People. Not Pages: Ekaterina Vasilyeva

With the “People. Not Pages” mini-interview series The Phooks invites you to learn more about people who stand behind the medium of self- & indie-published photobooks, and zines.

Max Zhiltsov
Jan 29 · 6 min read

We’re back on Medium after quite a long pause. And today we have a mini-interview with Ekaterina from St. Petersburg, Russia — photographer, self-publisher, photography teacher.

How do you live and make your living?

I deal with personal projects and their promotion and also work a lot as a teacher and an independent curator.

How did you get into photography?

It happened exactly 10 years ago.

Since 2009 I studied and practiced reportage photography for two years, and then for two years I studied contemporary photography at the Photo Department (St. Petersburg) and began to make long-term personal projects.

The word “happened” is the right word. The decision to learn photography came quite spontaneously, but everything went that way. At some point, it was not enough just to take “nice pictures’’ in the time of my trips (beautiful in my opinion :-).

I often remember one random picture I took at the beach on the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, in 2006: A couple walking along the beach among a lot of birds and the man suddenly raised his arms up and waved them like wings. And like any occupation, which you are seriously getting involved in, I wanted to develop and improve my skill.

What do you value the most in the art of photography?

The opportunity to talk about all the things that excite you through the visual images.

Is there something you hate about it?

With time you begin to take everything less exciting.

How many books you have and what does your collection means to you?

Being in a foreign country at the moment, I cannot show you photos of my bookshelf, unfortunately.

But I can show the books I bought for the last six months and which will be included in my collection later.

In St. Petersburg I have four large bookcases. I spend a lot of money on books, more on theoretical (related to art and art itself ) and novels. I also have a small collection of books and albums on art and photography, but important for my self-education and inspiration.

Is there a photobook you admire?

‘’In Flagrante’’ by Chris Killip, first published in 1988.

Image source.

One of my favorite documentary photographers of the 20th century, who in this work was able to ‘’get under the skin’’ of people from a fairly closed community.

I also love this 1988 edition for its high-quality printing.

‘’LE SILENCE” by Cristiano Raimondi & Simone Menegoi.

Image source.

A book that collected many unusual stories and different visual languages devoted to one of the topics ( Utopia ) that I am interested in. I note it for beautiful design and paper both.

What should a book be to get into your collection?

Books that I buy more often depend on my today’s interest or the design that inspires me.

Therefore, the collection is quite versatile. A lot of books about the books themselves. A lot of thematic collections. From the author's books, I’m interested in ones with a complex narrative, a lot of text, and where the photographer uses different visual languages as a method of work.

Here are two books I would love to have.

‘’Knives’’ by Jason Koxvold
‘’Knives’’ by Jason Koxvold

‘’Tranquility’’ by Heikki Kaski on the left, and ‘’Knives’’ by Jason Koxvold on the right.

What does it mean to you to turn your work into a sensible form of a book or a zine?

By education, I am a librarian-bibliographer and I love books very much. I like a living, real books. Therefore, it is absolutely natural for me to realize a part of my projects as books.

“Road to Petergof” photobook by Ekaterina Vasilyeva
“Road to Petergof” photobook by Ekaterina Vasilyeva
“Road to Petergof” photobook by Ekaterina Vasilyeva. Read more

Why is it a handmade book? It is very important for me to find an original form of a book for each project, to find a binding, to feel the tactile communication with the book in the process of work. I want the viewer to get an alive and personal object the artist created personally for him.

When I start making a book, I immediately think about its cover. And it was obvious to me that the cover should be of gold color in the case with Road to Petergof.

There is a Russian proverb: “not all that glitters is a gold’’. Under the golden cover symbolizing the palaces and their decoration, there were everyday ordinary life, problems, people.

“Road to Petergof” photobook by Ekaterina Vasilyeva. Read more

The cover was supposed to be larger in size than the inner block with pictures reminding the frame of the picture we are looking at and “enjoy’’ drawn on it. The book has the only picture supporting the cover — these are golden statues from Petrodvorets during wintertime.

All other details of the book are also carefully thought out. Something is intuitive, like the choice of a certain type of paper and the size of the book. And deliberately uncut pages should symbolize steps and descent to the Baltic Sea shore from estates and palaces of noble persons. The text was divided into blocks so that the viewer could concentrate and perceive information in a dosed manner. The project and the book used maps of the environs of St. Petersburg from the year 1860.

I chose them because first of all I searched and wanted to use strange old maps in which there is a spelling of the suburb name of Petergof with using the old-style letter Ъ (today it is not used anymore). And secondly, the maps had to be visually and graphically combined with the project itself. In the book, they are placed so that they remind the back of the cover when the book is wide open and support the idea of a route or a planned trip. In form, they also remind me of the preserved milestones along the road, which indicated the number of miles in distance from the city post office.

That time it was from the post offices that the distances between cities were counted, and not from the border of the city or some other point. The first stone pillar appeared in 1774, its author is considered the architect Antonio Rinaldi, the beloved architect of Catherine the Great.

What you expect people should feel when opening your book?

Take a look at the alternative version of St. Petersburg's beauty. Take a journey during 300 years of 40 km length only with me along the Petergof Road. Meditate and think.

The Phooks

On the culture of self and independent photobooks and zines…

Max Zhiltsov

Written by

Photography enthusiast, Brand & Marketing strategist. Founder of Open photobook library & marketplace. Personal website:

The Phooks

On the culture of self and independent photobooks and zines publishing

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