In every city there are people, who have added significant pages to the history of their homeland and glorified it to the entire country. A well-known dynasty of photo journalists of Alperts became that kind of people for Kherson. Oleksandr, Alean, Ihor – the creative age of this trio is more than 160 years.
One of the first photo chroniclers of Kherson history was Oleksandr Alpert. His lens captured the turbulent beginning of the 20th century, formation of one empire and decay of another, French squadron leaving Kherson, Greek invaders torturing locals, collectivization and the World War II. He worked for 60 years for the oblast newspaper Naddniprianska Pravda. He never had days off or holidays, Oleksandr Alpert was dedicated to his life calling – photography. Even at the age of 91 “old Alpert,” as people often call him in Kherson, was eager to make a photo report of harvest in the fields of Skadovsk raion.
He passed this devotion and love for the profession of a photographer to his son Alean. Today Alean Alpert remained the sole representative of the dynasty of photo journalists because his son, a brilliant reporter, chronicler of the Orange revolution, died prematurely in 2005.
At the age of 75 Alean Alpert is still “in service.” For decades he has been documenting various events from the life of his city: celebration of the day of the city, opening ceremony of another memorial, celebration of Ukraine’s Independence Day or life of Kherson resorts, routine of medical workers and records set by athletes, achievements of farmers and sea conquerors. People respect and honor the famous photo journalist for his dedication to his work not only in Kherson. In 2011 he was awarded an honorary citizen of the city (by the way, the only case among journalists). Memo about this recognition stands right next to other distinctions of Alean Alpert: “Honored Worker of Culture of Ukraine,” “Best Photo Journalist of Kherson in 2008-13,” Knight of the Order “For Merit” of the third class…
“Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven – are the names that stand for music, and the name of Alpert stands for profession,” said Alean Alpert jokingly.
The Day’s reporter met Alean Alpert in a photo shop founded by his son Ihor. Today, this little shop develops successfully and attracts new visitors with its showcase, where the owner regularly puts “fresh” images of the life of Kherson. In a cozy atmosphere we spoke about trends in reporter photography, professional credo of the Alperts, and traditions of the profession, which should be passed on to future generations.
Mr. Alpert, what has changed in the profession with the time and what trends do you observe in modern photo journalism?
“When someone likes my photos they often ask: ‘What did you use to make this?’ To that I always have only one answer: ‘My head.’ It is not enough to just be in the epicenter of an extraordinary event or to meet a famous person. I always think about the people who will assess the same event or person only from my work. So I try to convey the essence of everything that is happening in detail, in personalities, and in panoramas. With the development of photo equipment this art became accessible to the public. However, in my opinion, a camera will always be secondary to the one, who presses the shutter button. In my life I have had hundreds of publications in the leading Soviet newspapers like Pravda, Izvestia, Literaturnaia Gazeta and now I continue to work for Kherson newspapers. Both now and then the story, multifaceted character of a photo, that makes it something more than just an image that goes with an article, were valued the most. I think that a photo is only valuable when it inspires writing and creative search. It could be done by all the canons of the genre, but would still not be representative, and sometimes a what seemed to be a badly made image might cause a real furor. It is important that every publication today would have its own tradition of photography, people, who they consider to have authority in the profession, and would carefully select the material. The present time dictates strict rules of the market, so only the best ones should be presented on the pages of newspapers and magazines both regional and national ones.”
Do you have any personal secrets for photo shooting?
“My main motto is never do bad things to people and just show good things, because what is bad will always come out and without my photos. Recently I photographed the work of oncologists, ‘performed’ two surgeries. Their work is priceless and we must speak, write about it and show it to people. We often advertise politicians, while ordinary people – experts in their profession rarely appear in newspapers. However, ordinary teachers, doctors, sailors, and combiners work for the good of our country not less than the state officials. I want people to think about them when they look at my photos. I also have another rule to always go forward without looking back at problems. Perhaps, that’s why I don’t feel my age. Every day I ask God for wisdom. I try to work my best the way I did 20-30 years ago. Here is another example. Recently I photographed Turkish ferries in Skadovsk. I needed a good view. Without hesitation I climbed 40 meters up on the crane boom. The driver yells: ‘Where are you going?’ And I told him: ‘To angels’ (smiles). Of course it’s dangerous and somewhat scary but there is no other way to get a good shot. I also once photographed rescuers training standing on the railing of the eighth floor. The boys held me, joked, and I took photos.”
I know that young photographers often seek the advice from you.
“Yes, I always ask them to feel the great responsibility of their mission first. It is interesting and honorable to be a photo reporter because our work will be used by our descendants. It largely depends on photo journalists how they will see our era. That’s why you must do your best at what you do, even if it doesn’t always bring success. Appreciation and decent fees will always come to those who are persistent.”