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Through the Lens: Back in the USA – Photographer Steve Gindler

Through the Lens: Back in the USA – Photographer Steve Gindler


Fear is a powerful thing, and so is the desire to overcome fear. It’s this element of the human condition — the drive to survive and thrive — that can lead those with fears to therapies of creation and expression. And this is the story of 28-year-old Steve Gindler’s journey from agoraphobic to New York nightlife photographer, to Instagram star.

Gindler, who goes by @cvatik on Instagram (his Russian name if phonetically spelled in English), originally hails from Lipitsk, Russia, but now resides in the small New Jersey town of Stockholm. It’s an advantageous base considering his current specialty, of creating both digital and analog ethereal portraits against wild, untamed landscapes or derelict structures. It’s a signature style appreciated by more than just his 173,000 Instagram followers; Gindler works with private clients and is planning to release a book this fall.

Adorama caught up with Gindler to discover how he finds such gloriously derelict settings, and where he stands on the issue of Instagram’s nipple ban.

Adorama: First things first. What is your gear setup and your usual editing workflow?

Gindler: I shoot on a Sony a7R II, but I am not in any way loyal to any one brand. Most of my lenses were found at garage sales, on film bodies, and then I adapted them for my digital camera. I don’t use external flashes or other accessories besides occasional props and the features of my surroundings.

I edit primarily in Adobe Lightroom using the same presets that I offer for sale on my website. After finishing an image, I’ll upload it to Dropbox, then directly save it onto my phone to maintain the quality as best as I can.

Adorama: What would you consider to be elements of your signature style?

Gindler: The color teal, vulnerability of the nude figure, fast apertures, and natural light are elements of my style. When I work models, I look to capture sad eyes and parted lips.

Adorama: Was there a moment you remember first falling in love with photography?

Gindler: I started out shooting local bands, and their reactions to their live photographs showed me how my photos can make people feel something. I have no formal photography education, unless you count Youtube tutorials or my local camera store owner giving me odd pieces of advice.

Adorama: How do you make a living right now, and how big a role does your photography play?

Gindler: I make a living through personal photoshoots, as I do photography full-time. I also offer my Adobe Lightroom presets for sale and, soon, with any luck, I’ll have book sales.

Adorama: Have you been inspired by any photographers or artists, living or dead, and how has their work influenced your own?

Gindler: Honestly, I couldn’t name five artists or photographers. Whenever I am asked, “Do you know X or Y?,” I usually don’t. I’ve just never really studied art history. Most of my educational time has been absorbed reading about weird Russian cameras from decades ago. I guess I study cameras more than I do people.

Adorama: How much preparation do you put into an image? Can you give an example of an image or project of yours which required a great amount of prep?

Gindler: I very rarely have an idea until I hit the road to find a location, so my work is often spontaneous. I allow my immediate surroundings to inspire me. The image that probably required the most labor was a shoot showing a bathtub with the ocean. It took the help of five other people to carry this giant, cast iron bathtub over sand dunes to the ocean.

“I also seek to portray the frailty and ephemerality of the physical space we occupy and call home.”

Adorama: You often photograph your subjects in abandoned, lonely, or decaying spaces. What is the story you are trying to tell by juxtaposing young, beautiful women with these environments?

Gindler: Well, it’s just that. The juxtaposition. I also seek to portray the frailty and ephemerality of the physical space we occupy and call home. You ever drive by the house you used to live in and see an unfamiliar car, a new window curtain, or a new pet? I try to evoke that uncomfortable feeling, mixed with nostalgia.

Adorama: How do you go about finding such locations and do you take any special preparations if you think the spot might be unsafe or offer only a limited access window?

Gindler: I point my finger on a map and spend a few hours scouting, or my network of friends share locations with each other. It’s a lot of driving around and saying, “Hey, you think that’s abandoned?” I scope out locations, and definitely test the flooring since I’ve fallen through to the floor below me in the past, and I wouldn’t want the same to happen to a model. A lot of the time, I will bring a broom and other cleaning supplies with me and end up “cleaning” most of the location, and then I’ll arrange the derelict items in the home back to how they were.

Adorama: How do you handle or respond to criticism or negative or rude comments on your images?

Gindler: I don’t feed the trolls.

Adorama: What is your best tip for getting a meaningful look from someone you only just met, such as a photo model or a stranger?

Gindler: I’ve joked about getting the words “chin up, neutral expression, part your lips” tattooed on my forehead. It helps to get to know the person you are photographing. Usually we’ll have an hour or so drive to reach the location, and I will use that time to learn about my subject and connect.

Adorama: How do you feel about Instagram’s anti-nipple stance, and how has it impacted your work?

Gindler: Funny you should mention this right now. I have never pushed the boundaries or tried my luck with Instagram’s censorship requirements. I play nice. Although, just recently an image that I posted, in which the model’s nipples were completely removed via Adobe Photoshop, was taken down for “sexual content.” If even the complete removal of nipples can justify an image being flagged, then I am not sure what my next approach will be.

Adorama: What’s your single favorite photo you’ve captured and shared, and can you tell the story behind it?

Gindler: I would say it’s the photo on the cover of my upcoming book. It is an image that my girlfriend/partner/muse, Jessica, and I created together. Honestly, most of the work that Jessica and I create is always closest to my heart. She has reignited my creativity, and is the reason I was able to overcome agoraphobia.

Check out Gindler full Through the Lens episode below:

Via: Cynthia Drescher creat October 8, 2018