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Autobiography

As a tank, he rushed into photo art right after World War II. And in a trice won a fitting place among the photo artists of the sixties.
With all its temptations life roared and seethed around. Theatre… literature… cinematography… Leonid Lazarev has always been particularly drawn to it. And talented. His first steps in these spheres gave hopes and provoked great expectations.
However, the art of photo gained the upper hand.
As it commonly happens, the story began in the school years when a «Komsomoletz» camera in his neighbour’s hands caught Lazarev’s eye. Being unable to overcome the growing interest he plunged into all-absorbing amateurishness. Right then a photo contest began. It was held in connection with Youth and Students Festival which took place in Moscow, in 1957. Lazarev won the Second Prize and what was more important, burst into the rows of young fans, like himself, who were persistently and peremptorily upholding non-staged exposure, thus shattering all censorship canons and dogmas of the time. Every Thursday young associates gathered at the meetings of photo societies under the Youth Organizations Committee to share their works with each other and elderly masters, to debate themselves hoarse on the past, the present and the future of photojournalism and photo art.
The most gifted young amateur photographers, including our hero, didn’t wait long for the invitation from top media-bosses and press agencies of those days. They needed fresh specialists bread by «Thaw time», and needed them badly. The landmark of Leonid Lazarev’s life was when he caught the fancy of Kirick Vladimirovich Orlov, the chief artist of the «Soviet Woman» magazine. It determined the following four years of his professional work as a photographer in the women’s magazine, which, by the way, attracted plenty of famous reporters who brought their experience gained in school of the thirties and on the fronts of WWII. The atmosphere in the valiant «photo editorial staff» was truly creative, thanks not only to K.V. Orlov’s perfect taste and professional skills, but also to his indubitable moral authority.
As for the geography of business trips, one can only dream of such unbelievable opportunity to travel here, there and everywhere. Creative range? Limitless. Though mainly it was life and work of people in all possible corners and places of the former Soviet Union. As for the results of his creative work, there was something that remained in Lazarev’s memory for the rest of his life — pictures that finally managed to reach England and were published in the book of photo masterpieces created by the most prominent masters of the world. Fortune? Luck? Maybe. However, it might have helped realize that on a par with charisma specialized education is no less important. Higher education in photography did not and, unfortunately, still doesn’t exist. Yet, luckily enough, legendary VGIK (All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography) with its camera department did exist. From the very outset, from the first years of studying, respectful attitude towards camera, equally motion-picture- and photo- one with its various creative opportunities was inculcated.
And then, in 1964, another alluring offer from Edward Kravchuck, the head of the new photography department of «Krugozor» magazine, who managed to superpose image, text and sound. Well-known in those days writers, bards and photojournalists wrote articles and took pictures for that magazine.
Work was in abundance, up to distraction, infinitely many business trips, and the highest possible requirements to the results of shooting. In a word, it was a real vocational school and, moreover, it implied work on movies, some of which were highly appreciated by VGIK teachers and were honoured with being shown on Central Television.

So, that was a glimpse of photography and cinematography, and how related they can be. Now, it turned out that paradoxically close can be photography and… theatre. Publishing house «Planeta» suggested making a collection of postcards devoted to the Maly Theatre. Leonid could not even imagine work on the book «National Theatre of Russia» to become the principal subject of his creative work. And here a very notable fact can help us feel the depth of the photo artist?s understanding of the topic and see the significant heights he had reached in rather ordinary theatre exposure. His pictures, made during four performances of the Maly Theatre, were shown to some Japanese theatre men. Despite the fact that they had never seen a single play of this theatre, after having thoroughly examined the given photos, the Japanese invited the whole troupe of the Maly Theatre to Japan to perform these very four plays on tour. Actually, even the most complimentary comments on professional achievements of a photographer do not often contain such pleasant facts.
Yet, the story of Leonid Nickolaevich Lazarev?s creative work would not be complete without mentioning his… literary interests. At a certain point his passion for photography and cinematographic education reached the level of his search for self-identification in literature. And, apparently, in a rather specific way. Apparently, it was his innate sense of humor that helped him. Lazarev?s name was frequently referred to in — «The Literaturnaya Gazeta». Then in 1986 he received the honorary prize of this newspaper along with Zhvanetsky, Reznikov, and Peskov (an artist).
Still, this is not the whole story… The synthesis of excellent taste both in photo art and in literature gave rise to something absolutely unexpected — it generated photo theatre, where image, dialogue, actors and cameramen create new associations. A picture — is a document, the speech can be a kind of artistic fiction, while an actor exists in real time. Thus Photo theatre was born, some ideas of which were embodied in pop art. Moreover, he used to perform as «a stand-up actor» with his co-author L. Reznikov during successful concert tours on the stages of capitals of union republics.

…And none the less! The most essential thing in his life is still photography, and nothing but photography. All the rest can be considered either a fad of his or a casual hobby, which can only to some extent assist the art of photography. Shooting and computer, computer and shooting…

Day after day with great eagerness and love — once and forever.

Grigory Choudakov, The former editor in chief of the legendary magazine
«The Soviet Photo»