Maxim Zmeyev

Maxim Zmeyev

Moscow, Russia
St Petersburg, Russia
“The picture should not only be high quality or beautiful but also accurate.”


Breaking news, conflicts, daily life

One Shot

. Donetsk Region, Ukraine. Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region. The Malaysian airliner MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militants, killing all 295 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said. Dozens of bodies were scattered around the smouldering wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed in a field in eastern Ukraine, a Reuters reporter said.
“It seems to me that the telephone pole being surrounded in smoke and resembling a cross gives this picture a special depth and tragedy.”


My earliest memory of photography is from when I was about 6 years old after I found my grandfather’s camera on a shelf. I loved playing with it and looking through the viewfinder – looking at toys, then out the window and seeing people on the street. I felt like a magician when I brought a camera to the eye. My world became small and understandable.

I learnt to photograph on the job. As soon as I got my own camera I began to work, starting as a stringer for a newspaper before moving on to agencies and another newspaper. I studied every day looking at published photos and painting and reading books.

My first assignment was to shoot an old house in the centre of St Petersburg that they were going to demolish. I spent a few hours taking the photos but still wasn’t happy with the result. The next day I saw my picture in the newspaper that a man was reading in the subway. I was very happy and proud and at that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

It left a big mark on me, covering the 2014 Malaysia Airlines plane crash. This was my first experience of an assignment when you are surrounded by death. You catch yourself thinking that a few hours ago, these people were laughing, grumpy, jealous, dreaming. In a word they lived and now their lifeless shadows lie on the ground.

The stories that excite me the most are about people - their problems or successes, how they deal with the circumstances they find themselves in, what they are interested in and care about. Also I like to travel and to explore unusual places.

Every assignment is a lesson. Even if you have shot everything well you still ask yourself: What else? How could I have photographed it?

The person I respect most is Russian artist Boris Mikhaylovich Kustodiev. I like the stories he tells about Russian provincial life. His unique genre is portrait-painting, in which models are connected with the landscape or interior surrounding them.