Photographer Constantin Mashinskiy’s project 365 Parisiens–I know how to say that in French now–is a fascinating study at everyday faces from the streets of the chic capital. Mr. Mashinskiy has graciously permitted me to reproduce some of his pictures here, and you can visit the project in its entirety either at its official website, or through its Facebook page, links for which are at the bottom of this post.
Tell me a little about yourself: where are you from; how did you get into photography; how long have you been working in Paris?
I was born in Kazakhstan, raised in Spain and it’s been 3 years since living in Paris. My first steps in photography were made thanks to my father, who taught me the basics when I was a kid, but it always stayed as a hobby, my main part of the day is dedicated to interactive design.
How did you come up with the idea for 365 Parisiens?
It was quite an old idea I had based on the love for photography and observing the people. It came even before I was living in Paris. I just thought that it’s gonna force me to take a camera everywhere I go.
Why did you decide to make all the portraits in black & white?
As Ted Grant once said: “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls”. I don’t take this as a dogma, but it’s true that the face gains more attention than the background.
Do you shoot everyday? How long does it take you to find an appropriate subject?
Yes, that’s the goal. Some days are quite easy, the subject is found while I’m walking to work. But I also had the experience of being refused by 5 persons in the row after a long walk.
Are there particular arrondissements in Paris where it is easier to find subjects than certain others?
It depends, some streets are only busy at some particular time. Usually moderately crowded ones work better.
Do you have a favourite picture from your series so far?
It’s impossible for me to choose only one, sorry.
A lot of photographers (myself included) are nervous about approaching subjects in the street. Do you have any tips for overcoming nervousness, or just a suggestion for the best way to approach a potential subject for a portrait?
I recommend smiling, being polite, clear about your intentions and always thank your subjects, even if they refuse. Just get your camera ready and ask someone a short phrase like “Hello, can I take you a picture for a series about Parisian strangers?” works perfectly and in the worst case scenario you’ll just get a “No, sorry, I don’t like being photographed”.
Through this project have you been able to identify certain characteristics that make a person ‘Parisien’? If yes, can you tell us what they are?
I’m not really objective about people’s characteristics and Parisians are so different from each other, but most of the times you can feel something coming from inside.
How long do you work on each portrait, from finding the subject to post production?
A day, since all should be done in a single day. Finding the subject depends on my luck, taking the picture is between 1/125 and 1/2000 and editing the picture takes around 5 minutes.
Is there a particular camera and lens you are employing for this project? If yes, can you tell us a little about your kit?
I think that you can do great pictures with any camera. Usually I’m a film Leica shooter, I love keeping the things simple. But for this series I went digital, with an old Soviet era lens.
What is the plan once you complete the project: will you put out a book, or a gallery exhibition perhaps?
Quite a few people have requested a book or an exhibition, so I’ll try to organize something once I’ll finish the series.
If you were to take the same project to another city, which city would you like to do it in?
I’ve found this project as an excellent way to discover a city, so I think it can be a nice idea to do in a place where I haven’t lived.
[ All photos reproduced with the kind permission of the photographer Constantin Mashinskiy ]