A friend asked for help promoting an “amazing and underrated artist” on display at a Dallas museum. Over coffee, we crafted a press release for Igor Samsonov‘s exhibit. I’d never met or heard of Samsonov before, but his work was indeed amazing.
The visual depth of every painting is striking. Scenes and subjects have an appearance reminiscent of songs. Rather than telling a story as a movie or book does, they evoke emotion, showing a story’s undercurrent. If you know the story, you can’t help recognize it, if not, you are cognizant of a deeper meanings existence.
After the press release went live, I thought the manic time-crunch favor was complete and went back to a normal day of work. I’d learned no great lessons, and met no new people, but that’s not a good story…
A Good Story
The next day I get a call. The press release we’d written had also written a check my friend couldn’t cash. He’d announced a live-streamed Q&A with Samsonov, and need help. It was an unplanned adventure that went astray of all expectations I had. The day of the shoot, the ideas incubated at an insane speed.
With no clear plan, differing expectations, personalities, and goals from various involved parties meant production was a little wild. What I thought would be a live stream in the style of the NY Times Live Illustration series. Became a request for an early 90s Oprah style walk-through the museum, that sounded like a walking shot from The West Wing.
It’s been years since my day job was video production – first real love or not – and I was a one-person crew. So my running and gunning live stream, with a rented Steadicam and a mobile hotspot, in a massive open museum, featuring two unscripted people wasn’t going to happen. Eventually, we ended up with several short interviews of Samsonov taking a deep dive into his works.
Limits of Expression
Due to some of the reasons I stated above, the interviews took longer than expected. A takeaway from the pandemonium, you can’t push your limits of knowledge, and language at the same time.
I spent much of the day with Samsonov. He’s undoubtedly fluent in English, and an incredibly good-humored and gracious man. But English wasn’t the language he used over the six years spent earning a graduate art degree at Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting. As he put it even in Russian he’s pushing himself to articulate the meanings behind his paintings.
After recording for the majority of the day in English (mostly). I asked to shoot one of my favorite paintings again, in Russian with the interpreter. It was among my favorite of Samsonov’s paintings, and also my favorite interview of the day.
I feel it’s very fitting “Salome’s Dance” was shot twice that day. Salome is a frequent theme in Samsonov’s work, he’s painted her 5 or 6 times in various, positions, compositions, sizes, and formats. He even painted this concept twice, First in 2014 with the painting “Salome III”.
The above images reflect the difference between the two Samsonov paintings. However, the inability to control and match lighting conditions exaggerates some of the differences in color, and paint texture.
If you wanted a PR lesson from this, check out these posts I’ve written in the past.