Can you remember when you first held a camera?
I think I was about 8. It was my grand dad’s one. I am not sure if it was a Polaroid or some another camera. I started to explore photography from a compact film camera and new digital Olympus with 2,1 megapixel.
What is a childhood image burnt into your mind?
The giant swan swim ring and I captured by my grand dad on Polaroid in Sochi. I was about 10, that’s the picture I use for my profiles usually. I was sick at that day, but the image looks fun. I think I was a very happy child.
Can you tell me an iconic photographer whose work you got very fascinated by? — What did you feel when looking at their images?
I admire a lot of authors from documentary, art photography and film. I’m very inspired by my neighbor Tess Jaray who was a first female teacher at Slade, she inspires me as a role model. Tess writes, makes beautiful and thoughtful works, takes care of her garden, she looks great for her age and I get great energy from a little talk with her. She works on her projects in the workshop in my building and my favorite thing to go downstairs and have a cup of coffee with her at 11 am once a week. We share some news and thoughts. I am fascinated by her gentle and smart approach to art and self expression in general. I am also a big fan of Agnes Varda, herself and her films. I adore Wim Wenders. I am a big fan of dance performances and choreographers such as Vera Tussing, DV8, Anna Terese de Keesmaker, Pina Bausch or Wayne McGregor. I love Viviane Sassen, Lee Miller... A big fan of Deana Lawson. too many to mention.
Do you think the “male gaze" is a myth?
I think it existed due to a male prevalence in art in general. Now we have more mixed imagery from different mediums and probably it will dissolve soon and there will be some other term to describe it. Female creators balancing the situation I guess. But I think It’s not only about the gender, it’s about the overall experience and personality who operates the camera. I guess both genders can make imagery which you can call objectifying, offensive etc...
What was your first beauty/fashion shoot?
I think the first serious one was in 2016 for Numero Russia (even though I did many before). Those were two big stories for September issue that I had to style as well. We went to Seychelles islands and it was crazy, intense and great experience. It was the same week when Vogue Italy invited me to do a project for them as well. I felt very inspired and everything seemed possible.
What do you love most about Beauty/ Fashion Photography?
These elements support my stories and put the reality I create on the new level. I’m not obsessed with clothes or cosmetics, but I appreciate what it can give a new layer to our perception, support the reality we are building in the still or moving image.
What do you most hate about Beauty/ Fashion Photography?
That sometimes it’s rather too artificial and dramatic.People are treating each other in a very specific way, acting like they are saving the world and making a drams from nothing. I believe in collaboration and support, but sometimes these good intentions can be lost in the competition or jealousy, insecurity.
If you would start out now what would you be doing, how would you go about // who would you work with and where would you be aiming?
I would use photography as a tool to express a real feeling and thought.I would take it seriously as something that can change the world and help people. There still can be a fashion element, commercial purpose, but I think it is possible to combine both: intention to deliver a message and change something and play a role in a commercial part.
Statistics show that less than 1 in 12 of the big money jobs i.e.Womenswear-, Beauty- and Perfume Campaigns (aiming at women) are shot by women.For example, in the last 10 years (2009-2019)
100 covers in 10 years
0 shot by a female photographer alone
33 shot by the duo including a woman -- Inez & Vinoodh
77 shot by men
120 covers in 10 years
1 shot by a female photographer
3 shot by a duo including a woman – Inez & Vinoodh
119 shot by men
120 covers in 10 years
3 shot by female photographers
5 shot by a duo including a woman – Inez&Vinoodh
112 shot by men (83 were shot by Steven Meisel alone)
The Top 2 photography agencies in the world only represent 5 women out of 37 photographers represented. Is there just no qualified female image makers out there?
Probably the industry (actually not only fashion) was way too imbalanced for a long time and now it’s increasing and changing. Same as society itself. That all come together. Our industry reflects changes and social needs quicker than then cinema for instance (quicker but sometimes not effective though, questions are raising but there are no solutions or answers). It will take a couple of years to get there. I feel that there are so many amazing artists around, it’s not just about gender, it’s about the inclusivity in all possible ways. As long as people discuss this kind of thing and do not take some injustice or imbalance as a norm. As a child from the province, the middle of nowhere I barely could imagine myself working in London or Milan for brands. It seems everything is possible in the 2000s. And the industry is cracking, transforming, becoming something else, even it doesn't honestly want. The fashion from before is some unapproachable monster, now it is a flexible and much more thoughtful instrument with a social mission as well as a direct one.
What would need to change in your opinion to get more women shooting the big prestigious covers and the big money jobs?
Probably, the agencies who represent talents have to look around and highlight female photographers and directors, put them in touch with art directors and editors. But also people who work need to understand that representation of the body, gender needs to be covered in a more diverse way. Some brands are actually doing that (following the trend or doing it honestly -doesn’t matter) and the picture is changing. I know that some major companies started to regulate that internally and their gender balance is maintained by strict statistics - how many texts, images etc are produced by men and women within the company. If there is some inequality they try to fix it. For now, it is a bit forced, but one day it will stabilize.
One says it takes 10’000 hours to become a master of a craft, how long in hours/days/years did it take you to make a living?
I think it took a long time for me. I was very slow. The biggest fear for me was to get a job through a friend. I was sure that I need to get first jobs attracting people by my talent. Now I think that friends, connections are good support for things you can do. So those 10.000 hours for sure + people that surround you affect your work and your ability to do something amazing.
Who is your female fashion image maker icon and who is your the one to watch?
I will be happy to tell you more names, but I think I answered earlier. I love a lot of them. My favorite artist is Sophie Calle. She is not from fashion, but I think she is my fav ever.
Who is your female fashion designer icon and who is your the one to watch?
I love Martine Rose, Stella McCartney, Simone Rocha, Bethany Williams, Molly Goddard among many others.
What makes you feel comfortable on set?
Music and my lovely team, experimental mood, fresh coffee.
How important is your team?
It’s half of the result but I love to work with new people too. It’s a challenge sometimes but I take it and explore. That’s what makes your professional I guess. To be able to handle all kinds of people on set and get of the comfort zone to learn new things.
What do you say about the charge that all fashion photography is predominantly sexist?
I am afraid that I can’t answer this question correctly.
There is a big surge of feminism at the moment - do you think that will affect Fashion & Beauty Photography?
Obviously and it’s working all together. All that happens on the society is reflecting in fashion I guess. It’s like a mirror in a way. Also a tool to support the change of reality.
What is your favorite shoot in you portfolio?
I love the story for Odiseo magazine, Cap 74024, all pictures with my sister, Vogue China stories. I like them all time to time haha!
What was your relation to design/fashion/beauty prior to working in this industry? Has it changed?
I was too little, I was a medical student, never involved in fashion. I just loved clothes for sure.
What qualities do you value in an agent?
Ability to support the talent and push in the right direction so it can improve but not die in the commercial projects unrelated to the previous work of the photographer.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given and what advice would you have wished for earlier on in your career?
To be careful and more thoughtful (hard to follow sometimes). I wish I would be more specific in my choices, but I guess everyone has its own path. I am ok with mine.
What is your next big project or goal for your career?
I would like to make a move and publish few books.
Is there anything in particular you'd like to accomplish?
I wish I can stay in photography history as someone who worked hard as a creative and made some social impact too.