Publications, The New York Times Lens Blog

The New York Times Lens Blog Turning Point Series: Yana Paskova on Henri Cartier-Bresson

Yana Paskova on Henri Cartier-Bresson
August 25, 2010 12:00pm

Yana Paskova, 28, was born in Bulgaria, raised in Chicago and is now based in New York. She has worked across the United States and in Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune and Time Magazine. Amanda Rivkin’s conversation with Ms. Paskova has been edited and condensed.

Q. How was this picture taken?

A. This photo was originally meant to be a part of a square-format portrait project, but remained in my general campaign work long after the idea. I took this photo in the summer of 2007, an opaque moment when it came to predicting who would become the next president of the U.S.

Until the brief instant Hillary Clinton stepped under the shadows of a tree to talk with potential supporters, I had filled a long day of campaign events chasing any facial expression or moment that would birth some sort of different photo.

But with the light illuminating mostly her earring, I realized I was staring at a most remarkable thing: a presidential candidate who wore earrings, which is not how I’d pictured prominent politicians while growing up.

Q. How has this image changed the way you work?

A. This photo was a powerful reminder that the simplest of details sometimes tells the story in the most effective way.

As the hot summer dragged into a cold, restless winter on the campaign trail in Iowa — and then, across the States — this lightning-fast moment served as motivation not to sleep when telling a story. It is important to mind not only style, but also content.

Inspiration: Henri Cartier-Bresson
Image: St. George’s Day, Alaverdi Monastery, Telavi, Soviet Union, 1972

Q. When did you first come upon this image? How?

A. I am not exactly sure when I separated this image from the rest of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, which is all so easy to love. At some point, one of its reappearances imprinted a certain gravity on my psyche.

Q. What do you like about this image?

A. Like much of his work, this image is heavy with an irresistible mix of style and meaning — perfectly composed and emotive, the subdued longing and weariness on its subjects’ faces.

The photo sends a clear message with just enough room for interpretation beyond the frame. I identify with it on a more personal level because I am Bulgarian, and can easily place myself within its landscape. I can connect with the facial features and expressions of its subjects, all very Eastern European.

Q. How has it influenced your work?

A. This image was photographed in a second or less, but it would have taken just as short a time to miss it. Whether a person averted his or her gaze or the car door was closed, the picture could have carried an entirely different meaning.

It has been an enormous motivation for me to make photos that not only capture the eye with composition, but also the mind with narrative. In short, it taught me the power of a seemingly mundane moment.

“Turning Point” is an occasional series featuring images by young photographers. The column was conceived by the 26-year-old photographer Amanda Rivkin.

Previous Turning Point Columns:

Wednesday, Aug. 4
Amanda Rivkin, 26.
Inspired by Dorothea Lange.

Wednesday, Aug. 11
Aga Luczakowska, 29.
Inspired by Stanley Greene.

Wednesday, Aug. 11
Robert Caplin, 27.
Inspired by David Alan Harvey.


Photoshelter Blog: Friday Shout-Outs, Standing Ovations, and Trophy Cups,” August 19, 2010.
The NY Times’ Lens Blog has been featuring PhotoShelter users like crazy lately, thanks to a column conceived by Amanda Rivkin, a photographer (and PhotoShelter member) who has had work published by The New York Times, Newsweek, Le Monde and Agence France-Presse.

Her inspiration behind the series, titled “Turning Point: Images That Inspire”, was that she “wanted to hear from her peers about their own work. But she was interested in more than self-meditation,” the introductory article says.

In addition to sharing her own personal inspiration, she has interviewed fellow PhotoShelter members Aga Luczakowska and Robert Caplin.

This is a really well-done blog series, and I look forward to seeing more…”