A gift of curiosity.

A gift of curiosity.

In Paris, there is an exhibition of the famous photographer Vladimir Sychev. In this city, he feels completely his own, although he was born in Kazan and lived in the USSR for the first 35 years. Vladimir likes to shoot streets and faces the most. As a prologue – a photo that captured converged in 1978 to see the home exhibition of Mikhail Shemyakin at Vladimir Sychev’s apartment on Christmas Boulevard in Moscow. From left to right: Slava Lena, Venedikt Erofeev, Alexander Zinoviev, Georgy Vladimov. In the frame also there is a daughter of Zinoviev, his wife and wife of Vladimir. Vladimirov and Zinoviev, as well as the photographer Vladimir Sychev, were soon emigrated. I do not know if there are still photos of these writers together.

Since then, almost 40 years have gone by. And Vladimir Sychev, who lived more than 32 years in Paris, now lives in Berlin. I met him at his exhibition in the hospitable Berlin house of Mary and Vadim Zakharov. Some of Sychev’s pictures I know from publications in magazines and newspapers. For example, this is the one that captured Kit Haring, who painted on the western side of the Berlin Wall in 1986.

Nearby – portraits of the kings of the Parisian fashion of Yves Saint Laurent and Carl Lagerfeld and Sonya Riquel. How did it happen that a native of Kazan found himself in Paris and lived there for more than 30 years? How did he become a photographer?

A conversation with Vladimir Sychev in the program “Cultural Diary & quot;

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Vladimir Sychev: 1965, I’m a student of the Kazan Aviation Institute and I play the saxophone in the big band of STEM, a student theater of variety miniatures. We are going to Moscow for the first festival of student theaters, the jury chairman was Arkady Raikin. We won first place. A photographer from the “Moskovsky Komsomolets” came to our hotel. He gave out newspapers with our photos, and suddenly I put a pack of photographs in my hand. I do not know why. There was a photo of all the stars of world football: the great Brazilians Pele, Garrincha and others. Everyone who came to Moscow, he shot them all. But I was not interested in football then. I put the pictures in the nightstand, and soon found that they disappeared: they were pulled apart by my friends, and I would have distributed it myself. But the fact that the photographer approached me played a role. At that moment, of course, I was not aware of this, and only looking back at my life, I see that the turning points in my life came from very insignificant seemingly phenomena. And they sometimes played an important role, like this one. Because I came to Kazan, sold a saxophone and immediately bought a camera.

“What kind of apparatus was it?”

– & quot; Zenith & quot ;, the Soviet apparatus – then others were not sold. And I immediately took pictures on the street. I lived between the station and the central market, and the whole real life passed under my windows.

– And much of what you started to shoot and shoot later, it turned out in your collection, brought to Paris in 1980?

– Right. I still show the series “Kazan of 1966” at exhibitions. There much has been accomplished. Then I worked for two years radio engineer at Baikonur, then moved to Moscow, and what I showed in the magazine “Pari-match” – it was Kazan and Moscow.

“What is France for you?”

“France?” Well, it’s from the same series … I have already said that the turns of my life seemed kind of random, and France as well, but it turned out that this is the most important … I’ve been in Moscow for the last five years, from 1974 to 1979, a device for one-day apartment exhibitions of nonconformist artists, including, for example, Mikhail Shemyakin … All my friends in Moscow were artists. To me, these one-day exhibitions were visited by foreigners, both diplomats and journalists. I knew practically all foreign journalists. And I showed them all my photos to all of them, but they did not interest anyone. Only one journalist from Newsweek, Fred Coleman, who lives in Paris … Here he once or twice gave me something to take off.

And since nobody needed my photos or my skills. And so I have no illusions about my chances as a photographer in the West was not. I did not leave for political reasons, for which I believe that it was necessary to stay in the country. I was leaving out of curiosity. And I’m still curious – I’m interested in how people live.

And I, having arrived in Vienna, like all emigrants, on an Israeli visa, asked for an American visa there in Vienna. Until 1970, the center of world photojournalism was the United States, there were two magazines: Look and Life. They were weekly, competed with each other and paid a lot of money for photos. The first closed in 1970, the second in 1972. To my appearance in the west Life magazine again opened, but only purely as an American and as a monthly. Literally, they were 25 times less paid. But I did not know anything about it. I came to Vienna and began to wait for an American visa. And then my French friends-diplomats call me, they took pictures of me, and they say: “Volodya, come and take your pictures.” And then, if you go to America, then maybe you’ll never come & quot ;. And by that time other diplomats had brought negatives to me directly to Vienna, well, I was with my family, with the children on the train and going to Paris. And while I was sitting in Vienna for four months, one person gave me the coordinates in Paris of the photo agency SIPA Press, with whom he had a one time deal.

I came to Paris to this agency. The master is a Turk Sipaiglu, a fanatic of journalism. Because he spent 365 days a year in the office, read the entire world press, watched all the programs of television, listened to the radio and sent photographers to all points of the earth. He looked at my photos, and in 15 minutes we were in the magazine “Pari-match”.

The two people who saw my photos are Michelle Sol, the photo director of the “Pari-match”, and Roger Theron, the photo director of all the publications around the “Pari-match”, and there were 70 of them. Today Roger Theron is icon of photojournalism in France. And both of them are the world’s largest photo collectors. That is, I fell into the hands of one fanatic at once, and then worked for a long time with two other fanatics who liked my photos. This continued until the “Pari-match” They did not sell to the military firm “La Garder”. To sum it up, I came to Paris by accident, came to collect my paintings, but it turned out that I came when necessary and where necessary.

And in & quot; Pari-match & quot; I was immediately printed, and these photographs of Russian life were reprinted by other well-known magazines, including Life. So I was the first Soviet photographer to show photographs of everyday life in the USSR.

From the first days in Paris, I started working at the photo agency, and so began my professional career as a photographer in the West.

Magazine & quot; Pari-match & quot; published in two issues on 44 pages an interview with me and a series of my photos from the 1960s and 1970s, the magazine “Life” printed photos on 12 pages, and the magazine “Stern” – 25 pages and my photo on the cover. Italian magazine & quot; Oji & quot; posted my photos in 4 numbers, the international press actively reprinted “Pari-match”.

As a result, I became the most photographed photographer in the world in 1980, and my record is still not broken.

After the publication in the magazine & quot; Life & quot; I was invited by Larry King in his 3-hour radio program for the night owls, and then other leading radio and television journalists of the United States: Dan Razer, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings in their prime time newscasts (CBS, NBC, ABC).

In October 1980, the publishing house & quot; Paris Match & quot; the book “The Russians through the eyes of Vladimir Sychev” was published.

– In your Parisian history there was another character – the great photographer Helmut Newton. Do you think that he liked you?

– I never asked him, but he saw my pictures in the “Pari-match” and asked the editor to introduce us, and then two years we were friends until his departure for Los Angeles. But Cartier-Bresson came to me a couple of times, and I had him three times a visit, and we never talked about photography … I remember how I asked him at my first meeting in 1980 (this was at the very first mine time in Paris): “Are you right or left?” Then in France everything was divided into left and right. He replied: “I’m an anarchist.” And I really enjoyed it.

– Is it true that in the magazine Vogue you were invited from Newton’s submission?

– Yes, it’s thanks to him, and Vogue resisted. Some Russian photographer … But Newton made them give me a trial job. They phoned me and invited me to a conversation, and Director Roger Gaye said to me: “Helmut Newton has been torturing us for three months, well, he does not knock his fist, but he demands. Honestly, we did not want to, you’re not a fashion photographer, are you? Mod do not know? & Quot; “No,” I say. And have not the fashion ever photographed? & quot; – & quot; No. & Quot;

Well, he says, to put an end, we’ll give you our chief editor Francine Cressan, you’ll walk with her, she’ll show you which models to take off, and you’ll just snap. If it does not work out, it’s okay.

Then it started on Sunday night with Nina Ricci, and ended on Thursday at 5 pm with Yves Saint Laurent. I took off Nina Ricci, on Monday I brought the film to the editorial office. And we had lunch there in the cafe inside. And on Tuesday I came just to have dinner, and the director calls me to him. I went up to him to the second floor, and he says: “Listen, showed the first tapes, the entire editors are delighted, we offer you a contract. And I must tell you that in the 50 years of the French Vogue’s existence, no photographer was offered a contract, you are the first! ” Well, I say, I’m flattered, although I know that I’m not a world champion …

But they really liked it, he did not hide, and the first publication was – 40 pages. Under the contract, the magazine was required to print 100 pages a year. For two years I did my 200 pages there myself and left, because of course I’m not a fashion photographer. I do not like to shoot against the white walls … I asked them to let me shoot black and white photos on the street, and they made me do color in the studio …

But with Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berger, I just had a friendly relationship. And this is probably because, as I later learned, they loved Russians. I felt sympathy for the Russians and communicated with many other Frenchmen, in particular, with the French presidents Valery Giscard d’Estaing and Jacques Chirac.

– You have many portraits of famous people. What was remembered from the meetings with them?

– I have a bad memory. But if something is remembered, then, so, there really was something interesting. It was very easy with Yves Montand, maybe because he, as an actor, is a real pro. I took it in his apartment and invited him to go down to the cafe (after Paris – the city of the cafe) to take it there, and he immediately agreed. I remember several meetings. One of them was with the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz. I spent three days with him in Paris, where he came after a 20-year pause. I shot it for rehearsals, in a concert, behind the scenes with my wife, who by the way was Toscanini’s daughter. We spoke with him in Russian, and with it he spoke in English, with which I also have no problems. I always shoot a lot, and he took a lot, but I had the exact feeling that I did not take something off. We come with him to his hotel, and I see: a piece of a chessboard sticks out from somewhere. And I’m a chess fanatic. The player is weak, but a fanatic. I shot all Kasparov’s matches with Karpov … I’m saying Horowitz: “Do you play chess?” – I immediately thought that he should be removed for chess and not at the piano. But he interrupts me with his question, after which I forgot what I wanted. He says to me: “Do you like ice cream?” I say: “You did not just hit the spot. You asked a person who is ready for ice cream to eat day and night. And this is the truth. A kilogram at a time! Because I like ice cream. From childhood. ” Well, since childhood, everyone loves, but I still love him. And then he turns to his wife and tells her in English with tears in his eyes: “Dear, well, look, well, how many times have I told you that all Russians like to play chess and eat ice cream … (she, apparently,” got it & quot; it on this point) & quot ;. And I was touched and forgot that I wanted to take it off the chessboard.

A Polanski and Baryshnikov, I persuaded to make a film about Yesenin and Duncan with Baryshnikov in the title role. What will I do in this movie? & quot; – Asked skeptical about Yesenin Baryshnikov (he said then about him “peasant poet”). I replied: “In a dream, dance. With her & quot ;.

Among the various stories and incidents in the life of Vladimir Sychev, a special place is occupied by history, which led him to the conviction that the family of the last Russian Tsar was not shot.

– In June 1987, I was in Venice as part of the French press accompanying Francois Mitterrand at the G-7 Summit. During the breaks between the pools an Italian journalist approached me and asked about something in French. He saw my French accreditation, but when I heard from my accent that I was not French, I asked where I was from. From Russia, I answered. “Here,” said my interlocutor. Under his arm he kept the Italian newspaper Repubblica and translated from there a large, half-page article.

There was roughly the following: in a private clinic in Switzerland, Sister Pascalin dies. She was known throughout the Catholic world, as she was with the future Pope Pius XXII from 1917, when he was Cardinal Pacelli in Munich (Bavaria), until his death at the Vatican in 1958. She had such a strong influence on him that she entrusted the entire administration of the Vatican to her, and when the cardinals asked the audience for the pope, she decided who was an audience and who did not. So from the article it followed that Paskalina’s sister before her death asked to invite a lawyer and witnesses, since she did not want to take some mystery of her life to the grave. And she said with just one lawyer and witnesses: “A woman buried in 1976 in the village of Menaggio near Lake Maggiore is really the daughter of the Russian Tsar Olga!”

I convinced my Italian colleague that it is a gift of fate and that it is useless to resist it. Learning that he was from Milan, I told him that I would not go to Paris on the plane of the presidential press, but we will go to this village for half a day. After the summit, we went there.

We found a village, a cemetery and a cemetery guard who led us to the grave. On the gravestone there is a photograph of an elderly woman and an inscription in German: Olga Nikolaevna (without a surname), the eldest daughter of Nikolai Romanov, the tsar of Russia, and the date of life – 1985-1976.


Immediately there was an elderly couple, I thought, passers-by, and this turned out to be Olga’s best friends who took care of her grave. I asked them.

“When did she settle here?” In the year 1948.

“Did she say she was the daughter of a Russian Tsar?”

– Of course, and the whole village knew about it.

– Did it hit the press?

– How did other Romanovs react to this? Did they go to court?

– And she lost?

– In this case, she had to pay the court expenses of the opposite party.

“Where did she get the money?”

– Yes, the whole village knew that it contains the Vatican!

I went to Paris and began to look for what is known about this issue.

Of course, everyone is free to believe or not to believe, but photos of Olga’s grave (or fake Olga, as someone likes it better) with a unique inscription Vladimir Sychev did then.

Now there is no grave, but Olga’s friends buried the ashes in the family crypt. I found evidence of Olga’s support (or, again, of the pseudo-Olga) from the sister of Pascalina and some German relatives of the royal family. But I leave the story of Vladimir Sychev without comment.

Vladimir Sychev has been living in Berlin for several years now. Why did he choose this city?

– I lived 35 years in the USSR, and then 32 years in Paris, that’s enough, I think we need to live somewhere else. Having received a French passport in 1989, I was overwhelmed with orders for filming in Eastern Europe and shot mostly international chronicles: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of Ceausescu, 3 days with Mikhail Gorbachev in the family after his abdication, the 1st and 2nd putsch in Moscow, where I was wounded, trips with the presidents (Valerie Giscard d’Estaing, Francois Mitterand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy), the Olympic Games, World Cups, fencing and so on.

In the collection of the Pompidou Museum there are 14 of my photos.

After Paris, I wanted to go live in Mexico, where there is still interesting me street life, but there, unfortunately, the crime is such that it is dangerous to live for foreigners, and even for Mexicans. And when Mexico, as a possible place of residence, for me has disappeared, I chose between Barcelona and Berlin. I really wanted to go to Barcelona, where I have a lot of friends, but five years ago, I left the code from Paris, Spain was in such a difficult economic situation that when I came there I heard conversations mainly on this topic. And I loved and love Berlin, I often went here since 1983, and was on the opening day of the wall. I like Berlin, I really like it. It is a city full of energy, like New York in the 80s. So it seems to me, a foreigner.

Yuri Veksler.

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