Photography wasn’t Fedoseev’s first love: after school he studied to be a conductor at the prestigious Gnessin State Music Academy. Then, in 2018, disappointed with the poor quality of photographers advertising personal shoots on Instagram, he offered to photograph his friends for just 1,500 rubles. “At that point, fashion was a different world to me,” he says. “I was from a different world”. As his portfolio grew, an emboldened Fedoseev started approaching celebrities on Instagram, leading to his first serious collaboration with actress Varvara Shmykova. This approach to finding work has served him well ever since, and in this sense, Fedoseev is part of an observable trend away from the dominance of veteran fashion photographers contracted with agencies and magazines. “I really do believe we are in the century of collaboration — for creatives just to be able to reach each other in seconds and do something interesting together is amazing,” he says.
It is no coincidence that whether shooting personal or commercial work, Fedoseev’s photographs exude a sense of tender friendship between photographer and subject. In his own words, he sees this as a direct personal response to the cold, pretentious style of studio shooting that remains a staple in the fashion world. “This pretentiousness is a very outside quality, and I like when it is torn down, in a good sense. I don’t try to do that deliberately, but I genuinely believe it comes from within me,” he says.
Fedoseev’s quest for human sincerity is evident in his overall visual style, which often features elements more associated with documentary and street photography. A street photography enthusiast himself, he draws comparisons to the work of British documentary photographer Martin Parr, whom Fedoseev admires for his ability to approach serious topics with intense personal love for his subjects. “I really just love people, I adore them, I believe in them, and everything I do is connected to this love,” he says. That love isn’t reserved exclusively for models either, but also for the bystanders that often find themselves in Fedoseev’s compositions when shooting in real-world locations. Eschewing the careful staging of studio shoots, Fedoseev prefers to place his subjects in the most ordinary of settings throughout Moscow, from food markets, train stations, and outdoor bars, to cultural icons such as the Moscow metro and Red Square itself. Here, he thrives on the loss of control and the trilateral interplay between model, bystander, and himself. “I love to create stories where my characters fall into a world of judgements from those around them, people who invariably become characters themselves,” he says.
The city of Moscow itself, well-known as one of great contrast, is a strong source of inspiration. “In many ways, Moscow is one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world, but once you leave the centre, you can quickly find yourself in a place where the landscapes and the people seem to be frozen in the late 90s,” says Fedoseev. His experiences shooting in these locations speak to the warm but often misunderstood mentality of the Russian people. On one shoot at at a food market, Fedoseev recalls, “we all thought we would be kicked out straight away by security, that everyone would shoo us away from their stalls, but quite the opposite happened — one man even invited Varya [Shmykova] into his truck to lie down on his watermelons.”
When not shooting in public, Fedoseev still finds a way to bring together the glamour of the fashion world and elements of ordinary Russian life, for them to meet and interact. Whether it’s of a model in a delicate gloved dress tucking into a greasy cheburek, or of singer Manizha wearing jewellery made from sushki rings [bread rings] for the cover of her single Vanya, the inclusion of these cultural morsels give Fedoseev’s shoots a distinct relatability. On a shoot for H&M and Harper’s Bazaar, he describes how he “created this nostalgic story. I love the patterns of Soviet interiors, I grew up with them, and it fit perfectly with the collection — I think the result was incredibly sincere”.
Yet for now, Moscow remains the exception in Russia, and the only place where Fedoseev and his generation of talent feel able to thrive creatively and financially. “You can find work in Moscow but once you leave city limits there is nothing. Russia is a massive market for unbelievable locations and stories, but everything is in Moscow— I am certainly lucky to have been born here,” he says.