped and the desire to be a professional artist really took root. I enjoyed every single moment I spent there, meeting a lot of great artists and being part of a really creative community.
Fo: Your Fotolia portfolio has such a wide variety – what drives this?
SC: It’s the result of three main factors, I guess. The first one is pretty simple: at the beginning of my career I uploaded many different things, trying to understand how the market worked and where the demand was. I was a newbie, making it up as I went along, but by doing this I came to understand what you can really produce.
The second factor was, realizing from my experience that the more diversified your “product” the more stable you are.
The final factor is simply part of my personality: I have a few main themes and a couple of random ones; sometimes I fall in love with one and sometimes with others. I can’t imagine sticking with only one theme – it would be too boring.
Fo: We were very captivated with your graffiti vectors – where does your inspiration come from when creating them?
SC: Thank you for your warm words! The graffiti has been a big passion of mine for a long time. I was once a part of a graffiti crew in Athens, where this amazing art became very popular and developed a lot.
The inspiration for designs in graffiti comes from around the world – the only thing you need to add is a hip-hop cap! Anything can be transformed into hip-hop style.
Anyone who’s been in this culture takes on two main ideas: freedom and style. These remain in your mind forever – I only replaced my spray can inks with digital ones.
Fo: Does travel inspire your work?
SC: Yes! I really like traveling and I do it a lot. Right now, I’m far from home, discovering the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Traveling is one of most important things in my life and my work. It keeps me tuned in and blows away the dust from my mind.
Fo: What tips can you offer to those hoping to start selling work on Fotolia?
SC: There aren’t any simple tips or easy routes, unfortunately. My advice is simply to work hard and boost the quality of their content. There are very few themes that haven’t been explored and the competition is getting harder and harder.
I think that very soon only creative professionals will survive, so the sooner you start selling images and work out your own golden way, the higher the possibility of becoming one of the long-term and successful professionals of the future.
Fo: You’re from Russia – has being Russian affected your work?
SC: Well, as I said already, being born in Russia affected my childhood and helped to make me what I am, but I can’t see any obvious effect now. Globalization has erased so many old differences and created standards which we designers, photographers, and illustrators all try to follow.
Fo: What is your favorite image from your Fotolia portfolio and what makes it so special to you?
The first is this desert landscape with a nice camel on it. It’s a simple collage and was taken on my second trip to India, mostly to Rajasthan state. Looking at this photograph, I feel proud of myself for having been there and seen it – for having seen and felt India.
Actually, I love the whole of my India series, including the Taj Mahal and so many other iconic images.
I’d like to continue creating such stuff in the future. Drawing images like this is a very relaxing and spontaneous process. It makes you believe (for a moment, at least) that you are a true artist.
Fo: What are the most popular images in your portfolio? What makes them so popular?
They are so different… But they are all selling very well. They are representative enough but also simple. They are easy to work with and have this Fotolia-style kind of feeling – a cool.
And most important of all: people need them for their designs. Maybe that’s what makes them so popular.
Fo: Whose work as a photographer or designer do you admire?
SC: That’s a hard question. I like many photographers and designers, but I have no idols. For photography I have a pretty ordinary taste: I admire the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Steve McCurry. And I’m a big fan of art of Gustav Klimt and H.R. Giger.
Fo: If you could photograph any place or any person, who would you choose?
SC: I think it would be an ancient prehistoric family in their natural habitat – but I would have an invisibility cloak so they couldn’t see me!
Fo: I think we’d all like to see those pictures, Sergey! Thank you very much for your time.