Photographer Sasha Gusov shoots campaigns for local brand Tom Davies in a Chelsea studio.
As told to Cally Squires.
I came here In 1988 from Russia and started working in the restaurants, making drinks and clearing tables. In 1992 the Bolshoi Ballet came to London for a special show at the Royal Albert Hall. I somehow got inside and lied to them that I was a famous photographer, and they let me in to take all the backstage pictures! When [the company] left I had taken 350 rolls of film, which I didn’t know what to do with.
I went to the British Journal of Photography, and the editor published a spread and used my image on the cover. I showed this magazine to EMI, Universal and other recording companies, and that’s how my career got started taking portraits of famous singers and musicians.
Growing up, my parents didn’t have time to look after me, as my father was always travelling around Russia building nuclear power stations. One summer, when I was 13 years old, I was sent to stay with my uncle, who was a photographer in a small town in the south of Russia. He used to take school photographs. He wasn’t very creative, but he was a good technical photographer. I learnt from him how to process films – and how to lie!
In the beginning I was working for an agency doing a lot of actors – people like Jude Law, Minnie Driver, Ewan McGregor, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen. Pavarotti was amazing.
I still prefer to shoot on film. I love it because it’s much more disciplined than digital. You have 36 frames in a film and you have to know exactly what you’re shooting. This is what makes you a good photographer. You’re like a sniper – you can’t make a mistake.
I always carry a camera with me wherever I go, with extra lenses and film in my pocket, because candid shots on the street are still my favourite subject. I got a little bit bored of doing portraits, because I’ve done them millions and millions of times.
When I’m shooting there is never a typical day because I’m travelling God knows where – maybe Spain, Peru or Russia. It’s funny because I travel all over the world, but when I’m in London I don’t travel anywhere at all.
I don’t work with too many clients now because I have my own projects, but I will when I click with people like Tom [Davies]. He is very special. I always say Tom Davies helps me see the world better – his glasses are amazing! I like the studio I shoot in, in Chelsea [off the King’s Road], because it has more soul – it’s not a typical studio with white walls.
For me, as I get older, the most interesting thing is to shoot obvious things you see every day, but to find something unusual about them. Maybe now it’s time for me to do a tribute book to London now I’ve been here almost 30 years.
Last April my book Michelangelo was presented by Putin to the Pope as a present at the Vatican. The picture was sold so many times of him handing the book over!
by Sasha Gusov is available at Waterstones, 158 King’s Road
This article first appeared in Sloane Square magazine.